Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff is a landscape painter of the world. He has called home to a myriad of places, most recently Hadlyme, Connecticut. Born in 1950 in the Belgian Congo, the child of Russian emigres, Brechneff was educated in Switzerland, England and the United States. With roots deep in the Swiss Alps, he nevertheless spent three decades defining his painting style, in pen and ink, pastels, gouaches, watercolors and oils, on the remote Greek island of Sifnos, near Crete.
In a modest house, originally without plumbing or running water, on the hilltop of a farm village, Brechneff called this his summer residence. He felt comfortable with the remote and vivid landscape until it gradually changed, with goat trails becoming paved roads. Originally the local people welcomed him in charming ways as he was the first tourist who set up permanent residency. The island’s remoteness from the hectic world appealed to him and he found it healing. As a young man of twenty-one, struggling with his own sexuality, the structured landscape spoke to him immediately and became the source of great energy and creativity. It was in a word “magical.”
To learn more about Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff and his intriguing life as an artist, you are invited to the Katharine Hepburn Center for the Arts Thursday, September 8 at 5:30 p.m. to view the world premiere of a new film “Like Notes of Music: Christian Peltenburg- Brechneff: The Landscape Painter.” The man himself will be present to share his thoughts and answer questions. The film will be followed by a reception and viewing of a selection of his oil paintings at the Cooley Gallery, 25 Lyme Street, Old Lyme from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Center for the Arts Programming at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts at the University of New Haven. For tickets ($40), call The Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 860-510-0473 or 877-503-1286 or online at http://katharinehepburntheater.org/events/like-notes-of-music/.
According to Fritz Jellinghaus, Vice President of Development at the Lyme Academy, the association of the Academy with the University of New Haven is a new one, only a year and a half old, but already fruitful, “an extraordinary blessing,” one that has helped the arts nationally and globally. He terms it “a great partnership” and transforming for both participants in visibility and accountability. For years, Jellinghaus has been a patron and friend of the artist. He is delighted that Brechneff, a great supporter and friend to the college, has chosen to screen the film of his extraordinary art and life here in Connecticut. Jellinghaus calls Brechneff both "gifted and passionate.”
Brechneff calls his best paintings “a surprise” as he has a “series of oil paintings in my head.” On Sifnos, the land spoke to him immediately and he spent hours every day hiking the mountainous terrain with sketchbook in hand. He would stop in the shade of a grove of olive trees or behind a church wall as the constant wind prevented setting up an easel. When he realized the once unspoiled world that has communicated with him so directly no longer existed, that the passage of time had civilized the land, his well of imagination went dry and he could no longer paint. Recognizing it was the end of an era, he sold his house and went to the Swiss Alps for new inspiration.
To learn more about these artistically productive years, which will be a central part of the film that was produced by a Swiss company, you can also read “The Greek House,” a book penned by Brechneff with his artistic partner Tim Lovejoy. The stone walls, terraces of olive trees, monasteries on mountain tops, twisting streets through tiny villages and the ever present sea and sky served him well as inspiration for his art.
There is an air of fantasy about his landscapes, with layers and swirls of color dominant and untroubled by people or animals. He draws in the viewer, who can practically feel the cold of the mountain wind, the warmth of the tropical sun, the melancholy of a desolate scene, the fiery sheen of ridges and gullies or the sky a blaze of rainbow streaks burnishing the horizon.
Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff is an international man with a palette and canvas of the world, one who is equally at home in Burma, Bermuda, Brazil or Bhutan, who can find subjects of interest in Cuba or Cambodia, in Sifnos or Switzerland, who can find layers of interest in fog or flowers, mountains or meadows. Come discover this fascinating man yourself tonight at The Kate.