Every year, PM360 asks the artists in our industry to send in their best pieces of original artwork for the chance to grace the cover of our Greatest Creators issue. This year, out of just over one hundred submissions, we selected “Bethesda Fountain” from Emma Rose Reichert, Senior Art Director, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide. PM360 spoke with Emma about the selected piece.
PM360: What is the inspiration behind this piece?
Emma Rose Reichert: Bethesda Fountain is one of my favorite spots in Central Park. A great place for people watching—always busy with tourists taking photos and locals quickly passing through. I painted this on location in a quiet corner of the square. I chose to capture the tranquility of the angel and water instead of the busyness and activity around it. The painting has some lost edges where the sculpture blends into the nature around her. In doing some research on the fountain (shortly after I did the painting) I realized the significance of the sculpture—and apparently the artist’s intentions had always resonated with me.
Shortly after the construction of New York’s aqueduct that delivered clean water from upstate New York, landscape architects, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, commissioned sculptor, Emma Stebbins, to design the fountain (the first woman to receive a major sculptural commission in NYC). Sometimes referred to as the “Angel of the Waters,” it was designed to represent love and the protection and purity of water—alluding to its healing powers. The four cherubs below represent: Temperance, purity, health, and peace.
Can you describe the process behind painting this piece?
I have a sensitivity to relationships of light—and watercolor is all about finding that perfect balance in the light-effect. It’s a challenging and unforgiving medium. You don’t paint white—white is the paper. You start by studying the light of the composition and wash-in the lightest areas first, then build-up your mid-tones and finally the shadows. You’re also dealing with “water on paper,” so there’s always a timing issue—when to put your brush on the paper and with how much water to achieve your desired effect. I see this process as a sort of meditation—you can’t be thinking about other things or else you’ll completely mess it up.
Where is this piece currently?
The painting is currently hanging in my dining room—and will be in a show in April.
Who are some of your favorite artists or inspirations?
I’ve always been drawn to Impressionist art—they really knew light effect! Among others: Winslow Homer, Anders Zorn, Karl Larsson, and William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
Are you currently working on any new pieces?
Right now I’m preparing for a show in April in Ridgewood, NJ. I’m currently working on a painting of a run-down apartment building I photographed in Paterson, NJ—the juxtaposition of an underprivileged neighborhood combined with tall full-bloom sunflowers that they planted along a chain-link fence. I enjoy finding beauty in unexpected places—maybe I’ll make that into a series someday.