Southwest Art Magazine | Bonnie Gangelhoff | July 2020 Issue
This story was featured in the July 2020 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2020 print issue or digital download now – then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
Early art career, Margaretta Caesar vowed that someday she would paint like the Dutch masters, creating classic scenes with rich, dark green and black backgrounds. Caesar recalls toiling away on her first attempt at this style and then proudly asking her oldest daughter for an informal critique. Her daughter, she recalls, took one look at the Dutch masterpiece and declared it “boring.” Caesar remembers saying to herself, “‘Aha, I’ll show her.’ So I did a crazy aspen grove in wild colors—lots of pinks, oranges, and purples. By the time I finished the work, I had discovered my love of color, and I let loose.”
Today Caesar is known for the bold, vibrant palette in her paintings, which are mostly landscapes but also include the occasional still life and figure. The Colorado artist is not shy about playing fast and loose with Mother Nature’s color palette. In fact, in terms of color, she is fond of saying, “Everything in my world is slightly enhanced. Trees can be red and cows blue. I never feel constricted by reality when I paint. It’s through enhanced, sometimes surprising color that my landscapes come alive.”
Caesar’s scenes also come alive through the artist’s use of energetic brush strokes. She uses a generous amount of paint and large brushes, allowing the lines created by the bristles to remain visible as part of the painting. Thus her spirited approach to both color choice and paint application combine to create a sense of spontaneity in her works. “I am always struggling to balance that fresh, loose, heavy impasto with the sophistication of brushwork, composition, and knowledge that I’ve acquired through the years,” she says. “I want viewers to see the direction of the brush strokes and the depth of the paint.”
Inspiration for Caesar’s landscapes often springs from the unspoiled natural wonders of the Southwest, mainly the varied terrains of Colorado and New Mexico. Another major influence on her work is painter André Derain [1880- 1954] and the Fauvist art movement. The Fauves—French for “wild beasts”— were an early 20th-century cadre of artists who emphasized the use of strong color without restricting their art to photorealistic interpretations of subject matter. Simplification, abstraction, wild brushwork, and saturated color were the hallmarks of the movement.