Impressionism, as created by Jennifer Beaudet, is one of many styles of art that has its origins in France. It began after the advent of the camera, when artists themselves asked, “Why should we try to recreate life perfectly on canvas when the camera can do so with greater perfection on paper?” So, in a form of artistic rebellion, French artists began to move away from presenting what can already be seen, and after years of experimentation, created a form of art that, at the time, was still impossible for the camera to duplicate except by an accident that would likely have destroyed said camera: they began presenting an impression of a scene–what the mind might retain with only a passing glimpse of a scene: Impressionism. However, unlike other styles of art, French in origin or not–styles such as “de stijl,” “art nouveau,” or even “Neo Classicism,” among others, impressionism never died. It is alive and well, still potent, still vibrant, still actively dominating galleries, modern art museums and living room walls even well into the 21st century. As evidence, I give you the art of Jennifer Beaudet.
It’s not hard to see that part of the excellence of Beaudet’s art comes from influences of other fine impressionists, in this case, American impressionist Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and French impressionist Edgar Degas (1834-1917), which, again, is not surprising as these two were very good friends and are, while both excellent artists, somewhat over shadowed by other impressionists; even while their art is commonly known, the artists themselves are not. By way of example, look at Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath” compared with Beaudet’s “Bathing Woman.” Granted, the two paintings are not the same in topic, but in composition, it’s clear that Cassatt made an impression.
And, while the compositions are similar, it’s also clear that the styles of the two artists are far from identical. Cassatt’s use of colour is more understated, and she takes more effort to offer a more vivid background. Beaudet’s colour is more vibrant very much like her brush work, and, while there is indeed a background, it is presented as far less important to the composition than in Cassatt’s work, but that can be part of the influence of Degas.
Beaudet is also clearly impressed with the work of Degas, but his influence is less frequently apparent than that of Cassatt. Still, looking closely at Degas’ paintings of the Ballerinas tying their shoes and Beaudet’s “Pensive Melody,” it is clear that they share some common interest in dance.
So, even though Beaudet pays homage to these two masters, we must remember that they are artists that Beaudet admires. In one very real sense, Degas was very limited in his topics and much by choice. The same is true of Cassatt, but for her it was more of a limitation of her time upon her gender. Then again, had there by no prejudices against her, she may still have been quite happy with her topics. Still, Beaudet branches out from Cassatt and Degas as surely as a tree does from its trunk. Beaudet apparently loves a good mystery as demonstrated by her three paintings, “It Takes Time,” “The Night Approaches” and “The Woman in Red.”
In all three of these paintings, the subject is a woman in a formal or semi-formal dress with her face obscured from sight by each woman’s angle as she is presented. The one of these that offers the most information is “It Takes Time,” in which we see more of the woman’s face than in the other two, even though it is foreshortened and partly covered by her hat. Her posture makes us think that there is something negative occurring: her left leg at such an extreme angle compared with her other leg, the way her arm is sagging over the chair’s arm rest, and they way her chin is set upon her right hand, and that her expression is almost void of emotion altogether. For most men, married or merely having been dating for a time, the lack of emotion tells of emotion, and even as I write, I can feel the anxiety: “Okay, what did I do wrong?” And yet, the flowers seem to deny any negativity in the painting, and title itself offers hope. I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t some sort of reversal of the stereotypical gender role of the man waiting for his date to get ready for a night on the town, and I can’t help but begin to smile. As I have always understood it, a woman has last-minute touches while the man waits so that she can make “AN ENTRANCE.” But men don’t make entrances. They get dressed, run downstairs, grab their keys and say, “Ok. Let’s go, and by the way, you look wonderful.” Here, the woman has no opportunity to make an entrance and she knows that much of her effort for the evening is wasted.
With “It Takes Time” on its own, I can see that humour, but I can’t help but group these three paintings, and the three together suggest something less filled with humour and more filled with angst, but there is no real clue as to what the origin of that angst is, and that, for me, at least, presents a mystery not to trifle with.
Beaudet also has a marvellous sense of pictorial rhythm as demonstrated by both “The Dance of the Koi” and “Autumn Trees.”
In the first of these, there is a fascinating interplay of the fish in this tiny scene from what might be a larger pond. The fish are all presented in motion, and they all seem to be reacting to each other in a way that each body seems to curve away from the other. It’s almost reminiscent of something by M. C. Escher, but with more life. But what brings out that rhythm so dramatically is Beaudet’s use of colour which is driven by an obvious love of the natural world. Her landscapes capitalize on this effusion of colour. I am not going to speculate that this is an influence of Monet because his palate is so distinct from Beaudet’s, but the bright, vivid, joyous sense of colour is still similar to Monet’s use of colour, and one can only view Beaudet’s landscapes with that same sense of thrill in nature.
Consider her “Tulip Field in Sunset” and “Upcountry in Bloom.” In both we have controlled explosions of colour and exuberance.
I can feel myself walking through that tulip field toward the tree. I can imaging myself—either alone or in the company of the young woman from “It Takes Time”—walking with a basket of food smiling and eager to simply enjoy the scenery. I am reminded of a sonnet by American poet, Timmothy Steele, called “Summer,” in which the poet compares summer to a well-endowed, self-absorbed and spoiled young woman with many a hopeful, amorous suitor presenting her with flowers and chocolates and gems and whatever else such a woman might appreciate, but she ignores these eager boys in favour of those who remain somewhat aloof but who know how to find adventure at a moment’s notice. Steele teaches us,
And he alone is summer’s who relents
in his poor enterprising; who can sense,
in alleys petal-blown, the wealth of chance;
or can, supine in a deep meadow, pass
warm hours beneath a moving sky’s expanse,
chewing the sweetness from long stalks of grass.
In “Upcountry in Bloom,” I am made to smell the blossoms of the tree and the moisture from the grass filling the air. I can hear the insects buzzing and clicking. I can feel the warmth of the sun and anticipate the cool of the shade under the tree.
Jennifer Beaudet’s impressionism does everything that good art does: it gives viewers the sense–in every sense of the word–of where she has placed us: in a home, in a meadow, near a pond . . . we are given the impression of that scene in her use of colour, rhythm, and texture. And the fact that her mentors are not so famous as Monet or Renoir doesn’t detract from her art. Indeed, it helps her art to stand more clearly on its own as what it is: great art by a modern artist.
About the Writer:
A. J. Mittendorf is an avid art lover who has studied art history, art appreciation and art interpretation, for more than two decades. His Master’s degree is in Literature and his undergraduate degree is in English Education. As an educator, he enjoys writing for an online, international art magazine, Art, Artists, Artwork so he can use his educational background and skills in the field of art to help promote artists and help buyers select the art that is best for them.