Visual Arts

Painting Under a Tuscan Sun

SLC artist Randall Lake in the villa studio preparing his paints for a day in the field in Tuscany, Italy.

SLC artist Randall Lake in the villa studio preparing his paints for a day in the field in Tuscany, Italy.

When painting in the field, or en plein-air, many artists choose to travel and work with a fellow artist, both to help share expenses as well as for the camaraderie that comes with working together. In Utah, there are even some larger organized groups for plein-air painting, such as the Pleinair Group in Utah County. During May and June of this year, one group of Utah artists went a little farther than normal for their group plein-air experience. The Magpie Gallery’s Paint Under a Tuscan Sun trip took a number of Utah artists to the fields of Tuscany to work together, eat together and laugh together.

From mid-May to mid-June, artists joined the Magpie’s group in a villa in the hills of central Italy. The group stayed in Villa Longi, the former summer home of Italian artist Carlantonio Longi, located in the hilltown of Sinalunga, in the beautiful Val di Chicana. 

Sinalunga is located halfway between Rome and Florence, at the edge of the hills extending from Siena. While it is a short drive to many tourist locations such as Siena, Cortona, Assissi and Montepulciano, the town itself is relatively untouched by tourism and allowed the group to experience Italian culture unfettered by high-priced shops and trinket sellers. 

Whether enjoying an evening in Piazza Garibaldi while eating a gelato, a Saturday afternoon watching a World Cup game in the local bar, a day spent at one of the local towns’ medieval festivals, or an evening watching the local youth perform in the town’s beautiful opera house, the group was treated to a wonderfully intimate cultural experience. 

And some painting did get done. 

The immediate grounds of the villa, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves with views of rolling hills and a nearby convent, provided ample material for painting. The hospitality of the Orlandini family, whose estate overlooks the entire Val di Chicana, allowed the painters access to the rest of their property. Some of the artists went further afield for inspiration, traveling to Florence, Siena, Assissi and other locations. 

Only a few of the artists on the trip were familiar with each other before coming to Italy, so while the day was spent working, the nights were spent around the dinner table, enjoying wonderful meals and getting to know each other. While most of the artists were from Utah, a few did come from outside the state, including two photo- graphers from Nevada and a ceramic artist from California.

Mary Pierson and Annette Dunford of the Magpie Gallery were very pleased with the success of the trip and plans for next year’s excursion are already being made. 

Photographer Dick Moore considers a shot of the hilltown of Montalcino.

Photographer Dick Moore considers a shot of the hilltown of Montalcino.

From August 16 until September 20 works from the trip from artists such as David Estes, Randall Lake, Shawn Rossiter, Larry Rigby, Jennifer Worsley, Mary Pierson, Annette Dunford, and Julie and Dick Moore will be on display at the Magpie Gallery. A reception, complete with reminiscences and Italian food will be held Friday August 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Magpie’s Nest, I Street and First Avenue in SLC.

Categories: Visual Arts

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