the St. Mary's website. He was a California painter and a friend of John Muir, and a contemporary of George Inness. He started out painting large, romanticized Hudson River School Landscapes, but later realized there was no way a painter could capture the grandeur of nature. So he began painting smaller, more intimate scenes, characteristic of tonalism, that suggested a fleeting moment, and a reality beyond the surface. Here is one of his later paintings. It is just a moment at dusk, and appears so insubstantial, the paint is like a mist.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
|Moonlight on Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire - William Trost Richards|
Photograph courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sometimes, we see something so compelling, we feel it in our bodies. That's what happened to me, back in pre-internet days, when I was a university art student. I saw a piece of art that turned my thinking around. At the time, I was subscribed to Art News, a magazine about what's happening in the (mostly contemporary) art world. In one issue, in the back pages, I came upon the picture above.
It was magical! The mood, the mystery, the stillness, the emotional connection, it all came together! In all the years of reading that magazine, I had never seen anything that I connected with so deeply. And it wasn't even contemporary art. This image is graphite and watercolor on green/gray paper, and it was done by William Trost Richards in 1873! In school, at that time, my professors would probably have flunked me if I had done anything so "illustrational."
But, I kept the picture, and still love looking at it.
And for all these years, in the back of my mind was the desire to make an intensive study of trees. Now, I plan to be doing more drawing, and studies, and paintings of trees. I will be doing an online class on drawing and painting trees with Deborah Paris. It will be challenging to do something so "old fashioned" and yet so demanding of both creativity and technical skill.
"The knowledge of how a thing is built induces an intimate sympathy, giving us constant pleasure: and the landscape painter must have as true a knowledge of the branch anatomy of a tree as a figure painter has of the anatomy of the human form."
-- Rex Vicat Cole, The Artistic Anatomy of Trees