Winter Dune Walk


Many years ago, walking in the Sleeping Bear Dunes on a snowy day, Troels and I took photos of one another. Making a montage of these photos in adobe photoshop and using some tricks, produced most of the red and green seen here.

Winter Dune walk. Oil on wood, 16 x 12 in

After a decade, I pulled the picture out of storage to fix its ‘value’ problem, meaning there was not a wide enough range of light and dark. Now orange and yellow were introduced as lighter colors. An artist friend encouraged me to add even lighter hues. But I liked what I saw and did not want to risk further changes. Now I am contemplating to make a copy of the painting but adding lighter colors.

One historical precedence of an artist copying an earlier motif with added changes is Titian, the 16th-century Italian artist. Titian copied his painting of an important cleric, with changes that comment on the cleric’s fate. 

The two portraits show Archbishop Filippo Archinto, an Italian lawyer, diplomat, papal bureaucrat and finally archbishop. The first painting finished about 1555 (MET, NYC) is not considered remarkable compared to the second version (Philadelphia Museum of Art) painted in 1558, the year of Archinto’s death in exile. Political intrigues in Renaissance Italy  prevented him from taking his legitimate post as archbishop of Milan. 

In this second painting, Titian added a gauzy, white curtain that obscures half of the archbishop’s face from our view. The cape, here faded to reddish brown, had been painted purple. In the 16th century Vatican, brilliant purple stood for sorrow and suffering. 

The changes Titian made in the second version of the portrait were not just aesthetic alterations but carried deeper symbolic meanings related to the subject’s fate and circumstances.

8 thoughts on “Winter Dune Walk”

  1. I enjoyed your post, Birgit and thoughts about revising or making a new version of a painting. Do the changes you’re making also have a symbolic meaning?
    I’ve been considering tonal values in my work also. The degree of variation of value seems associated with certain traditions and academic norms. There are also historical and contemporary styles in painting that limit values. I’ve been exploring these choices in my painting for clarification, to know why I make the choice to limit or expand the range of values.
    I may receive feedback to deepen and/or lighten areas of a painting. I think it’s good to question the suggestion as some artists are taught certain “rules” that I don’t choose to follow.
    We really have unlimited choices in how we paint!

    1. I have some thoughts about symbolic meaning, but for now, I will leave it open. The impetus to try lighter colors came from a new painting that you started – red and orange with a splash of white. The splash of white was so dramatic against the red background.

    1. Thank you, Jonathan. I hope that you will visit some day after I trained my new labradoodle puppy to be better mannered.

  2. Love your increasing playfulness as you return to earlier works.

    The additional back story of the “thinning of the veil” w/ symbolic color changes always a bonus.

    1. Thank you, Cindy, for prompting me to think about playfulness in relation to my work. I believe that this also applies to my Motion Series. One of them, ‘Capering along the Shore,’ will be displayed at the B.O.B. during ArtPrize. Another piece, ‘Dancing in the Sky,’ will soon be submitted to a juried show. — As for Titian, I enjoy sharing some gems of art history here.

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