L'École Marchutz

Léo, Un Portrait Musical

Hilary Stein

This January, a few of us at the Marchutz School were profoundly fortunate to attend a live musical performance dedicated to its founder, Leo Marchutz, held at the historic “Camp des Milles,” a former French internment camp where Marchutz was detained during WWII.

Marc-Olivier Dupin, inspired by texts from Leo Marchutz, wrote the score for the concert. It was interpreted by the Marseille Woodwind Quintet.

The music was accompanied by images and texts by Marchutz, shedding light on his life and work with a poignancy well matched to the delicate wind instruments being played in his honor. A performance of his writings conveyed the story of his life from his beginnings in his hometown of Nuremberg through his voyage to Aix-en-Provence and the Chateau Noir where he resided for nearly 40 years.

In the words of Dupin, the concert was intended to be a "plunge into the universe of Leo." Of the task of composing a musical tribute to the artist, he aimed for "a certain subjectivity, as though I were composing music for a documentary film about Leo. And also to translate the humanism, the kindness and humor of his character."

Translated from Dupin: "L’idée est plutôt d’assumer une certaine subjectivité un peu comme si je composais la musique d’un film documentaire sur Léo. Et également de traduire l’humanisme, la gentillesse et l’humour du personnage."

Immense thanks goes to Monsieur Dupin, Camp des Milles and the children and grandchildren of Leo Marchutz for making this concert possible.

- Hilary Stein

The Speech of Mo, Maureen Anderson

Hilary Stein

This Tuesday, we had the privilege of receiving a speech from student Maureen Anderson at the closing ceremony for the fall semester at the IAU. Here it is: 


John handed out our first reading for seminar: a text about color, lines and light by Rembrandt. It was concise and profound, as I would soon find many of these readings to be, and, like the rest, it expanded beyond this discussion, this artist, and this context. “Contours should be drawn,” he said, “not in a continuing manner, but rather fragment by fragment, with a lightness of hand, that the object be not closed but open to the light, that it may breathe in the enveloping atmosphere.”

I remember a day, I think it was in early October. Paint and turpentine shared the space within my bag, my easel hung haphazardly and with each step, my two glass jars said a word or two to each other. I stood beside a stream and I contemplated the risk of crossing over it via fallen tree, as ants, seemingly infinite in number, greeted me to investigate the trespassing. They herded me across. I saw the woods which held me. I looked further. Grey violets hid themselves in the trees and the light spat out an electric yellow green. One stroke at a time, I tried to figure out how to paint it. It was really hard.

But that was my problem: I wasn’t trying to paint a painting, I was trying to paint the woods. I didn’t know there was a difference at the time, but alas, I am so much wiser now.

I don’t remember exactly what each leaf on each tree looked like that day, but I remember there was comfort, solitude, nature, a nameless quality. That’s what I should have, somehow, been painting, using those trees as tools to create something else.

I’ve been painting and drawing all semester at Marchutz, and I’m finally realizing that fragment by fragment, Marchutz has been drawing me this whole time.

After struggling with this for a while, John gave me some simple but powerful advice. As he sat and read, I was to look at the entire scene that existed before me, and paint the one color that jumped out at me, one intentional, specific stroke at a time, with much, with much feeling and deliberation. In doing so, someone who did not look like, but felt like John began to appear on my canvas.

At my most recent critique, I saw all of my paintings from the past four months together. It’s hard to describe how everything hit me at that moment, but together they retold the semester, and I felt full. I realized that it’s not just about the paintings I’ve made, it’s about their whole story and the meaning they give each other. I was able to see how I’ve begun putting myself into a painting; it was the difference between painting the leaves of the trees and painting the heart of nature. It was the difference between painting the color of someone’s face and the color of their character.

I still can’t claim I can really make a true piece of art, but I’m figuring out how to figure it out. I’ve been painting and drawing all semester at Marchutz, and I’m finally realizing that fragment by fragment, Marchutz has been drawing me this whole time.

I’ve been breathing in the provencal white yellow light that casts my-favorite-color-violet shadows. I’ve been breathing in the silence of the landscape and the rhythm of voices in discussion, in laughter. I’ve handed the pencil to everyone in the Marchutz family to draw a little contour for what is becoming me, I’ve let Flannery O’Connor and Van Gogh throw a few down, and those ants at the stream may have gotten one in too. In allowing the world to draw me I am learning to be open to its light, to exist harmoniously with it. I’m recognizing that one stroke at a time, I am becoming more whole, more able to relate to the world in which I exist. I’m hoping that if I let the world create me, it will teach me how to create a world.

Anyways, “Contours should be drawn, not in a continuing manner, but rather fragment by fragment, with a lightness of hand, that the object be not closed but open to the light, that it may breathe in the enveloping atmosphere.”

Scholars in Cezanne Country

Kate Butler
Rewald (left) and Marchutz 

Rewald (left) and Marchutz 

Book Cover,  1936, Léo Marchutz and John Rewald 

Book Cover, 1936, Léo Marchutz and John Rewald 

Le Mont Saint Victoire seen from Les Lauves.

Le Mont Saint Victoire seen from Les Lauves.

 Mill stone in the park of the Chateau Noir 

 Mill stone in the park of the Chateau Noir 

View to the west above L'Estaque

View to the west above L'Estaque

In light of our recent field study here in Aix to some of Cézanne's most significant motifs, we present you a series of photos taken by Leo Marchutz and art historian John Rewald. The photos were originally published in a book co-authored by the two titled Cezanne au Chateau Noir, published in 1936, and were on display circa 2006 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It's worth noting that, on our trip, we were discouraged from taking photos of the stately, mysterious manor that is Chateau Noir -  motif of Cezanne, once home to the studio of Leo Marchutz, and now to our two Marchutz School professors  - out of respect to the Tessier family, who still reside on the property. But even more notable is that we were able to visit.

I owe [ Léo Marchutz ] my fervor for Cézanne.
— John Rewald

The photographs of Marchutz and Rewald are better than we could do anyway - of the Chateau Noir and other sites where Cezanne painted, the photos act as both records and references to art historians studying the masterworks that Cezanne created from the same motifs.

Check out a selection of the photos below. With them we've included two writings - the first, a reflection from John Rewald, the second, an excerpt from a scholarly essay on Marchutz's contribution to Cézanne research. Among other things, the essay speaks to the significance of Marchutz's dual vocations as an artist and art historian to his discernment of Cezanne's oevre. On a more sentimental level, the story of Marchutz's arrival in Aix offers insight into the very origins of his namesake school where we go to paint every day.

For a 1977 catalogue for a Cezanne exhibition in Paris, John Rewald reflected upon the on the labor of taking the photos:

“...I first came to Aix in the late spring of 1933 and there met the painter Léo Marchutz, who for several years had been living at Château Noir. He owned a copy of the April 1930 issue of The Arts with an article by Erle Loran (Johnson) on “Cézanne’s Country”, where the first photographs of the artist’s motifs had appeared. On his own, Marchutz had located a series of further motifs, especially at Château Noir and around Le Tholonet. He asked me to take photographs of these with my newly acquired Leica; it wasn’t long until I moved into the main building of Château Noir and we set out a systematic hunt of Cézanne’s motifs throughout the region of Aix, l’Estaque, Gardanne, usually on bicycles, which we often had to push uphill in the stifling heat, for Cézanne liked to work from elevated positions."  (Continue reading here.

More recently, a Agnes Blaha at the University of Vienna wrote a scholarly essay on Marchutz's contribution to our understanding of Cézanne's oeuvre titled Leo Marchutz: A Painter in the Centre of Early Cezanne Research. In her introduction, she recounts how Marchutz's lifetime relationship with the work of Cézanne, both as an artist and an art historian:

View of the Chateau Noir.

View of the Chateau Noir.

In addition to the possibilities these documents offer for a historiographic study of the development of early research in modern art, Marchutz’ work can also be seen as an example for the often underestimated reciprocal influences between creative practice and art historic research.
— Agnes Blaha

"Léo Marchutz, born 1903 in Nuremberg, began his artistic career as an autodidact. In his early years, Cézanne’s art which Marchutz got to know by an exhibition held at the gallery of Bruno Cassierer in Berlin in 1921 and through his visits at the Neue Pinakothek in Munich influenced his view of the possibilities and purposes of art. In his later autobiographical statements, Marchutz’ stressed the importance of his early contacts to Cézanne’s art for his rejection of academic training as an artist and his decision to develop his own style through the individual study of other artists’ works in museums (Châtelet 19). Inspite of this early fascination for Cézanne, it was rather through coincidences that Marchutz began his investigation of Cézanne’s motives, a work which he should continue throughout his whole life. Marchutz first came to Aix-en-Provence in 1928, when his later wife, Anna Kraus, offered him this journey for his help with selling a picture by Cézanne. When they decided to visit the Château Noir, they made the acquaintance of a coachman who had been working for Cézanne and therefore knew some of Cézanne’s favorite places where he regularly went to paint. It seems plausible that this coachman gave the decisive impulse to look out for these places. Arrived at the Château Noir, Marchutz spontaneously decided to rent a small apartment in Cézanne’s old residence, a decision which clearly hints at the enthusiasm he felt for his self-chosen artistic role model. This enthusiasm can also be discerned in Marchutz’ paintings from the first years he spent in Aix, where he definitively settled down in 1931. His landscape paintings with views of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire and a number of still lives painted between 1928 and 1931 show, in spite of all existing differences in style, a deliberate proximity to Cézanne, which already can be seen in the choice of subjects typically associated with Cézanne. Additionally, his interpretation shows the intention to imitate some formal characteristics, especially concerning the creation of volume through large colored patches, an intention that becomes even more obvious when these pictures are compared with his paintings of the Mount Sainte-Victoire from the 1960s, which are in all aspects much more typical for the personal style he had developed."

Find the complete set of photos from Marchutz and Rewald here at National Gallery's Rewald archives. 

The Art at Manning Hall

Marchutz Fellow

Across the walls of the lounge and stairwell at the IAU Manning Hall is a collection of art that any university would envy and that any museum should. Luminous works by Leo Marchutz and the school he inspired grace the walls with their unity of color and their penetrating expression of life. For those of you who live in walking distance, they're worth taking a closer look at. For those of you don't, voila! we've photographed and compiled a selection to view here online.

Leo Marchutz

Leo Marchutz

Leo Marchutz

Leo Marchutz

John Gasparach

John Gasparach

Alan Roberts

Alan Roberts

See more works on the Marchutz School Facebook page or on tumblr.

Chasing Light and Molding Clay

Marchutz Fellow

Alumni fellow Kate Butler reflects on this year's sculpture workshop in Giverny

The light is always changing, but every year the assignment is the same: create a sculpture from one of your sketches of the garden. In the presence of Monet’s lingering vision, the annual sculpture workshop posed us the challenge of bringing tangible form to our impressions of the water and color, plants and light and air. For five days, we had the benefit of being guided by Greg Wyatt, a foremost representational sculptor, who, after a morning of group introductions woven with profound commentary, led us down the Rue Claude Monet, through the entryway overgrown with flowers and vines onto the famous Japanese bridge, where we’d begin our inquiry into the relationship of three dimensional space to the flat surface of the page.

Greg established that we’d begin our sculpture process by drawing from nature and that, at least, we were prepped for. The weeks prior we spent landscape painting during which we learned to encounter nature as artists - to select values from all the light and matter, and to bring them together according to the dictates of our imaginations. Experience aside, there was something a bit disorienting in treating our impressions of color and value as fodder for a 2 by 1 inch wax sculpture - even for those of us who had done the workshop in years past.

I had. And as I scanned the garden, now rainy, with my increasingly wet sketchbook in tow, I thought of past mistakes as guidance for whatever I was going to do next. In short, I was ready to take a less literal approach to the exercise than I had as a student. Last time, I’d attempted something like a pictorial representation of the bridge bordered by two clumpy trees and a flat surface of water, which, though accurate in a certain sense, bore little resemblance to my experience of actually being in the garden with all its particularities of space and light. This time, I looked more closely at less tangible, more encompassing relationships - such as that of the willow branches to the water, reflected in its depths. I made a quick sketch and then moved on to explore the pond’s other lurking mysteries.

In our wax-scented studio, I opened my sketchbook to that drawing. It was, in a word, abstract. A bunch of rounded triangles jutting upward over a few horizontal lines that, while bearing resemblance to what I actually saw, weren’t exactly identifiable as reflections, and definitely not as willow leaves. From my drawing, I made a wire sculpture with spires, the upward reaching leaves, jutting out above something like an upside-down bowl to convey the horizontal plane of the water. To the clay mock-up I oriented the forms around an upward spiral like a shell, which I adjusted little by little until I arrived at a form that was more real, more whole, more like a living thing than the sculpture I made two years ago. The sculpture also felt more like my own, more “my style” in the sense that the undulating curves and almost gothic spires showed the touch of my hands, by consequence of my way of experiencing and interacting with the world.

By the time we reached the Coubertin Foundation with our finished wax sculptures in tow, I had come to a deeper realization of the relatedness of the self and the imagination to nature. I had pursued my experience of the garden rather than its literal appearance and the result was a creation that had more in common with the nature I was pursuing than any photographic representation, itself a concrete realization of what I discovered in the process. What I had arrived at was anything but arbitrary. “Art imitates nature,” St. Thomas Aquinas once said, not in her appearance but “in her manner of operation.” It had been whispered to me by John and Alan during painting sessions, had been expounded upon and discussed in seminar, explained to me by friends, fellows, scholars. But there’s nothing quite like inching toward a timeless law like that with your own two hands.

For me, the realization represented a step to cultivating an art practice out of which I can produce work that is whole and alive; that is sourced from somewhere genuine and somewhere real. And because no realization is allowed to be arbitrary at Marchutz, what I learned gained even more significance when John Gasparach handed us an essay on Impressionism in Art History class the next Monday.

The writer, an art historian named Richard Shiff, was talking about the etymology and implications of the "impression" as in the much used and abused art term "Impressionism." The impression, he observes, “[bridges] the gap between the external and the internal, the physical and the intellectual or spiritual.” Art and poetry then, is “nature reflected in the human mind,” making that reflection, that impression, consequently “both a phenomenon of nature and of the artist’s own being.”

I thought of the sketches I made in the garden - the drawings of those willow leaves reflected in the pond at once representative of their nature but also true to my touch, my eyes, my presence in seeing them - "both a phenomenon of nature and of the artist’s own being.” I also thought of something John had said about Monet in class. As Monet drew closer to nature his work became more recognizably his own. Moving from the earth to the surface of the water in search of his motif, he gradually eliminated the far bank, such that everything that called to him most in nature - the “envelope,” as he called it, of air and light - was laid bare in the reflective surface. It was from that vantage point that he produced his works of art that were his most powerful, his most abstract, his most concrete, his most real. Monet's late and works, the result of an artistic career pursuing his vision, are emphatically “both a phenomenon of nature and of the artist’s own being.”

So what does all this about impressions have to do with our five-day sculpture workshop in Giverny? Though experiences inevitably vary, I trust that we all learned something about the relationship of nature to the artistic process. I sure did. The light is always changing, but in its chase we can gain a glimpse of the reality of nature and ourselves in relation to it. It's not easy to pay attention to the passing phenomena that make up what we know of life. It takes patience to progress from a fleeting vision in the mind’s eye to a thing you can see, grasp, hold in your hands. But it’s at the heart of what makes doing art so valuable.

No. 3: From Monet's Garden

Kate Butler

Nearly two weeks ago we had the privilege of attending the school's annual sculpture workshop in Monet's hometown of Giverny led by a foremost representational sculptor, Greg Wyatt. Here's a video to show for it featuring the Giverny sky, some stock footage of Claude Monet painting, and the voice of Lisel Mueller reading her poem "Monet Refuses the Operation."

Kate Butler and Hilary Stein

No. 2: Van Gogh and the Landscape

Marchutz Fellow

In the past few weeks, we've been immersed in painting the landscape of nearby Beaurecueil. For those of us who were struggling to find unity in the all those trees and grasses and mountains, our trip to Arles and Saint Rémy, where Van Gogh spent his last and most productive years, was rich with inspiration, featuring visits to famous motifs and discussions before some of his most powerful paintings.

The artist's reflections to his brother Theo, read by John Gasparach, underscores this montage of students in the landscape.

Leo Marchutz as Teacher

Marchutz Fellow
Students in the first session of the Marchutz school, ca. summer 1972.

Students in the first session of the Marchutz school, ca. summer 1972.

Throughout this year, we are featuring texts that spotlight the life and values of Marchutz the school and Marchutz the artist as well as interviews by people who knew him. Here, one of the co-founders of the Marchutz school Billy Weyman recounts Leo's rejection of traditional academia for a personal education rooted in the study of nature and the art of the past. 

“It was seven years ago in Aix-en-Provence that I was introduced to Leo Marchutz as my painting instructor for the year to come. Ever since that time I have become increasingly aware of exactly what the teaching of Marchutz means and how valuable it is in these times. To understand the whole man, an evaluation of his relatively short teaching career is essential. As he himself refused all formal training, it is interesting to see the approach he now takes to guiding the young to a deeper understanding of art and painting.

Marchutz proposes that a student copy first and choose for this purpose a painting to which he is naturally drawn. If the idea of copying works of art seems today outdated then maybe it is proper here to reconsider why painters ever felt that copying was a valid means of learning. This being the first principle of Marchutz’s teaching, the matter shoud be pursued.

Since the names Cezanne and Van Gogh have been and are generally equated with art in its higher state, I will take the liberty of contrasting their attitudes to those of the Academy. Though for different reasons, both proposed copying other works of art. One may well wonder where the difference lies. Ever since the eighteenth century and the birth of Neo-Classicism and the Academy, there have been patterned beliefs about “correct” painting and drawing. It was generally accepted in academic circles that there was one way to draw and paint correctly and that way was gotten from study of the great masters. Ingres for example saw the ultimate truth in Raphael and nowhere else. The Academies in turn held up Ingres as a divine example for their students to follow. So art was limited to the general taste of the time. Even worse the Academy was not directing its students to the art of Ingres and Raphael but to their methods. If copying is of any value at all then it shoud be evident that the Academy’s approach is not one to observe. By looking at Cezanne and Van Gogh one can be more sure of understanding the benefit to be had from copying. Both rejected the Academy’s teaching and both turned to working from the masters of their choice. For them it was a means of penetrating nature, knowing that what they chose to copy had its roots firmly planted there. Let it be understood that nature in this context is simply, as Cezanne himself put it, ‘the spectacle which the Pater Ominpotens Aeterne Deus spreads before our eyes”. When Van Gogh copied Millet it was not Millet’s methods which he copied, it was the spirit which he himself felt behind Millet’s figures. The results are purely Van Gogh and hardly less original than the paintings he made from nature. The value of copying is immense if the reasoning behind it is right, for it instructs, through art not through technique, the poetic as well as the visual sense. The mere learning of technique is without value because it has become dissociated from the very source from which it grows, namely the artistic intuition which, seeking its own expression, gives birth to the work of art. The technique therefore evolves with the work of art. It does not precede it.

I cannot tell you how to do it; only how not to do it
— Léo Marchutz

Marchutz has another motive in suggesting copying as a means to artistic initiation. It gives him an accurate idea of a student’s natural response to color and drawing. The way the student responds reveals a great deal about his particular feeling and intuition. This is why Marchutz lets a student commit himself to a copy before he offers advice or criticism.

Students often ask Marchutz how a thing shoud be done. He answers, "I cannot tell you how to do it; only how not to do it". The meaning of this statement shoud be clear if seen in relation to the academic approach : that is to say, where the “right way” is predetermined, not only by the instructors but by the school and the predominating tastes of the time. One may recall that according to many critics Cezanne could not draw, and with the limited criteria of the Academy this is certainly true. But according to art nothing could be more false.

At the same time Marchutz advocates the self-discipline and constraint that only when exercised by internal forces can awaken truth to Goethe’s words : “Unfettered spirits will aspire in vain to the pure heights of perfection. He who wills great things must concentrate his efforts, only in limitation is mastery revealed and law alone can give us freedom.”

Today dominating trends in art pretend to be vehemently opposed to the academies. Their roots can be traced back to the Bauhaus school of the early twenties. The Bauhaus admitted it could not make artists but proposed to put all the necessary tools and theories at the disposal of its students. In the hands of the right students art would “blossom”. The tools in question were a variety of technical procedures. After experimenting with all the possible ways of working a student was supposed to choose a technique to his liking. The sterility of such a procedure vies with that of the Academy, for the one is a multiplication of the sins of the other : one technique is replaced by several and the basic contact with nature is subordinated to the mere mechanics of painting. Marchutz advises students to go to nature directly, guided by the masters with whom they have particular affinities. Few artists of merit have done otherwise.

It is evident that techniques do no mean much to him. Students who come equiped with all the methods and formulas for “making paintings”, are sure to meet with disapproval. In such a case his criticism is outspoken, whereas a seemingly awkward and infinished painting may evoke his enthusiasm.

He is conviced that too much emphasis on results is dangerous. He personnally devoted four years of his life to doing delicate pencil drawings of Aix streets. During that time he concerned himself more with understanding a few basic relations such as “roof to sky” or “ground to buildings” than with elaborate and “finished” drawings. The value of this may be more clearly understood if one can sense the meaning of Baudelaire’s words in defense of the work of Corot, who was heavily attacked for the sketchiness of his landscapes. He says, “There is a great difference between a thing created and a thing finished : generally that which is created is not finished and a thing very much finished may not be created at all”. So Marchutz encourages students to forget about making works of art and to value more what goes into their minds than what goes onto paper. This is not negative advice. He hopes to instill in a student a sense of what is important and what is superfluous. The common desire among students is to find an original way of working and to make a “masterpiece”. Since neither originality nor the making of masterpieces can be had by looking for them it is best to forget about those things and begin the slow and natural process of growing while in contact with art and nature.

Basically Marchutz’s teaching suggests, never dictates, and speaks with a still, small voice as do his character and his art. Love is the force which moves him and finally the force which nourishes his relation with young painters.

In reality the world is filled with enough great art and enough of the written word to allow any young person to avoid painting schools altogether. But rare is the young man who trusts his own artistic intuition enough to abandon all school instruction. Marchutz was an exception. Surely this is one reason why he is such a unique teacher. Sensing the flaws in a system, he strives to correct them. I believe he has succeeded. It would be impossible for schools and academies to adopt and carry out Marchutz’s approach to teaching. But individual teachers could profit greatly from his example. He has brought something new and alive to the very institution he himself rejected.

The teaching of Leo Marchutz involves the irrevocable truths of all time, those which are nurtered and preserved by tradition and which go unchanged and unchallenged from one age to the next. But he does more than profess these truths : he represents them.”

- William Weyman, Aix-en-Provence, 1968

Copy Work

Marchutz Fellow
Copying the drawings of the masters was a habitual exercise in his studio. The sketch of the whole emphasizing the essential elements was at the base of this exercise.
— Rembrandt (as recounted by his student Van Hooganstraten)

In the same spirit, this week our students have been painting copies of masterworks, with special attention to a work of their choosing. The objective, as Professor John Gasparach reminded us, is not to create a facsimile but to train the student to see meaningful connections in form and color as he or she dives deep into the world of the painting.

Photos by Hilary Stein.

No. 1: The Quality Without a Name

Marchutz Fellow

Hilary and Kate are collaborating on a series of videos that spotlight the multitude of ideas and experiences that make the Marchutz program so unique. Number one centers on an architecture excursion to the Luberon Valley, where we observed and discussed the integral "quality" of nature that Christopher Alexander expounds on in The Timeless Way of Building. 

* * *

"There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.

...The fact is that the difference between a good building and a bad building, between a good town and a bad town, is an objective manner. It is the difference between health and sickness, wholeness and dividedness, self-maintenance and self-destruction. In a world which is healthy, whole, alive, and self-maintaining, people themselves can be alive and self-creating. In a world which is unwhole and self-destroying, people cannot be alive: they will inevitable be self-destroying, and miserable.

...This oneness, or the lack of it, is the fundamental quality for any thing. Whether it is in a poem, or a man, or in a building full of people, or in a forest, or a city, everything that matters stems from it. It embodies everything."

- Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building, Chapter 2

Kate Butler and Hilary Stein

New Year, Fresh Eyes

Marchutz Fellow

Last weekend, our fall 2014 semester group of Marchutz students gathered together for a day of bonding over good art and good food. In the afternoon we visited the Musee Granet to see a special exhibition of the collection of Rose and Henry Pearlman, himself once a friend of our Leo. The collection included works by greats like Kokoshka, Mogdiliani and Vincent Van Gogh, though for some of us - and here I'm being biased - Cezanne's watercolors were the real draw. In the company of a few others, I stood before Still Life with Caraffe for an indefinite period of time and observed its way of being. Others looked long at his iterations of the Mont Saint Victoire, others at the Mogdiliani portrait upstairs. Whatever painting(s) spoke to each of us that day, we were encouraged, in typical Marchutz fashion, to observe patiently the work of art; to give it time to show itself for what it is. This afternoon at the museum whet our palates for what is set to be a great few months of looking.

The visit was followed by a barbecue - big thanks to O’Neill, Charley and Nick for some tasty chicken kabobs - held in the courtyard by the School’s two relatively new additions, the sculpture studio and expanded shed. The dinner lingered on into the night amid crisp, Provencal light and good conversation.

Words by Kate Butler, photos by Hilary Stein 

Marchutz School Spotlight

Marchutz Fellow

In the summer of 2012, Alumnus Michael Coursey filmed and produced a series of videos that offer a glimpse into the school, spotlighting its pedagogy, professors, and student impressions. Not to mention the picturesque Provencal landscape in which it rests. 

Student Voices: Andi Wallace

Marchutz Fellow

“Everything is always changing, and even though we go to this mountain, and I may go to my favorite spot each time, it’s always different.  It’s different in the way the light hits each peak, or each tree surrounding it, and the sky is always a new variation of colors.”

“We’re here to find light.  The light comes from within us, and it emanates out of what we see.  It is the presence, and not just a ray that shines from the sky, or a piece of canvas that’s left white.  That’s why we’re here, to find the ‘whole’ and the ‘light’ that is at the heart of a place or a person or thing. “

“In learning about this landscape, and this light, and about each other, we’re learning about how we see.  With all of this painting, and reading, French speaking, and a fair amount of wine tasting, I might’ve said before that I’ve grown.  That being here has helped me to think differently, and see differently.  But now, I think I can say that being here has helped me to become more myself.  And I don’t want to leave…”

Quotes and Images from student Andi Wallace.

Reflections from Giverny

Marchutz Fellow

An inside view of the Marchutz School's 2012 sculpture workshop with artist and eloquent educator Greg Wyatt. Our Giverny studio, surrounded by exquisite gardens, is just a few minutes walk from Monet's water lily pond, which became our motif and model. 

- Charley

Another year begins at the Marchutz School

UncategorizedMarchutz Fellow

Marchutz School Alumni, Friends, Supporters; Family, we've been busy over here and an introduction is weeks overdue.  I'm Charley (Neff) Umbarger,  and its my pleasure to be the Resident Alumni Fellow this Fall semester.  I am an alumnus of the class of 2009-'10 and also a legacy student. My parents Paul and Julie both studied here (while I was just 18 months old) in 1990 and '91 respectively. I have grown up with a special relationship to Provence. Of course I am thrilled to be back.  I hope to share here some of what makes this place great.  In periodic updates I will be covering happenings at the school in pictures, inviting students to contribute, and in everything, trying to call out that something that happens here that doesn't leave you. Thank you for following.  

See More images at CharleyNeff.com here.


John in the Studio
John in the Studio
Alan with students in the landscape
Alan with students in the landscape

A First Show

Marchutz Fellow

How do you write about your first “real” show?  It started out as just an idea.  Charley Neff ’09-’10 came to visit for a month, brought some watercolors he had done with them, and wanted to show them.  “Why don’t we have some kind of a group show?” he asked one day over dinner.  Why not?  It could be done for cheaply enough, if the IAU would let us use their Great Hall for free.  So the idea started snowballing, and before too long, vague notions of having some kind of a group show became more concrete.  The show would involve four of the ten Fall 2009 Marchutz School alumni, Charley, Mary Hamilton, Nick Velleman, and myself, O’Neill Cushman, because we were all back together in Aix for the month.  We would hold it on Tuesday, June 12th at IAU.  The room was officially reserved, and now all we had to do for the next couple of weeks was paint and try not to think about it. Fast-forward about 2 weeks.  It is the weekend before the show.  We have all been working hard with the goal of maybe having some fresh, never-before-seen work on the walls.  But now the other, very different challenge begins.  We have to choose work, and hang it.  The idea of us all having an equal share in the decision-making process must have been important, because at no point did selecting one of us to jury and hang the show come up.  So we all grabbed all the work we would want to show and brought it to Mary’s apartment.  Over lots of coffee, we slowly eliminated works from the show, going artist by artist, but keeping the whole collection in mind.  Our strategy was to walk into the room with about twice as many paintings as we could hang, and then work with what we brought to create the best show possible.  Little did we know that would be the hard part.

The selection process took about three hours.  Not so bad.  Once we had finished, we took a quick lunch break and headed to the main hall and began what would become a nine-hour process of hanging the show.  I can’t really do the process justice in words.  All I can say is that I’m extremely glad I did this show with people I love and respect as people and as artists, because it is not easy, and when it comes to art, people can be very opinionated.  But we laughed our way through it.  When we disagreed with the positioning or order of the paintings, we tried something else, and decided, all together, which was best.  It was an organic process, and the result was astonishing.  Standing in a room full of my own art and the art of my most respected peers, at the end of the day, filled me with hope.  This is really happening.

The next two days were about making the show a success.  We bombarded the town with last-minute posters, and we picked up a ton of chips, peanuts, and wine.  I made a gigantic bowl of my increasingly famous hummus, and we waited for our moment with anxious excitement (or was it eager anxiety?).  Finally, at T minus 45 minutes, the last class in the great hall ended, and we raced in to set up the aperitif station, do some last minute adjusting and photography of the works we hoped would sell, check the levels on the music, and just pace around nervously.

When we opened our doors we saw something amazing.  People had actually begun waiting outside!  We’re not sure how many people came to our little one-room vernissage, but the room quickly filled up and stayed full late into the night.  I have to admit that, at first, I was extremely nervous.  My only real showing experience before this had been school shows at the end of the semester.  With only four of us, it felt like the pressure really was on.  My anxiety peaked at a somewhat silly moment.  I was schmoozing in the corner and a friend approached me.   “You have someone who wants to give you a compliment,” he said.  My whole body swelled in excitement.  My first real compliment!  Could they be interesting in buying a work?  Was this my big break?  My friend led me over to an old French lady, presenting me as the man behind the masterpiece.  “I just wanted to tell you that this hummus is absolutely amazing!” she said (in French, of course) smiling, clearly unaware of the disappointment that had washed over me like a tsunami of unmet aspirations.  I thanked her, and dejectedly walked her through not only the ingredients but the process as well, wondering what it meant that my most popular work was made of chickpeas.

But I had no reason to worry.  Towards the end of the night, it was made clear to us all that we had done good work.  Every painter sold at least two works from the show, and it was deemed by those who know what they are talking about to have been an absolute success.  Alan Roberts called it the best show ever to be hung in the space.

I am incredibly honored and humbled to have been able to work with three other talented artists, and I want to thank everyone who attended, as well as the IAU, for allowing us to show in their magnificent space.  And for those who didn’t get to come, don’t worry.  There will be more.


-O’Neill Cushman, Alumni Fellow