Ninfa Gardens, Fall 2016 - Gianne de Genevraye
This residency in the magical garden of Ninfa is exceptional. I was virtually alone in the garden every day, where I spent at least 5 hours per day. The garden exudes a melancholic past, and is a construct in a site that has over 1000 years of history. I  tried to infuse my paintings with the sentiment and energy that I feel each time I drove in, parked my car and felt the rich earth and humid atmosphere and surely all of the former lives that have passed through this oasis. The changing light of Fall and the daily subtle transformation of a garden slowly sleeping after giving so much during the spring and summer was magnificent.  I sensed the pressure of the famous artists and writers that spent time here in the 1920's. There were so many subjects here, I could spend a lifetime. This picture is taken in front of the building that was given to me as a studio during my residency. 

Here is the text from the Friends of Ninfa Newsletter;

AN ARTIST AT NINFA From Esme Howard
In a happy reminder of the old days of Caetani cultural hospitality, Californian artist Gianne de Genevraye, who specialises in gardens, spent two months painting at Ninfa in autumn 2016, immersing herself in the garden’s seasonal and visual challenges and braving the elements. She has an impressive track record of gar-den painting, with exhibitions and residencies in the United States and across Europe. Among her residen-cies in Italy have been the American Academy in Rome, Villa Hanbury (La Mortola), and La Mortella in Ischia. In her first note to me from Ninfa, soon after beginning work, she wrote:
 
But the garden, the garden. Never have I seen a more exceptional place. I was trying to understand why the work is coming slowly and only with contemplation... The deep spirituality of the place is permeating… I spend about 5 hours a day there, some painting, and a lot of walking to fill my own soul with the spirit of the place. Also an undeniable melancholia, with the shadows of all of the lives that lived there. But especially the ghosts of the great artists that Ada welcomed and who created works of art there. I only hope that I will be worthy of their company...
 
When I first saw Gianne’s paintings, it struck me that her tonal deli-cacy was reminiscent of Lelia Caetani’s work. The style, evidently, is more modern, impressionistic and intuitive, but it is the product of well-attuned skills and thoughtful preparation. Gianne, as she alludes, is one of few artists in recent times to have been able to follow Ada and Marguerite’s pleasing tradition of allowing the garden to inspire gifted men and women by giving them the opportunity to spend un-hurried time at Ninfa. Gianne plans an exhibition at Sermoneta in July this year during the Music Campus. She is also donating one of her paintings to the Foundation.
For more information about Gianne please go to www.gianne.org

Canna in Autumn in Ninfa

Canna in Autumn in Ninfa
116x81cm Collection artist
This painting has the contrasts of Fall colors with the orange tree in the foreground and Canna Lilies on the other side of one of the many streams in Ninfa. The dark leaves give the center ground depth and seem deeply rooted in the ground, almost like tenacles, The middle ground lightens with only slightly suggested form.
 

Anemone Japonica at Foresteria

Anemone Japonica at Foresteria
116x89cm
The Forestiera' is an ancient building in the gardens, used as a guest house. The Director of the Garden, Lauro Marchetti has given me the use of the building as my studio.  Just outside was a bed of white Anemone Japonica', at the end of their bloom, planted with iris.  This painting is painted life-size, and although it is unfinished, with the flowers not rendered, I'm thinking of leaving it as it is in this photo.

Rose Anemone in Roccia Coletto

Rose Anemone in Roccia Coletto
Reserved
80x80cms
The Rock Garden "Coletto" is an english flowering garden that gives a multitude of colors continuously from May through October.  It is a very small part of the 20 acres.  I happened to be walking there and the Director's wife Stella walked by my dressed in exactly these same colors.  As it was she that planted this rock garden, I painted her colors that afternoon.

Dogana at Ninfa

Dogana at Ninfa
146x89cms
This was one of the last paintings that I did at Ninfa, and it is the largest. The palette is the same as the painting of Pyracantha and Salvia The japanese maple was a brillant red, and the view of the river through the tree looking towards the ruin of the customs building from the 14th century was my choice.. The red leaves are only suggested, but the S composition and flow of the leaves give enough information to the viewer.  Although the painting has some realism, it quickly moves to an abstraction of Fall color because it is done with very open brushwork.

Living Water at Ninfa

Living Water at Ninfa
73x116cms
This is the first painting that I did in the garden, the river is intensely mysterious, this is a view looking straight down into it rather than the traditional looking at the wider view from afar.  This is my favorite of the series.

Miniature Ornamental Apples

Miniature Ornamental Apples
100x50cms
This painting has an abstract feel to the background and tightly rendered subject, although the colors are pushed further than reality.  There is a full orchard of these apples, which are unedible and purely decorative.  They are autumnal, fascinating, and the downward flowing branches gave the idea of the tall and narrow format.

Dying Rose in Autumn

Dying Rose in Autumn
116x81cms
 It is rare for me to paint plants dying as one of my ongoing themes in my work is about evolutive progression in nature and how it mirrors the human experience.  But this rose is dying in only this season, gently falling asleep, with a few (non-rendered) roses still clinging to the leafless bush. It will come back to life after being cut back, resting and waiting for the warmer weather.  In the background are the blues of border lavander, and behind that are the weeping cherry trees that are changing to brillant yellow gold. 

Pomegranates and Anemones Blue

Pomegranates and Anemones Blue
82x68
These miniature Japanese pomegranates made a striking contrast against the brillant white anemones. The actual site, in front of the Foresteria in the Ninfa Garden is actually hidden behind a bank, but the colors I created made the composition work with a palette of coral salmon and blues. The background is purposefully abstract suggesting only the Fall light as it plays on the leaves.

Pink Camelias with Sun Ray

Pink Camelias with Sun Ray
120x80cms
This painting was done on site at the Cypress road leading to the Santa Maria Maggiore church ruin in Ninfa.  During the painting session, suddenly there was a bright stream of light shining from the east that cut through the composition. Although I had painted that area as background landscape, the sun ray was so strong and ephemeral that I painted it immediately over the existing work, giving the composition a diagonal feel that perfectly contrasted with the round form of the camelia.

Red Roses Cascading off Ruin

Red Roses Cascading off Ruin
 Reserved
120x40cms
This unusual format was inspired by a old climbing rose on a ruin adjacent to my studio that had detached from the brick after a windstorm. Antonio, the gardener waited for me to finish the painting before putting it back into its former place.  In the background, the orchard starts to turn to autumn gold.

Bouquet of Winter Roses for Leila

Bouquet of Winter Roses for Leila
100x100cm
Lelie Caetani was the last person of the centuries old Caetani who lived at Ninfa.  Her family had owned the garden and much of the surrounding Pontine plain (pianura palude) for centurie. Their fief was the medieval village of Sermoneta, where the Foundation Caetani still owns the spectacular castle that crowns the village.  Leilla was a painter, and her works were shown in Paris, London and Rome.  My favorite works of hers were the bouquets, and I was told that she loved roses, so I decided to paint a bouquet of winter roses in her honor. 

Orange Pyracantha after a Rainstorm

Orange Pyracantha after a Rainstorm
92x73cms
I was completely alone in the garden on a Saturday after a windstorm when I captured the brillant orange of the bush which is not only ornamental, but is used as formidable barriers due to the spiky nature of the plant, growing against a tree, with fallen branches from yesterday's rain storm suggested in the background.  

Pryacantha, Salvia, and Ninfa River

Pryacantha, Salvia, and Ninfa River
130x81cm 
I looked at this site for several weeks before deciding to paint it.  The giant salvia here are only strokes of blue, and although I laid in the branching using negative space, as the painting progressed, it became more and more abstract, and I lost the connection to the real subject, allowing myself to flow with the movement and the bold spaces and forms, especially in the rendering of the water. I would like to pursue this direction, because this turned out to be one of my favorite pieces.

Dogwood and Tulipiana and Ninfa River

Dogwood and Tulipiana and Ninfa River
81x116cms    Collection Caetani Foundation
This is a view of the river seen through the branches of a Tulipiana in full transition to brillant Fall colors.  This view has a certain depth that is not usual for me, but the stark reflective quality of the water contrasted with the strange colors of the foreground leaves made an interesting composition.  Lauro Marchetti, the Director of the garden, feels that I captured the spirit of the garden with this painting, and Esme Howard preferred this painting.

Norma seen from Piazzale della Gloria

Norma seen from Piazzale della Gloria
70x100cms
At the end of any residencies, I try to experiment, to see if a new direction reveals itself after several months of intense work.  This view is dissimilar to the other pieces because it is painted from memory.  All of the other paintings were painted in front of the subject, outdoors.  This piece also shows distant view which I rarely do, and bolder color work. It is the view of the town of Norma and the Greco-Roman site Norba on the hilltop above Ninfa.

EuonymusAlatus (Winged Spindle) with Brick Wall

EuonymusAlatus (Winged Spindle) with Brick Wall
120x30cms
Just outside of my studio is this enormous rose that grows against a ruined brick wall.  It was a rainy day and I didn't want to go far from the studio.  I had almost finished the piece when it rained again, and the rain marks can be seen on the finished canvas.  Curiously, only this branch was exactly this red color, while the rest of the bush was still green.  I rendered the leaves in some detail, and grounded the painting with waxy dark green leaves in a radiating form, giving the composition a T form, with an unusual format. 

Canna Lillies and Anemone (hors serie)

Canna Lillies and Anemone (hors serie)
80x80cms
This was the final painting that I did in Ninfa, and an experiment, which is why I titled it "hors serie" meaning out of the series.
I used a different surface, industrially prepared so very smooth, as opposed to my own prepared 'organic' surface that is rougher. The result looks somewhat inspired by Georgia O'Keefe, probably because I recently taught a workshop at Ghost Ranch where she lived for many years.  This very graphic style is something that I will not pursue!

La Mortella Gardens in Ischia, Spring 2017