Reflections of Venice 2016


I first saw Venice at night. It was a chilly November eve and the city was shrouded in a silent, insulating fog. Sounds of water lapping on the canal walls echoed a melancholy that accompanies a late autumn mood in Italy. The summer sun had gone and with it the hoards of tourists; it seemed as if the life of the city was turning inward. Saint Mark’s square was empty save for the last pigeons working overtime, and in the distance someone was playing violin.


Even in darkness the city revealed itself through shifting light… reflections mirroring empty bridges, sleeping gondolas, quiet alleys and closed cafes. All of it was so dreamlike, ephemeral and seemingly impossible to comprehend.

"Peace Laundry" oil on linen

“Peace Laundry” oil on linen

That first visit was 20 years ago and the photographs I took with my still camera inspired some of my most memorable paintings.

“The Blue Wall, Venice” oil on Linen

The November light of Venice had captured me, but the beguiling memory of that magical first visit keeps calling me back. zimmermann-venice2011

I have since returned to Venice many times and always with a sense of amazement and awe. zimmermann-venice2013This November we returned once again to that place of water and wonder, and gorgeous cold, crisp, sunny skies welcomed us back.zimmermann-venice2024

It amazes me how humans can forge an existence with such grace and elegance in such an improbable place. How decay, corrosion and erosion etch the most beautiful patinas of time on structures built in the unlikely medium of salt water. Slowly, relentlessly and like rust, never sleeping, water works to reclaim all that Man has done and return it to the briny deep.zimmermann-venice2009

 Like water, it is best to let yourself flow through the city, resist direct and clogged routes, and get lost – give it over to the spirit of discovery and the unexpected.
It is easy to get lost in this amazing place…
zimmermann-venice2007…and losing oneself in Venice can be one of Life’s greatest pleasures.
Perfection in a cup, a morning cappuccino by the Rialto

Perfection in a cup, a morning cappuccino by the Rialto

When in Venice do as the Venetians do: Spritz Campari, please

When in Venice do as the Venetians do: Spritz
Campari, please


That view, that cafe, that little trattoria will find you, and claim you for its own. It will be your view, your cappuccino, your place in Venice, not just for sharing with the world, but comforting your soul.

Murano sunset on a canal of glass.

Murano sunset on a canal of glass.

A trove of Venetian sea glass c:

A trove of Venetian sea glass c:

Contemplating dinner.

Contemplating dinner.

Shimmering reflections of the sea

Shimmering reflections of the sea

"Venetian Espresso" 6"x6" oil painting at Lahaina Galleries

“Venetian Espresso” 6″x6″ oil painting at Lahaina Galleries


Caroline Zimmermann: Lahaina Galleries Solo Show

Caroline Zimmermann’s Lahaina Galleries Solo Exhibition, February 27, 2016

Information and enquiries:

Lahaina Galleries At Fashion Island
1173 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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Homage to a Wisteria

This time of year the wisteria is a phenomenon here in Tuscany. It is a breathtaking spectacle seen throughout the region as the carefully maintained blooms adorn grand villas and bring their elegant grace to the most rustic of farm houses.

Molino 2012

Molino’s ancient wisteria is ill.  It should be in full glorious bloom, but this year it seems the excessive rains have rotted its grand old roots. Its blossoms are few and wan, desperate bees attempting to pollinate are confused, as are we.

Molino 2008

It saddens me deeply to see what was such a vigorous plant over the years now look weak and sickly.
The highlight of spring has always been its prodigious blooming over our loggia with heady fragrance and spectacular color. John spends many hours trimming back the vines during the course of year as it has always been such and active plant, and now it seems so quiet and still.
Over the years, our wisteria’s blossoms inspired my many paintings with its sensuous textures, beguiling shapes and fascinating patterns.

“Lilac and Wisteria Symphony” oil painting 24″x 28″

“Wisteria Doorway” 24″x 30″ oil painting

Somehow, our garden here at Molino always teaches us lessons which are relevant to the grander scheme of our lives.
Deep inside this Ciuffenna river valley is a little microcosm of Nature, and in this place over 500 years ago man interjected his will to live. Someone chose this spot to build our house, using only the native stone, sand and wood that they found in the vicinity.
Nature is constantly trying to reclaim Molino, the animals and plants surrounding us eager to fill in the little vacuum of order we attempt to maintain.
It makes me think of my high school physics lessons where I learned of entropy.
Simply put, it’s that law of thermodynamics and how the universe works to constantly bring disorder out of order. Yet, observing disorder is a matter of perspective, someone’s disorder is another’s order.
So why am I constantly fighting this urge to make my human order out of an overwhelmingly powerful Nature, who has ideas of what she considers order?

Ratso and Johnny’s water sculpture 2005

It may be a bad year for our wisteria due to the wet winter, but it is by far the most glorious year for our lilacs. The cherry trees are exploding with blossoms. The wildflowers spectacular.
I find such satisfaction in this as I gather lilacs for my next still-life paintings, and a silent prayer of healing for our wisteria.
The wisdom of our little garden speaks, sometimes so softly, I’ve only to listen.

Renzo, 2012

“Settignano Wisteria” 24″x28″ oil painting

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Waves of Inspiration: Sunflowers

“Sunflower Wave” 40″x40″ oil painting

Sunflowers speak to me of happy and content memories in my family’s garden in Anaheim.

As a child, I would lose myself for hours helping my mother and father with their various tasks of tending their large backyard garden.The mild weather in Southern California made for a botanical paradise for my parents. Both are originally from Europe and they would marvel at the growing conditions as all seasons of the year brought forth their bounty.

Zimmermann Family, Anaheim California

A favorite in the garden was always the Sunflower. My father would recall how he and his family grew vast fields of sunflowers in the steppes of Romania for oil. He and his family would eat the seeds as a tasty snack and at age 84 he still enjoys growing them to this day.

MFA Show California College of the Arts, Oakland 1994

This history inspired the many Sunflower Portraits I created for my MFA show in 1994. The Sunflower perfectly defines the cycle of Life and Death, and the fascinating beauty of each phase. I created over 30 12×12 inch portraits of the flower in each stage of growth, and displayed them in grid form for my Master’s of Fine Arts show.

Two years after that I went to Tuscany for the first time and had my first glimpse of those European sunflower fields much like my father described to me from his childhood.And so began my creation of larger scale field paintings… waves of golds and greens…gorgeous swaths of texture and pattern. The blooming of a sunflower field is a sign that summer has indeed arrived.

“Song of the Sunflowers” oil painting

My search for Sunflower Inspirations has led me to the back country roads of Provence and Tuscany. Every field has its character and charm, every year is different. Helianthus Annuus is native to the Americas, worshipped by the natives as food source and sacred plant. Sunflower seeds were first introduced to Europe in the 16th century, where it was grown as a source of cooking oil.

“Girasole” in Italian, “Tournesol” in French…. both names describing a “country” myth; sunflowers do not turn with the daily passing of the sun.

In most fields the flowers do grow facing east; the morning sun. The immature flower heads do track the sun, so the concept is not entirely untrue.Heliotropism is the process that causes the plants to grow in a uniform alignment facing the sun.

“Siena Sunflowers” Tuscany oil painting

I can’t help but smile, at each flower’s “face” (technically called an inflorescence) has an individual character. Even with this “uniform alignment”, some flowers grow facing sideways…

“Sunflower for Susan” oil painting

Nature begets individuality…

This is a key to my painting sunflower fields: No two flowers are ever identical. For me, each flower takes on its personality.

“Sunflowers of the Luberon” oil painting

I’ve embraced Van Gogh’s divine madness for this flower. I’ll definitely continue to ride this wave of inspiration with my latest and largest  sunflower painting “Sunflower Wave”

Related: The Elusive Sunflower and Rare Antique Frames

See Caroline’s available Sunflower Paintings on her Virtual Gallery
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Amber: Autumn Inspirations in Tuscany 2012

Amber: It is the color of a Tuscan autumn, when all is bathed in a gorgeous honey light, gilded in gold, sweet, liquid, overripe, on the verge of decay.

“Twilight Toscana”

Shadows become longer, days shorter and the Tuscans increasingly maudlin and all goes quiet: Winter is approaching.

“Autumn’s Gold, Chianti”

This light turns all of the stone buildings to gold, makes every farmhouse a temple of radiance, their thick walls keep the warmth of summer for as long as they can before the cold of winter drains it from them.

Keith Carradine, on set for “Terroir” Villa Petrolo

Like hothouse flowers, Italians need light. Their Latin skins can handle any amount of sunlight dealt to them, and they absorb each sunny day like the sunflowers that blanket their landscapes in summer.  Over the years spent here, I’ve observed that melancholy seems to be embraced by the Italians. It is a source of inspiration. Unlike Americans, Italians do not strive for happiness at all times, indeed, happiness and bliss are not the state of perfection, as it is considered in America. The Dark Ages in Italy were times where sadness, grief and devastation were the status quo. The escape from these conditions inspired the renaissance, and like a long dormant winter, Italy burst forth with an amazing spring. Happiness is bittersweet, it comes at a price. Each joy encountered is a treasure, to be cherished, to be stored in the banks of memory, kept ready and polished to be brought forth in times of reminiscing with friends over a glass of wine.

“Sangiovese e Parmigiano”

With this in mind we set out with our friends from California on a three day wine and olive oil tasting tour of Autumno in Toscana

Renzo enjoys the view from the top of the Galatrona, an ancient tower overlooking the estate of Villa Petrolo.

First stop, a revisit to Villa Petrolo, our fabulous location for filming Terrior and famous for one of the best wines in Tuscany, the Galatrona, a pure Merlot.

Stefano Guidi is Villa Petrolo’s inventive winemaker. He was more than generous with his time and our tour of Petrolo’s cantina as we sampled Petrolo’s various wines in the barrel.

It was fascinating to detect the influence of terroir on their various different vineyards of Sangiovese, Merlot, Canaiolo, and Cabernet. An inspired and thoroughly satisfying experience.

Keith Carradine in a scene from “Terroir” filmed in the wine cellars of Villa Petrolo.

Recently bottled Jeroboams of Galatrona: a treasure trove of the precious Merlot.

It is the end of November, and olives on the trees are fattening: shiny black, or glossy mauve and green. They will be allowed until the first freeze to collect their greasy humours before being beaten off the trees and gathered for pressing at the frantoio. The Raccolte delle Olive is an ancient tradition in Tuscany, and my absolute favorite.

A visit to our neighbor’s Tiberio and Giuliana Nocentini… they have long since finished their harvest and we happily bought our year’s supply.

“Tuscan Olive II”

“Luce d’Oro” Golden Light, San Gimignano

Off to the other side of Chianti: San Gimignano and a visit with wine maker Mattia Barzaghi.

Mattia, his horse Seven, and actor Gaetano Guarino in a scene from “Terroir”

We met Mattia last year in our search of locations for Terroir. We were so taken by him that he soon became a collaborator and actor in our film.

Mattia’s wines repeatedly have won the prestigious “Tre Bicchieri” award designated by Gambero Rosso magazine..a well deserved honor.

Mattia’s latest endeavor: creating wines with the La Mormoraia estate. We arrived just in time to witness a magnificent Tuscan sunset and take a tour of the cantinas and estate

Evenings like these are truly magical… with all the elements of earth, air, water, and fire… Juice of the Sun in the form of wine…

and the irresistible fragrance and taste the earth in Mattia’s olive oil… only pressed a few hours ago.

Fruity, bitter, earthy and spicy… two coughs after tasting is a good sign. All went down very well with Mattia’s award winning Vernaccia, a white wine particular to the San Gimignano area.

The onset of winter triggers something in Tuscans that must remind them of the Dark Times, as winters in Tuscany can be so very dark.  I suppose this is why the autumno in Tuscany is so glorious: its the last celebration, before the sun recedes.

Bittersweet, melancholic, and gold infused memories to be sipped, savored and to keep the soul warm…

“Siena Sunset”

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Molino Decade

Waltraud Zimmermann 1936 – 2012

Ten years at our Tuscan Molino (mill house).

It was ten years ago that we took The Leap and became owners of Molino Le Gualchiere.

Living in a 500-year-old stone house has been a profound experience. Lying in bed, under an ancient roof, I often think of what was transpiring on the planet at the time the first stones were laid to make the foundations for this house. All the events of human history that have passed over the years. The souls that have lived here, have come and have gone…. fortunately, left nothing but good vibrations all through the house.

Caroline and Waltraud Zimmermann 2005

I am overflowing with gratitude for the experience of owning a home in Tuscany. What I really have come to discover is, that we don’t really own this house…. we have bought the privilege of taking care of this house for at best 30 years. I have given my heart over to this house of stone, and as I like to say about my Muse, Bird the crow, I don’t really have a house in Tuscany… a house in Tuscany has me.

I suppose one could write a book about our adventures in Tuscany, as each day presents new challenges, joys and frustrations. It would be too easy, and certainly has been done before. Our family and friends have heard or witnessed them all, so perhaps its best to let my paintings and photographs tell the story. A little Salute to Molino and of course, our Cari Amici, those friends of kindness who have been there and helped us over the years. Grazie Mille.

Prego, have a look through the slideshow…

“Cantina Door”




Related: Tuscany paintings

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