Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree is an elaboration of The Ministry of Love. When I first conceived the Ministry of Love back in 1998, I set out to create an entire world which revolved around these three trees on a hill. I wanted to take the viewer all around these trees and create the illusion that this place was unquestionably real... to think that  I'd grown up there or that I'd made countless sketches of this place.To me, this is the most interesting incarnation of realism I could think of. It's really a kind of charlatanism. Here I am, creating an entire world which seems incredibly real and studied and yet, none of it exists. Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree is the first fully realized expression of this idea.


The Ministry of Love, part III, oil on panel, 27 x 48 (69 x 122 cm.),
March - May, 2004.

The execution of this painting was unusual. While I was making the painting, I felt as though I was making an abstract composition. I started by painting a single leaf on the bare panel. I painted another and then some more until I stood back to have a look. I made some kind of judgement of the composition and added more leaves, scattering them about. I continued through this process for several weeks until I achieved what I thought was some kind of perfect harmony or balance through their placement on the panel.



After that, simply connected all the leaves - like a game of connect-the-dots. The whole process sounds simple enough but all of it took well over a month . I was really searching for some kind of compositional perfection and at the end of this stage of the process I was nearly tearing my hair out.

The bit of landscape that's there was another problem. When I had finished composing all the leaves and branches I knew immediately that I needed something more to ground the entire scene. If I didn't, I felt the whole thing would float away and I would lose that sense of visual logic I'd sought. I fiddled with ideas for the landscape for days but everything I thought of or tried seemed to weigh the thing down too much. I needed to ground the image but I also wanted to create the sensation that everything was about to fall apart. I wanted the painting to straddle that edge... where, in one moment, everything seemed solid and in another, everything would fall into a kind of visual chaos.
I finally resolved the problem when I looked back through the work I'd made two years earlier. Speak to Me had this strange and wonderful relationship between land and sky and I knew instantly that it would work perfectly.


Speak to Me, oil on panel, 24 x 78 in. (61 x 198 cm.), August, 2002.

I sketched in this slanted horizon and filled in the landscape. After that, I painted the sky which covered all the leaves and branches I'd painted, leaving only shadows where they once had been.

I repainted the branches and then the leaves, one after another, just as I'd done before.


Detail of Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree.


Detail of Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree.

By the time this painting was completed, nearly two months had passed. Looking back on it, I see it as a kind of marriage between the landscape paintings I'd been making over the past few years and the hyper-realistic, trompe l'oil paintings I'd made in the late nineties. It is also reminiscent of Japanese prints from the 1800's and earlier - work which has significantly influnced my aesthetic since the earliest days of my career as an artist.
- Francis Gregory Di Fronzo, 2005


Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree, oil on panel, 32 x 48 in.
(81 x 122 cm.), March - May, 2004

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Francis Gregory Di Fronzo.
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