Ocean View

John Hammond Italian studies


So now we come to Italy, central Italy in fact, Tuscany. And this little interior is a painting of a café in Monteriggioni. It’s one of my favourite little places. It really hasn’t changed, probably in the last 80-plus years. It still has this wonderful art deco interior and looks out through the back windows into the most amazing Tuscan valley. And it’s a wonderful place just to sit and drink coffee and listen to the music. One of the challenges about painting these interiors is dealing not only with the natural light, but also, of course, with artificial light. It throws up a whole new set of challenges and a whole new set of opportunities to play with colour and light and reflections. And it’s the sort of painting I really enjoy working on.

Well here we are now in Pienza and one of those little exterior café scenes that I just enjoy so much painting, and in fact enjoy so much being part of. These are these little outdoor cafés with wonderful parasols where you can just sit and drink coffee, have a glass of wine and sketch. You get left alone for two or three hours. It’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon. If at the end of the day you can produce a lovely little painting like this, then… nothing wrong with it really, is there!

In this painting we’re in the foothills below Montalcino. Montalcino, of course, famous for its wine, very friendly people and these wonderful landscapes – these undulating valleys that sit nestled below these hilltop towns. And one of the things I like about this painting is, yes, it’s a vineyard painting, but it’s a vineyard painting with a slight difference. It hasn’t got those hot, orange, Tuscan colours that perhaps you might expect. What I’ve tried to show here is these deep, shadowed valleys where these mists roll in and just sit. They give a huge depth to a landscape.  We go from this crisp, clear foreground where you can actually wander down through these vines and over these undulating hills and off into the distance. You could do it on foot if you like, or you can just sit in front of this painting and just do it by eye.