Walking Away with Nicola Simbari

Nicola Simbari

Nicola Simbari created his bright and stylized paintings with a palette knife and favored Mediterranean scenes and portraits of European life as his subjects. This piece, titled “Ostia Beach,” shows the peace and beauty of the Italian seaside. A woman walks barefoot towards the sea, passing grounded boats as she goes. The colors are brightened and simplified: mostly bright blue and dull brown sand contrasted by flashes of red and orange in the sky, the boats, and the hair of the woman.

Although the woman is the main subject, placed directly in the foreground of the painting, the sea and the sky hold the attention of the viewer. The contrasting shades of blue in the air and the water permeate throughout the piece, visible even within the shadows of the boat and the woman herself. The power and mutability of the sea is emphasized as well. The boats have been stranded by the changing of the tides, stuck in a cage of grass growing out of the sands. The sky itself is streaked with red from the clouds and the flag of the tidal marker. This contrast gives the piece a sense of life and energy, but also danger. The coast is a vibrant, living place, beautiful and dangerous and never still.

The woman is facing away from the viewer. We cannot see her face, so we do not know how she looks or what she feels. All we know is that she is walking towards the sea—taken in by its beauty, she is leaving behind the land, paying no mind to the humanity of the beached boats behind her or even of the viewers looking at her. Instead, she is focused the beauty of nature—just like the painting forces us to be. The ocean serves as a siren call, extending its influence over everything around it and calling her away from the drabness of the land. She must leave behind the safety of the land to see motion, color, danger, and beauty. The natural world has fuel for her spirit that extends beyond what humans have the capacity to tame.

What do you think of this scene?