The Color Choices of Olendorf

Olendorf (1924-1996) studied architecture and design while at Harvard. For picture making, this gave him a firm command of distinct lines and the monochrome color palette, but he would find a far more complex problem when he transitioned to oil painting.

The 19th and 20th century were a volatile time for art theory. Impressionist painters, aided by scientific thought, realized that the color perceived by the eye and the color understood by the brain were two different things. Impressionists aimed to capture the former. One method they used was called broken color, where shades of a color were painted without blending them; this led to the early critique of impressionist works as “unfinished.” Nonetheless, their aim was to enrich the color’s vitality and to give it the actual sensation of light. Neo-impressionism took this approach further and focused more on the analytical theory and division of color and vision. The results of this were techniques like pointillism and divisionism. The next movement was fauvism, which took a radical approach to color choice, and made choices favoring the mood they wanted to portray, not the color you would find represented by the natural world. A great example of this, and to see how far it could be pushed, is Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

As Olendorf developed as an artist, you can clearly see he borrowed from impressionism and fauvism. He created a realism that focused on intense color and a playful palette. The fields in the vineyard are the most impressionist of this group, while the intense color fields in the boat relate to fauvism. This diversity and technical ability is one of the qualities we really like about Olendorf.

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