‘Mediterranean Springtime’, Claudia Munro Kerr

19 - 23 June, 2023

Basement Gallery, 19 Ryder Street

19 – 23 June, 2023

We are thrilled to announce Claudia Munro Kerr’s first solo show with Fine Art Commissions.

Featuring a collection of new works to inspire your summer escapes this year, the exhibition will feature landscapes from Claudia’s travels to Tuscany, Paris, St Tropez and Rome.

The exhibition will be available to view here on Friday 16th June.

‘Paris, Rome, Tuscany, Dalmatia, Andalucia, the South of France.  As a British artist living in America, these places stand as happy sentries in my mind to an early childhood packed full of happiness and travel across Europe, before settling in Scotland.

I spent this Spring of 2023 first in Paris and then in the European Mediterranean, revisiting light-filled places of my youthful memories.  My late mother was half Spanish and half Italian, and in a sense my recent months have been a homage to her world.

In Paris this April I lived for a month on a houseboat opposite the Ile St. Louis, preparing for my southern painting travels in the most rigorous way that I believe is available to an artist: with the intensive study of human anatomy at the École des Beaux-Arts.  The famous Beaux-Arts de Paris, with its bust of Poussin guarding the courtyard of a magnificent building by Emile Duban—Degas, Delacroix, Fragonard, Matisse, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Sargent and the great American architect Stanford White all studied here.  This year we lived a cold and rainy Spring in Paris.  Many say that in such weather, with the wind blowing down the Seine, under the watchful goblins of Notre Dame, the city is at its best.  

Rome was already hot in early May.  In the Villa Borghese, I could not touch the marble of the Bernini statues, but just to look on their smooth white curves was cooling.  When I was a child we lived briefly on the Monte Argentario, off the Tuscan Coast, while my parents enjoyed with their friends that impossibly attractive world of Porto Ercole in the 1970s.  Caravaggio—with Sargent, one of my two main painting inspirations—died there in 1610.  He had come to Porto Ercole from Messina, where ancestors of mine lived at the time, and a family legend persists that in a vault somewhere, or perhaps under a bed, we still have two of his paintings. 

The Dalmatian coast, where my Italian family has long roots, was Venetian through 1797, when La Serenissima fell to the forces of Napoleon before her Eastern possessions passed on to the  Habsburgs.  The Communists took almost all that belonged to my family, and the last of us to live in Dalmatia, after many centuries, was an uncle of mine.  People on our island of Vis (now in Croatia) still share with me their memories of the Prince Rafaello sweeping along the stone quays of the ancient harbour in his robes of the Knights of Malta.  Today, in the palazzo that remains to us, we shake the ceiling plaster from our bed covers upon arrival.  It is an experience familiar to many of the Tuscan and Roman families whom we knew in the Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano of my youth.

My Scottish grandparents used to summer in the South of France, and it was there, in the early 1960’s, that my twenty-one year old father was swept off to Hollywood.  In Los Angeles, where I was born amidst the ersatz “Mediterrania” of Beverly Hills some years later, my father’s work with Sergio Leone was to take him to the rugged, dry mountains of Andalucia where lives now, and where the white villages sit like patches of snow.  Picasso came from here, the homeland of Murillo and Velazquez too, and the birthplace of Romantic painting. The Serranía was another stop in this year’s quest for the magic light of southern Europe.

Matisse, Bonnard, Braque, Picasso and countless others painted in St. Tropez, where my Mediterranean travels have also taken me for some weeks recently. But the country just inland, where the landscape is suddenly remarkably wild and empty, and the simpler fishing ports of the nearby coast, so aptly named d’Azur, are more interesting to me today.  Like the coasts of Tuscany and Dalmatia, and the Andalusian hills, the Riviera has a light that for me calls to mind the Arcadias of yesterday.

Every artist will tell you what the nearly overwhelming level of creative beauty in these places, the sheer richness of art that distinguishes Europe’s Mediterranean world, can do to your creativity.  A strange paralysis can set in when you worship at the altar of the great masters amidst the setting of their greatest work. Their power makes you wonder how your own work can even register on the scale. And if it can’t, why even try? Then we do try.

In a world of Bernini’s still-moving, butter-soft sculptures, of Caravaggio’s hypnotic chiaroscuro, of the breathtaking Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Da Vinci hanging down the hallway of the Louvre from the fawned-over Mona Lisa, of the human Velazquez eyes that peer down into your soul and the impossible colours of Matisse in the shimmering light of the Riviera — in this world, we offer our tiny contributions with the greatest humility.  

Paris setting the table for a Mediterranean feast in the frequently gray and rainy Spring of 2023, with plenty of sunshine too. That is the backdrop for this show.  I am happy to be sharing these Plein air sketches, and a handful of more developed paintings: a small salut, saludos and salute to some barefoot days of my youth.’

–Claudia Munro Kerr