Landscape painter Lewis to discuss Italian Renaissance inspiration

Brian Smith | Daily file photo
School of Art faculty member Stanley Lewis works on his oil painting on North Lake Drive by University Beach last July.

Landscape painter Stanley Lewis continues to stumble onto inspiration in odd places — like the figurative paintings of Italian Renaissance painter Giotto Di Bondone.

In his 26th summer as a visiting artist and lecturer, Lewis will discuss the work of Giotto in his lecture at 7 p.m. today in the Hultquist Center.

He plans to show a few landscape paintings he has made, but then will focus on the Renaissance painter’s body of work.

“Giotto is considered one of the all-time greats along with Rembrandt and Cézanne and Titian,” Lewis said.

Giotto was a revolutionary who changed the style of painting the same way Charlie Parker changed jazz, according to Lewis.

“He was the first painter who made his figures more life-like rather than more stylized like they had been in the 1200s,” he said.

Lewis said he goes to museums and draws but he never has any plans to draw a certain painting — he just draws what attracts him.

“If I go to a museum I always draw,” he said. “So I went in for a couple hours to the Met, and I drew from a Giotto. I came back and I started to get some ideas.”

The artist said he considers his life as a painter in two parts: one part is the landscapes he paints and the other is learning about painting, which he does through his museum drawing sessions.

Lewis said Giotto’s paintings brought “nature back” into the highly regimented style of the time.

To further explore this, the artist will discuss some of Giotto’s Nativity scenes because he is interested in the space and structure of those paintings.

“It has big, decorative rhythms and very flat expressive spaces,” he said. “I mean, they’re fantastic.”

Another aspect of the paintings that intrigues Lewis is the ambiguity of the gestures and objects being depicted.

“I’m interested in how the objects in the painting are actually conveying two or more meanings at once,” he said. “So there’s an ambiguous meaning to the gestures and I’m interested in finding out what the alternative
interpretation of the painting is.”

As a landscape painter, Lewis said he remains unsure why these figurative paintings continue to interest and intrigue him.

“That’s another thing that doesn’t make any sense, I’m always drawn to these figures and figure paintings,” he said. “So I’m a conflicted person.”