Eye on the classics
This story was featured in the August 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine August 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine August 2012 digital download here. Or simply click here to subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
JuLee Simmons vividly remembers the piano lessons she took when she was 10 years old, mainly because she was always distracted—mesmerized by a landscape painting that hung on the wall of her teacher’s home in Denver. The beauty of the mountain scene seemed to cast a magical spell. From those moments on, Simmons says, she knew that she was destined to become a painter, not a pianist.
After high school graduation she studied drawing and painting at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. But one of the major influences on her art, Simmons says, is the year she spent living and painting abroad. When her daughter, Beven, was 10, the two moved to Prague and spent a year traveling around Eastern Europe. Simmons says she painted every day and visited top museums regularly.
She still remembers a visit to Kraków, Poland, and the Czartoryskich Museum, where she saw Leonardo da Vinci’s LADY WITH AN ERMINE. The painting is considered such a treasure that visitors were shepherded into a tiny auditorium and, after they were seated, a curtain rose to reveal the 15th-century masterpiece to the awestruck audience. The moment and the painting, which depicts a young woman cradling an ermine in her arms, have stayed with Simmons since that day in 1999.
Today it’s easy to see the influence of such experiences in Simmons’ works, which range from classical to impressionistic in style. Her figures are elegantly and tenderly portrayed, and her paintings often include animals, such as the one hidden in a corner in AWAKENING, or the bird serving as a focal point in LONESOME DOVE.
Simmons says she has depicted animals in her artwork since she was a child, and their presence can be considered a signature element in her paintings. But her inspiration in general stems from the figure. “I really connect with the human form and people in intimate, candid compositions,” Simmons says. “You can say so much with a face or an expression. There’s usually an interaction between the model and the artist, and I love trying to capture that one little moment.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the August 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine August 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine August 2012 print edition
Or click here to subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
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