“That was a beautiful thing that I’ll hold true till the day I leave this planet. I witnessed, with my own eyes and my heart, that people can get along, with unity and harmony. No fights. Share granola or a blanket or whatever. I got to see that humans are capable to coexist with benevolence. That’s why we’re still talking about Woodstock, man.”
I’m happy to say that my painting, Zimbabwe, won Best in Show at the Marin Society of Artists Tail End of Summer show. This fun show featuring many talented Marin artists is open to the public at 1515 Third Street and will end on September 7, 2019.
Freedom by Joe Grenn
A group of enthusiastic people celebrating and traveling by foot across the barren planes with color everywhere. Where are they coming from? Where are they going? Some joyous, others stoic, some concerned, one in the upper left looking back, but all determined. The same in any revolution where people seek freedom.
The challenge in this painting is to keep everything in three solid masses, each of a different value ( darkest, medium and lightest) and unequal in size. By squinting, you can see how the figures stand out from the background to create an interesting design, perhaps the most important factor in any work of art.
The outline of the top of the figures creates the design of this painting. If you squint, you can see how the dark mass of the figures stand out from the background to create a more interesting design than if they were all grouped together in one mass.
“Freedom” won third place in the Marin County Fair this July and was purchased by a collector from Hong Kong. After spending many hours with me in my studio, “Freedom” is free of me and has found a new home.
The Princess Tarakanova, in the Peter and Paul Fortress
by Konstatin Flavitsky 1864
Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg, Russia
Peter and Paul Fortress, oil on canvas by Joe Grenn
If you’re like me, history in high school was boring. But often, the story behind a work of art can make history fascinating. As is the case with the captivating Princess Tarakanova.
Catherine the Great was one of the most interesting characters in history. Her life was filled with intrigue, conspiracies, and challenges created by her enemies. Rumors had even spread that she had orchestrated her husband’s murder. Pretenders to the throne were everywhere and Catherine dealt with them effectively.
In National Geographic History, July/August 2019, the amazing story is beautifully told by Maria Queralt of the pretender to the throne famously known as Princess Tarakanova. The incredible Russian artist Konstatin Flavitsky tells it in his painting above. Below it is a photograph of the fortress and below that, a painting I was compelled to do when I viewed the fortress from the shores of the Neva River.
History tells us that Princess Tarakanova was born in St. Petersburg in 1753 and was then taken to Persia where she grew up in the home of a nobleman.
By 1772, Princess Tarakanova, a refined woman of great beauty charmed her way into the salons of Paris, claiming to be the daughter of Empress Elizabeth and the legitimate heir to the Russian throne. The captivating adventuress was attracting a great deal of attention from French and Polish aristocrats and living richly at their expense.
Queralt tells us that Catherine the Great devised a devious plan to lure the pretender to Russia. She employed a Count Alexi Orlov to lay a trap. He went to Venice where Tarakanova was living at the time and spread rumors that he had fallen out of favor with Catherine.
Tarakanova took the bait, wrote to him often and guaranteed him that he would govern at her side if she were appointed empress. He asked her to meet him in the Italian port of Livorno where the Russian fleet was anchored. There, he feigned sudden infatuation and passion and asked her to marry him. A few weeks later, when the Princess stepped onto his ship for the wedding ceremony, Orlov’s squad of soldiers arrested her on the spot in the name of Catherine the Great. The shipped sailed immediately for St. Petersburg where, on arriving, the Princess was imprisoned in a gloomy cell below the flood line in the Peter and Paul Fortress pictured above.
Despite interrogation and torture, Tarakanova never denied her claim to the throne. Catherine ordered her imprisoned for life. She died in her cell in 1775 at the age of twenty-two never revealing her birthplace or true identity. Her life remains a mystery and romantic legend in Russia to this day.
Did You Know?
Rain churns up plant oils into the atmosphere and activates the actinomycetes bacteria in the soil. This is part of the unique smell of rain on the dry ground we have come to know so well.