Enfilade Light with Floral Arrangement
By Brian Keeler
26 x 30 in.
Oil on panel
Available through North Star Art Gallery, Ithaca, NY
About the Painting
This painting is at once a figure painting, genre scene, still life and interior composition but it is also a study of an enfilade. An enfilade is a succession of rooms, and a conceptual device used in many of those paintings by the genre painters of Holland in the 17th century. Included in those compositions were doorways that portrayed views leading from quiet interiors of everyday domestic activities; sewing, reading letters, playing music, drinking wine, and even the occasional de-liceing or de-fleaing. In other words, the less-than-elevating themes regarded as being unworthy of our attention and indeed, not material for our artistic expressions. The light from exterior gardens or streets and canals is often filtering beautifully to infuse the scenes with a sublime delicacy and in effect making a new appreciation, if not making the quotidian into sacramental moments. The light, of course was articulated beautifully by these Dutch Masters, and the ones utilizing the enfilade device most effectively were De Hoogh and Vermeer with the former being the main exponent of this structured depiction of space.
I have been enthralled by this construction of space through enfilades and many other qualities of these Dutch paintings since my early days in art school. Millions of others too have found sustenance, emotional healing, solace, inspiration and so much more from viewing these works. One of the examples of the healing or salubrious effects of these works was evident in the practice of one of the judges in the Nuremburg trials of Nazi war criminals. After listening to accounts of grueling cruelty of atrocities he would take his lunch at the nearby Delft Museum, the Mauritshuis, and sit in front of Vermeer paintings to restore his spirit.
In my most recent painting (shown here), I have taken this concept of enfilade along with the domestic portrayals of De Hoogh and used it for this painting of the interior of our house. This painting began primarily as an exploration of still life. It expanded into a study of light and of the interior of this 1865 Victorian with a portrayal of my partner, Linda involved with arranging flowers in the distant room — the kitchen. So the floral theme is repeated, with the main actor being the amaryllis in front room and then echoed with tulips being placed in a vase in the distance. The Dutch aspect could be said to be referenced and underscored here with tulips, as that was an essential part of the Dutch economy in the 17th century. There was the disastrous financial debacle of tulip futures running amok during that era — and wonderfully portrayed in the recent movie “Tulip Fever.” That movie interweaves the financial maelstrom along with a portraitist’s life in a fascinating plot with lots of tension and intrigue. I consider the light in this painting to be an actor or agent of change and impermanence that is entering this work. The vase half illuminated and the streaks of afternoon light coming from behind flow into this enfilade to play across the floor, and the white linen cloth and to describe the room’s topography.
Brian Keeler – Biography
Expressing and describing the beauty of light has been the focus of Brian Keeler’s career in painting, which includes landscape, the figure, portraits, still life and allegorical work. Depicting the “topography of light” is the way he likes to describe this process, as this phrase communicates the way light plays across forms in the multifaceted expressions of both the light and the subjects. In a certain sense however, the light actually becomes the subject for Keeler and the scene or depiction takes on a secondary or supporting roll. He often chooses the “Golden Hour” as the time for portraying the motifs he selects, as this late afternoon or early morning light accentuates the drama of any given scene. His figurative painting and other genres also incorporate a marvelous appreciation for the way light can reveal the world to us.
Among other artists, patrons and the general public, he is known as a colorist, which is to say, it is the quality of his color that is one of the memorable aspects of his well-crafted work. His art also combines a unique sense of composition, proportional harmonies and draftsmanship, as these paintings, pastels and watercolors show an orchestration of the overall relationships.
Keeler combines these aesthetics of light and structural compositional dynamics in his work and in his teaching and writing as he shares his love for painting in workshops in the US and abroad, most notably in figure and plein air courses taught in Italy. He has become a passionate student of the Italian Renaissance over his more than 20 years of teaching and traveling in Italy, and he shares these art history insights in slide lectures as well as incorporating some aspects of the classics in his own allegorical works.
Brian Keeler’s work is represented at the North Star Art Gallery in Ithaca, NY, The West End Gallery in Corning, NY, The Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine and at his hometown studio-gallery, The Brian Keeler Studio in Wyalusing, PA.
Instructional resources for artists and collectors
Brian Keeler’s work was published in a wonderful hardcover by North Light Books several years ago. This book, “Dramatic Color in the Landscape” is a compendium of his teaching and approach to painting. He has also produced a series of videos on plein air and studio painting. These are available as DVDs and now several are also available as instant downloads. Visit his website to order or the North Star Art Gallery website. He is currently working on a new book, a retrospective of his figurative work with instructional material.
Brian Keeler’s work is given a new thematic exhibit about every two months at the North Star Art Gallery. The current show is centered on Bridges and Boats of Italy and America. In November 2021 through January, an exhibit of new work will featured at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY.