Feature Interview with Samuel Ingwersen
Part One, Page 2

How long did it take for you to develop your premises into something that you felt was important to share? Did it come over time from painting?

Like all writers, the scope of a work often changes as the writer does research and acquires new knowledge. As I began to research ideas about beauty and means of ornamenting courses, my focus changed. It expanded to include emotional and mental experiences in addition to visual experiences of beauty of a golf course and the game. The paintings were finished; I began to write about them. But I found that to write about the beauty of golf required not only visual considerations of a course’s many landscape components; their forms, features, colors, composition, layout, and patterns but judgment of emotional and mental experiences that may occur while engaged in play of the holes depicted in these scenes. Otherwise, if when I was describing my watercolor landscapes and said nothing of their implications involving playability I would be saying nothing significant, only making vague statements.

Judgments of visual, emotional and mental experiences of a golf hole are inextricably bound one to the other. The philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1776), made the same point centuries ago, affirmed by aestheticians and thinkers today: Judgments of beauty are sensory, emotional and intellectual, all at once.” The focus further expanded to include extensive research into a new subject; the theories and science of the qualities of games in general and specifically those qualities of the game of golf which appeal to players. The myriad variety of on-site, decorative golf course landscape effects, contrived in pursuit of beauty would profoundly influence the game.

Please expound more about the idea of beauty and the pursuit of scenic golf course beauty.

Enjoyment of beauty, be it nature’s or decoration and ornamentation of things made by man, has been one of life’s pleasures, pursued and venerated in nearly every culture. For a golfer, nothing is more beautiful than a stunning golf landscape. Part of golf’s appeal today comes from courses with pleasing scenery and visual effects that are contained within the course boundaries and also in settings with a distant seascape or landscape. However, for the first four centuries of golf, the beauty of the game and its attractions came first, long before beauty of the course. Designers and social imperatives eventually over the next 100 years would change this emphasis. Commercial interests of non-players associated with the game would also influence the looks of golf courses (landscape effect) and imagery of golf subjects (TV tournament productions) with the objective of providing golf fans with exciting entertainment staged in beautifully landscaped settings.

An example of course beauty aggrandizing by non-player interests is the behavior of TV producers who have not been enamored of multi-colored or patches of brown grass. They have been known to ask course owners to dye their grass greener for TV events. Ted Steinberg (b1961 ), author of American Green, wrote: “To make the scenes more beautiful to the viewing audience, the media’s request was: fertilize this … paint that!” (4) To dye and paint grass to achieve a landscape effect is just the tip of the iceberg of over-indulged pursuit of beauty that has influenced decision makers about what is good course design. As an indication of this growing obsession of ornament on courses, costs for typical state-of–the-art US course landscape installations in the 1960’s increased from $7,500 to $1,050,000 by the 1990’s. (5)

Art historian Brent Brolin (b1939-), has observed the universal use of ornament to achieve beauty: “…ornament has been part of virtually all cultures gracing almost every appurtenance of life… Perhaps ornament has been such a consistent part of human history because it has satisfied a need for beauty that all people share. With rare exception, when ornament could be used it was, and in most cases, in proportion to wealth. If there has been one constant in the history of the arts, it has been the lack of debate about the use of ornament-until our time.” (6)

Ornamentation is a fact of life; landscape effect will always be a part of golf courses. The knack is to provide a course environment for landscape effects that meet the needs of players as well as non-players and commercial entertainment, but eliminate the obstacles that landscape effects create, namely golf’s excessive expense, prolonged time, difficulties and disruption of flow and challenge/skill balance levels If all were eliminated it would increase the fun of the game.

The definition of beauty has been debated for centuries, but what is certain is that visual beauty is consistently sought through ornamentation of a culture’s artifacts. Architecture, landscape architecture and golf course architecture are similar in their respective professions and their artistic modes of operations. Each builds socially useful facilities in a way that requires management of skills and of complex materials that are put together in pleasing variety according to designers’ creativity and values. Architects decorate buildings with forms, colors, and patterns of building materials. Landscape architects decorate the land with patterns, colors and forms of landscape materials.

Golf course architects are no different. It was only logical for golf course architects to decorate golf landscape components with a variety of shapes, forms, colors and patterns of landscape effects that have been developed over centuries of advancements in the art of landscaping. However the continued indulgence in ornamental green grass, over indulged foliage, contrived water, bunkers, trees and greens poses dire consequences to the future of the game as a participant type game.

Please share with us your perspective on the evolution of golf landscape painting.

Former French Minister of Culture André Malraux (1901-1976) stated in his book Voices of Silence: “The purpose of painting is the excitement in creating the painting; not to put a frame around it, hang it on a wall and ascribe immortality to it 200 years later. Once it is finished, the thrill has gone out of it.” Not so!

Viewing art is also a pleasant recreation. Upon completion of a successful painting the thrill has not gone out of it. Contrary to Malraux’s theory, the pleasure in viewing a painting may never wane, for a painting transcends reality. In reality time has its way and nature its own. Colors will fade, foliage will wither, water will lose its sparkle, and the mood will vanish. However, the painting of the moment lives. These may be no small moments for the moment can be a thrilling experience, progressing in various degrees from casual interest to attraction to captivation, especially when a viewer gains new knowledge and new meaning to the art being looking at.

As golf became popular in the British Isles, many appurtenances of life, from hat pins to ale tankards were adorned with golf themes. Early English paintings of golf subjects from the 17th century were individuals or groups of golfers positioned in the foreground with no scenery or vaguely defined scenery in the background. By the mid-20th century the subjects of golf art flip flopped, reflecting society’s values of what was worthy of extending and commemorating.

Golf imagery in the form of TV productions, media advertisements, digital and paintings today that best meet social and commercial preferences feature scenic landscapes with figures absent or relegated to minor background positions.

Who are some of your favorite watercolorists?

A prized book, Golf Courses of the British Isles, (1910), by Bernard Darwin (1876-1961) includes 64 watercolor paintings by artist Harry Rowntree (1878-1950). The paintings captured the artist’s impressions of Darwin’s selection of best courses in the British Isles. Rowntree was turned loose, using the easier language of the brush, replacing words, to depict the state of golf course scenery. Rowntree, more an artist than a golfer, found less interest in the golf courses, painting fewer scenes that featured fairways and greens than scenes that featured dramatic skys, adjacent landscapes, and fascinating water bodies of seas, estuaries, creeks, rivers, ponds and puddles. Preoccupation with visual beauty of the course was not yet an indulgence.

Darwin wrote little of visual beauty in his book. Darwin’s sense of beauty came by contemplations that heightened his pleasurable thoughts and feelings. He wrote: “Wind in our face…really beautiful” or pleasant contemplations of: “It is the beauty of solitude…” and in reference to St. Andrews Old, “…Beauty of … the contours in banks and braes…” which he emotionally felt and thought about while preparing to play a run up shot.

St. Andrews Old is recognized as the finest course in the world. Tom Morris (1821-1908) is responsible for its present character. Tom also designed 60 other courses in the Kingdom, many of which were beat upon by that cudgel taste, for being “dull,” by critics who were preaching scenic beauty. Ironically, today players consider some of Tom’s courses more fun to play than modern courses that are beautified with over indulged landscape effects.

Darwin’s only comments about visual beauty were off-site borrowed views. When he remarked of beauty of a distant view, it was stated only as a fact: “It is beautiful.” Darwin had no descriptions of on-site scenes of visual beauty. There were none or none of interest. However, pleasant scenery of the course was starting to become of interest. During the time around 1900, before Darwin was gathering material for his golf book, the idea of pleasant scenery from the allied field of landscape gardening was beginning to be associated with ideas for improving course dull scenery. The idea was promoted by Horace Hutchinson, the most respected authority on golf of his time. He invented the term “linkscape gardening.”

The two most famous English landscape painters of golf scenes, Harry Rowntree and Arthur Weaver (1918-2008), were both watercolor masters. Although there were other contemporary artists, Rowntree and Weaver were the most published.

Each had different styles. Comparisons of Rowntree’s, Weaver’s, and my paintings appear in examples above and on page 1-3 in the book. Rowntree’s three paintings, top row, each make a strong statement of one or two dominant landscape components featured in vivid colors. Rowntree either omits putting surfaces and greens or represents them as minor components in his compositions. For example, Woking has one component consisting of a patch of multi-color gorse in the foreground, Deal has an expanse of yellow gorse in the middle ground, and Prestwick has an intense yellow and red sky over the Alps. Rowntree has wrung the most out of his colors. Upon viewing, some components have an intensity of coloration that approaches the unreal.

The three paintings by me, above bottom row, use the same model, pushing color to the limit of realism, but not to the extreme of Rowntree’s watercolors. Consistent with most of Rowntree’s paintings there is puzzlement: Where are the golf greens? No matter, the paintings are a delight!

Arthur Weaver did his golf paintings mostly in the post WWII era. Weaver’s technique was not as loose as Rowntree’s, employing tighter delineation of a realist and less the impressionist. Weaver used a lighter pallet. Colors of all of the components in my Cypress Point No.17, below right, are brighter, broader in range of colors and more saturated than Weavers of the same No.17 hole, below left.

Rowntree’s coloration is more intense. My style is for golf green surfaces to always be shown. If a green is obscured, the view point is raised slightly higher using my time multi-viewpoint (TMV) device to expose more putting surface. It is then accented by a lens shaped sliver of color. Unlike Weaver’s and Rowntree’s paintings, most all of my paintings are devoid of figures for the same reason that the famous landscape artist Claude Lorraine (1600-1682), disdained figures. They tend to detract from the theme, lessening its impact.

(L) Cypress Point Club #17- Weaver’s Painting – (R) Cypress Point Club #17 – Ingwersen’s Painting

There is another important difference. Note that in Weaver’s Cypress Point No.17, the residence in the background is too prominent for the setting. It is distracting. The residence is subdued in my painting of No. 17. I have laid a sea- mist over the landscape background kicked up by a rough sea, allowing the eye to be move away from such distractions and focus upon more interesting components of the course. Distracting objects in scenes are either painted out or obscured in many of my paintings while more interesting components are accented for purposes of a first round knockout.

Weaver is famous as a watercolorist although he used oil media. In his golf scenes he employed a wide range of colors for all surroundings. Grass may appear slightly blue, when at time of mid-day the grass reflects blue sky, or seem yellow/gold when the sun is low in the sky and Weaver’s paintings were not possessed by the ambient surroundings as were many of Rowntree’s. His paintings focused more upon the traditional components of a golf landscape; fairways, bunkers and greens. Flag sticks were sometimes obscure but ever present were caddies and players.

How/why did you become attached to watercolor as the best medium to express your ideals?

Watercolor is my favored media for effects of light on form, for certain luminous qualities, for delicate gradations, especially atmosphere, skies and the fusion of colors in water reflections to best express impressions of nature in all its moods and light effects. Watercolor allows no reworking of pigments to the extent that other media permits; otherwise a watercolor turns to mud. The most popular style of watercolor today is similar to that of the early English watercolorists who pioneered the media, bringing new freshness to painting. Their watercolors were uncluttered with fussy detail that was present in the Pre Raphaelite style where photographic like images of trees and foliage were detailed to the point that a botanist could identify the species of every leaf and blossom. Most important, watercolor technique lets viewers exercise their imagination; to discover the illusion of existence, and the mood …more fascinating than if it had been real.

The 17th-century landscape artists Paul Bril (1554-1626) and Claude Lorraine and later Englishman John Constable (1776-1837), counted amongst the world’s great landscape painters, enhanced scenes of nature with the use of artificial, technical devices that controlled light, focus, contrast, and sense of depth. They have influenced most of the world’s landscape artists. Constable, the great English landscape artist, was mostly influenced by Claude, calling him the greatest landscape artist that the world had ever known. English author Horace Walpole was so captivated by Claude’s landscape paintings that he said he not only wished to be buried in one of his scenes; but buried alive.

I use Constable’s snow device to achieve highlights by scratching out pigment over tree leaves and other foliage. I use Bril’s invention which was the genesis of a device known to artists as the “Claudian Device,” which used dark objects or shadows in the foreground and to one side which Claude perfected and rightfully attributed to Bril, the originator. Substitute a golf green and a flag stick in Bril’s painting Jeu de Mail à la Chicane, below, instead of an Abby door, and you have a view not unlike that from an elevated tee on a present-day golf course, similar to Pasatiempo No.1 shown below with the Claudian device. With one important exception, there is color in the shadows; my shades and shadows tend to always have a hint of color.

(L) Jue de Mail a la Chicane, 1624 by Paul Bril – (R) Pasatiempo No.1, 1991 by Samuel Ingwersen

Talk more about your technique.

The most important technique that I use for my paintings allows me to show putting surfaces and other components not visible from a single viewpoint. It may also show original design lines in unbroken patterns. I adapted the device, time multi-viewpoint, referred to earlier, from an idea advanced by Sir Herbert Read (1893-1968), English art historian. This technique permits one to simultaneously view several parts of a golf landscape scene from multiple viewing points, all represented in one painting. The eye moves across a stationary subject much as a player traverses a golf hole and stores a series of snapshots, not just a single snapshot, in the mind’s eye. Select images are then melded into one painting.

Read used this analogy of images stored in his mind’s eye after strolling through a garden. Technically, reality has been altered, but the TMV scene is real, reality being experienced by the mind’s eye storing a series of images acquired over short intervals of time that are expressed in one image.

When I began to experiment with TMV, I was aware of the cubists and their concept of aesthetic representation of reality. Although the principles of Cubist and TMV styles are the same, they are radically different in application. The differences are significant.The Futurists or Cubists, as they were later known, deconstructed and reassembled their subjects, depicting them with geometric forms, distorted and abstract.

Most typical of cubism are human figures, for example, Marcel Duchamp’s (1887-1968) painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912. The painting depicted multiple, overlapping images of the same figure at each step of the staircase to convey a sense of motion. Duchamp was unable to sell his painting in Paris. One art dealer told him that nudes did not descend staircases, they reclined. Undeterred, Duchamp brought his painting to America where his and other cubist paintings created a scandal but made a hit with the dilettanti in the 1913 Armory Show, New York City.

Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919), after visiting the 1913 Armory exhibit, was quoted, saying that cubist art reminded him of the Navaho rug that he had in his bathroom. Fortunately for landscape painting, cubist landscapes are not favored as subjects by cubist artists.

An important lesson that emerged from centuries of English leadership in the art of landscape gardening has found its way to my golf landscape paintings. This lesson involves the curved line, the most beautiful line of all lines. As English landscape gardening gained a world following, the straight, geometric, axial lines of French style gardens became disfavored. All landscape styles, rough or manicured, symmetrical or asymmetrical became reconciled to the desirable effects of the curved line. But to be curved, one must see the line continuously curved and unbroken, not a series of staccato line segments that produce visually agitating shapes. The TMV device solved the broken curved line syndrome.

(L) TMV Painting of Bethpage Black No. 4 – (R) Photograph of Bethpage Black No. 4

The following is an explanation of how the TMV device has been applied to many of my landscape paintings in the book. Many of the enhancements in my paintings are subtle but very important to the aesthetic feeling of the total painting. The TMV device is best understood by comparing my multiple viewpoint locations that are combined into one painting, with the original, actual view.

The above TMV painting and the photograph of Bethpage Black No. 4 are the subjects of comparison. In the two scenes of Black No. 4, viewed from the tee, there are several golf landscape components that have been altered. These components include bunkers, fairway, fairway margins, and the green. Note in the photograph of hole No.4 that the perimeter edges of all three sets of bunkers at points numbered 1, 2 and 3, are not continuous curved lines but are broken lines. They only appear to be broken because a ridge of turf blocks the line of view at points 1, 2 and 3 which are tangent to the top of each of the three numbered circles. Note that the broken lines of the bunkers that are at these points are continuous lines in the painting. This is done by raising the view point, thus in effect lowering the bunker edges at points 1, 2 and 3and adding white sand. Upon looking closely one will see that many segments of lines have been connected, made into a continuous curved line as if one is standing nearby and looking.

The TMV device permits the perimeter lines to be displayed as continuous curved lines. This visual effect could have originally been accomplished at the design stage by the course designer. The exposed series of major and minor curved lines in the bunker create fingers and noses that complement the curved fingers of fairways to create a stunning and pleasing visual impact.

The number 4 point in the photograph indicates the location of the green’s putting surface, a thin lens of color in the painting (obscured by trees in the photo), which has been attained by establishing a view point close to the greenside bunker. Points numbered 5, 6, and 7 in the photograph identify the location of fairway fingers and margins. The curved lines of the fairway fingers in the painting are all distinctly defined, resulting in a strong counterpoint that reinforces the theme. This is Tillinghast’s finest hole with bunkers incorporating a thoughtfully designed challenge/skill balance.

In order for the book to most effectively reach its intended audience we chose a format of many paintings and short narratives. The watercolors stand alone as enjoyable entertainment, but more importantly they are an allurement for readers to look deeper into the book. Readers will enjoy discovery rewards in meanings of the paintings. The book’s paintings have meaning, but who gives meaning to paintings, the artist or viewer? Viewers give meaning to paintings based upon the knowledge of the art they are looking at. (7)

Thus, in order for readers to more readily enjoy the paintings, the artist/authors have provided narratives with insights from over 100 years collectively in their practices of art, aesthetics, architecture and golf architecture.

End of Part One

5. Fazio, Thomas. Golf Course Design, Harry N. Abrams, New York, London, 2000, pg. 53
6. Brolin, Brent C., Flight of Fancy, The Banishment and Return of Ornament, St. Martins Press NY, NY, 1985, Introduction 1st pg
7. Sylvan, Barnett. A Short Guide to Writing about Art. Pearson/Longman, NY, NY, pg 24