Peltenburg-Brechneff at Cooley Gallery, Film Screening at Lyme Library

Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff (CT Examiner)


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LYME — Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff is a local artist, he calls a house on Whalebone Cove in Hadlyme home, but his work encompasses half the globe.

The internationally recognized landscape painter and author will be screening a 2016 biopic about his life and work, “Like Notes of Music,” at the Lyme Library on Saturday, March 23.  The film, directed by Michael Magee, follows the artist over the period of five years as he migrates between residencies on islands in the Caribbean and Greece, to the Swiss Alps, and closer to home, the Hamptons.

The film is an opportunity to see Peltenburg-Brechneff’s work across the years. It’s also a window onto the cyclical rhythm of an artist’s life. We witness him returning to landscapes — a sunset over a tropical bay, a snow-capped mountain range — where he has painted for decades. Peltenburg-Brechneff’s stops around the globe are five-star, but the film also reveals the peripatetic nature of artistic process.

Peltenburg-Brechneff works in residency in a location for several months at a time, often accompanied by his husband, author and painter Tim Lovejoy, and their beloved dog Zulu.

In Saint Martin, a small island east of Puerto Rico, Peltenburg-Brechneff perches on the veranda of a mountaintop tropical retreat. In Sifnos, an island in the Greek Cyclades, he re-visits the roof of a house where he first found his voice as young painter. In the Swiss Alps — if not tucked into the fold of a mountain, with cows for company — he looks out from a cliff-side castle onto a deep cleft of valley.

In these extraordinary sites, Peltenburg-Brechneff works daily, attending to mundane rituals of preparation: he sets out long low work table, arranging a variety of materials. Pastels, oil, Gouache, watercolors, brushes, paper. The next step is crucial. He waits, for a moment when the light, weather, the peaks and shadows of the landscape start to resonate.

Then Peltenburg-Brechneff moves quickly, like a radio antenna transmitting visual signals. Cuing from the landscape in front of him, his brush, pastel or ink-dropper skims across the paper, building layers. What emerges is three-dimensional, kinesthetic, flung.

A major inspiration in Peltenburg-Brechneff’s work is classical music. The transmission of image onto paper emerge, for him, “like notes of music.”

Born in the Belgian Congo to Russian and Swiss parents, raised in Basel, Switzerland, and educated in the United States and London, Peltenburg-Brechneff has made coastal Connecticut his permanent home. For local viewers of “Like Notes of Music,” it is satisfying to see Peltenburg-Brechneff’s early colonial home on Whalebone Cove rendered as stunningly as other far-flung locations.

We also see Peltenburg-Brechneff get married to his New England-born partner Tim Lovejoy — a central event in the film.

While most of the film focuses on Peltenburg-Brechneff’s creative process, we also see him moving through urban centers like New York City and Basel. There he meets with gallery representatives and clients, many of whom have become lifelong friends. In seeing the work shift from on site to studio, to gallery, to the walls of clients’ homes, we witness another kind of rhythm, one of social and financial transaction. In a life devoted to painting, Peltenburg-Brechneff vows to keep surprising himself, “Like my best paintings, they are a surprise.”  

A screening of the film will be shown at the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library in Old Lyme at 2 p.m. on April 13, with a reception to be held afterwards at the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.