Paintings from Sunset Series by Spence Munsinger, Color Field + Blank White Canvas + Realism + Contemporary Abstract Art, original paintings for sale

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for."
― Georgia O'Keeffe

do you see?


An art museum is school, place of worship, archaeological dig, the burial place of my ancestors, to me. I am looking for precedent, for a lesson in the language of art. It’s like a writer reading – a part of me is always looking at HOW the effect was achieved and recreating the steps for myself, at least imagining materials, technique, what additional knowledge I would need to create a sentence like that one.

The digital images I take in a museum are the same as I would take to capture a thread of a visual thought. I take a Canon 30D and a 24-70mm f2.8L telephoto, a very fast (grabs great images in low light) lens. I’ll take pictures documenting for myself the section of the painting I found revelatory, the pattern in the paint that could be an inspiration or a document of technique.

From the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C…

I was looking for what lines in this figure made it so communicate joy and laughter, what exaggerations, what the sculptor achieved in effect that would be different from what I would do as a painter. In walking around I was struck by the change in the flow of the figure, and I took pictures to document that impression.

Also from the Hirshhorn…

The shape of the lips, the luminous colors, the style of the figures, the shaping and toning, the impact this had as I walked up the stairs and it came into view (this is large, perhaps 6 feet high x 8 feet wide).

I’m an artist. I love this stuff. I’m not there in any museum to be able to cross off – "OK, check, saw Picasso’s Night Fishing at Antibes".

In the Queens, N.Y. annex of MOMA, walking into a room and finding Night Fishing there, it is huge, covering most of the far wall. The paint is thin, this was 1939 or so, things must have been getting tough in France, very dark, and the painting communicates this. I took photos across the surface, trying to capture how transparent Picasso had left the work, the drips across the surface, the sketches still visible. It was a revelation in that what I saw was detail by detail thin, washed, scratched out, and then as a whole just beautiful and very effective. It’s luminous and perfect in the books and there also just isn’t a sense of the impact of the size (7 feet high by 11 feet wide).

night fishing

I’m looking for threads I can use, and refer back to in my own work. What made this communicate, what causes it to be great, to have lasting impact?

Ron Mueck, an Australian sculptor. Brilliant work.

big manhead

The Hirshhorn had Big Man in a corner on the basement floor – you come around the corner and there is this enormous naked middle-aged and rather pissed-off looking man, the texture of the skin on his knees (eye level) is dead-on, every pore is there. I was stunned.

Many of the works I have photographed I don’t have an artist’s name for, without doing some research. I’m too absorbed in the balancing act of both experiencing the magic and figuring out what caused it to work to really get who actually did it. I do put a camera to my eye, but only to capture a detail or an image I want to work with. Digital SLR’s don’t have a view screen on the back that you can use to frame, you have to bring the viewfinder up to your eye and see the image through the lens. The image on the back is verification of what you captured.

I enjoy watching people look at art. I photograph people and their reaction to a piece, like street photography, only with better lighting.

In the National Museum in Washington, D.C., I photographed this pair of kids – part of a group of about 20, all in bright yellow shirts, herded by a museum guide from room to room. Most with cellphone or small digital cameras.

watching paintings

It was amazing to watch these kids pretty much experience the paintings they were shown through the viewscreens of their cameras. I don’t think they looked for more than a split second directly at the work, and I watched them go as a group from painting to painting… My mouth fell open and I had to photograph it. It was like a performance piece in itself.


— munsinger




I looked through the Hirshhorn collection and found the “oh my” painting listed – Tom Wesselmann, Bedroom Painting No. 38. Really beautiful stuff. .

The laughing woman is Ernst Barlach’s Old Woman Laughing, from 1948.