Everyone seems to have an opinion about the print hanging in the foyer of my office at New Orleans Seminary. I’ve heard many people express their feelings about this painting. Some love it. Others hate it.
The print was made from an oil painting of an urban scene. Though somewhat abstract nature, the setting is clear — the French Quarter of New Orleans. The focal point of the piece is a stylized St. Louis Cathedral. It appears to be a view from Chartres and St. Louis streets facing east.
I, for one, have always liked the painting. As an artist I greatly appreciate the painter’s technique. From the use of a limited color scheme applied with a palette knife, to the almost unstructured, rugged look of it all, it just works. The artist skillfully captured the look and feel of that spot. He was moved and was able to conveyed emotion.
I don’t know why I never researched the artist who created this painting. I just didn’t. A few months ago, my blogging cohort in Geaux Therefore, Frank Michael McCormack, Googled the artist and found a great website dedicated to the artist and his work.
Parker Lee Leibsohn who painted under the name Parker Lee was born in Iowa to immigrant parents in 1924. After studying at the University of Denver, Lee developed an almost abstract, modernist style and focused much of his attention on urban landscapes. He later lived Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Portugal and Mexico. Some his paintings from his time in Mexico and Europe are even better. In the late 1980s, Lee made his way to New Orleans. Drawn in by the jazz scene in the New Orleans, he lived here until his death in 1995. Apparently, this lithograph on our wall is a product of these last years of his life. The painting is inspired and inspiring. And without including a single person in the painting, he conveyed emotion. His website, parkerleeleibsohn.com, is worth a visit.
It is no surprise to me that Lee found fertile ground for creativity in New Orleans. With its beautiful tree-lined avenues, Old World architecture and unlimited supply of colorful characters, the city has long inspired artists, musicians and writers.
French impressionist Edgar Degas spent a year here in the 1870s living with relatives on Esplanade Avenue. His 1873 painting, A Cotton Office in New Orleans, his most important work during sojourn in New Orleans, is one of my favorite NOLA paintings.
William Faulkner, O. Henry and Tennessee Williams lived and wrote here at times during their careers. And the city also found it’s way into the works of Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck and many others.
Music courses through the veins of the city. Music is the lifeblood of many a neighborhood. It is here that jazz was born and continues to thrive. We couldn’t even begin to name all of those who have soaked up the creative energy of the city and turned it into music.
Part of the attraction is the city’s brokenness. This place is real with many wonderful qualities and many problems. Hurricane Katrina stirred up many emotions. The result has been a new, more passionate outpouring of creative energy. People still want to paint and sing and write about this unique, wonderful (not perfect) place.