Robert Bohné: Painting the magnetic attraction of Deia19th May 2017

I first spotted the work of American artist Robert Bohné when my friend Deia artist David Templeton began sharing it on Facebook. Very 21st century, I know.

A brief biography

Robert Daniel Bohné was born in Chester Pennsylvania in 1953. At the age of ten, he developed an interest in drawing and painting that was nurtured by his parents. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Fleisher Art Memorial, and The Barnes Foundation, developing the ability to work in multiple mediums. Robert is an award winning listed artist whose work can be found in many private and public collections in the United States.

Landscape and the artist

Whether deliberately or otherwise, artists who paint or draw landscapes often reveal much about themselves. I’ve seen radically different responses to Deia and the magnificent landscape in which the village sits. But never anything like Robert’s work. Which prompted me to get in touch with Robert, who was kind enough to allow me to interview him.

How did you come to be in Deia, Robert?

Years ago, depressed and struggling with the demise of a relationship, a good friend suggested taking a much-needed vacation. He introduced me to Philadelphia artist Alice Myers Wallace. Alice had discovered Deia in the 60s, owned property there, and hosted annual painting trips. She insisted that I come along. I first arrived in Deia Mallorca in 2008. It was a transformative experience.

How long did you stay?

Due to family obligations, my trips have all been one week stays. I look forward to the time when my visits to Deia will become more frequent and I can stay for at least a month or possibly longer.

It looks like Deia and the landscape around it inspired you. Why is that?

Deia is simply the most beautiful place that I have ever seen. I remember standing on the bridge of the main road that runs through the village, carefully surveying the panoramic landscape before me and asking, ‘What is this magnetic attraction?’

It was then that I realised that the colours of the landscape were the colours of my palette. The ochres and umbers. The muted reds and the wide variety of greens. The consistently beautiful stone buildings with green trim and terracotta roofs and the fast-moving waters that etch deep ravines through a village cradled in the arms of the Tramuntana mountain range. All of this accentuated with the colours of oranges, lemons and flowering plants.

But in all honesty, what really stole my heart were the olive trees. I have spent years drawing weathered characters hunched on their bar stools, nursing their beers. These trees were every bit as interesting as any one of the characters gracing the pages of my sketchbooks, and they are much better at holding a pose. Combine that with their Corot-like silvery green leaves, and I was hooked. I find the possibilities to be infinite.

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to painting or drawing Deia?

For me it’s simply not having enough time. In Deia I can look in any direction and find something aesthetically pleasing to draw or paint. I can’t think of too many places that offer that.

My first visit to Mallorca in 2008 involved a lot of sightseeing. Deia, Palma, Soller and Valldemossa. I always carry a sketchbook, so I was able to record the people and places that I found interesting. In 2013, I returned to Mallorca and spent the majority of my time in Deia, exploring, drawing and painting the village and the olive groves.

I returned to Deia in 2017 to specifically draw and paint the olive trees. I travel light, so lugging around art supplies can be an issue. Detailed sketches, careful notes and the occasional reference photograph usually give me enough information to complete finished works when I get home. Watercolours, gouache, a variety of drawing implements and several 9” x 12” sketchbooks work well for me, but on my last visit I was fortunate enough to have a friend supply me with oils. I was able to spend every day, sunrise to sunset in the olive groves doing what I love. It was heaven.

Why do you think so many artists are attracted to Deia?

I’d have to say the major attraction is the dramatic landscape. When I was there in 2013, I was standing on a bridge working on a painting. A gentleman carrying a large sketchbook approached to see what I was doing. He was a dead ringer for William Merritt Chase. After looking at my work, I asked to see what he was working on. It was a large panoramic pencil drawing of the valley. It was fantastic. He explained that he travels to Deia from England every year to do one large piece. When he returns home, he makes reproductions from the original, and he sells them.

I’ve found the people who I’ve met in Deia to be very welcoming and receptive to artists, so there’s a nice level of comfort. In 1908, John Singer Sargent spent several months in Valldemossa. His sister described their time there as being ‘ideally happy’.

I first saw your work thanks to David Templeton. How did you come to meet?

A close friend and fellow painter introduced us. She thought David and I would hit it off. That was an understatement. Meeting David was like running into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in 20 years. The first night we met, we talked art, music, politics, relationships, everything under the sun. And then we picked up David’s guitars, played music and sang until 3 am. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Do you have any plans to show in Deia?

Not at this time, but it’s something that I would love to do. I’m open to offers of a show or gallery representation. Especially if it gives me an excuse to return to Deia sooner rather than later.

What appeals to you most about Deia and Mallorca in general?

I can wax poetic about the physical beauty of Mallorca, but there’s so much more. There’s a certain mystique about this place that makes me feel as though I’m not only witnessing, but also participating in an artistic movement with roots as deep as John Singer Sargent. And the people. The diversity of the people that I’ve met in Deia, and the stories that they’ve shared with me are nothing short of amazing. I can start with the late Patrick Meadows, the first American transplant I met in Deia. And most recently David Templeton. Fascinating men with fascinating stories.

When are you planning to come back?

As soon as possible. I’m looking at Sept. or Oct. of 2017.

Thank you, Robert.

You can see more of Robert’s work and get in touch with him here.

 

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