An Artist's Impressions of the St. Louis Symphony
When Missouri artist Billyo O'Donnell asked if he could
spend some time painting the Saint Louis Symphony in rehearsal, no one could
have anticipated the impact of his request.
O'Donnell specializes in landscape work. However, sketching a musician friend
at a jazz club had gotten him thinking about the challenge of painting a full
orchestra on stage. "It wasn't a business deal; it wasn't a plan that was laid
out. I just wanted to paint the orchestra, and if the symphony could make use of
the images, that was fine," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in January.
O'Donnell spent time with the SLSO at rehearsals in early 2001, getting to
know the musicians and Music Director Hans Vonk and doing fourteen different
paintings. Each was completed in one session as O'Donnell moved his easel around
Powell Hall. O'Donnell works in the en plein air style, perhaps best known from
the Impressionists, who did quick studies of their subjects to capture changes
in light, color, and mood. The SLSO was so pleased with the results that it used
one of the paintings for its season brochure this year and emblazoned the image
on banners, posters, T-shirts, and its web site. Meanwhile, the artistic
collaboration has been generating a buzz around town; a St. Louis-area gallery
recently auctioned the full orchestra painting shown here for $16,000, with all
proceeds benefiting the orchestra.