If you follow me on Twitter,(the hottest micro-blogging social media site on the web)you know that on Wednesday I went to the New Britain Museum of American Art.
I went because NBMAA has several very impressive Hudson River School paintings on loan from the Metropolitain Museum of Art in NYC. These added to some of their own Hudson River School paintings from their permanent collection have been gathered together in a small but, very satisifying show.
One of my very favorite ways to spend a morning or afternoon is sketching at a museum. There is so much to be learned from studying, observing and recording great works of art. Above are some very quick thumbnail sketches in my Moleskine done with a Uniball Vision pen. This is a great exercise in quickly deciphering the composition, value pattern and gesture or emotion of a work. In these small sketches you grab everything at once, intuitively on first glance.
These next two sketches above, and below are a bit larger and took about 10 min. each to complete. They contain everything the thumbnails have but are slightly more developed with the introduction of some very subtle color by using Graphitint pencils.
If you're a regular here you've seen me post paintings by Heade before, most recently in this post, as one of the inspirations for my own "haystacks on the saltmarsh" painting. I truly love Martin Johnson Heade's work. This piece is Ipswich Marshes, 1867. It was wonderful to finally see it in person. You can see that it is a relatively small painting compared to Church's Parthenon, below which is quite grand and imposing.
For me Heade's paintings are always amazing for the sheer amount of space and distance ( and therefore impact) he can conjur up in a small painting. Also, his marshes are my marshes, and since he lived and painted in the same general geographic as I now live and paint I feel a special kinship to his paintings.
Here is F.E. Church's majestic Parthenon of 1871. I met a very nice woman in the museum who is also a painter and lived in Greece for 8 years and it was very enjoyable chatting with her. This is another aspect of spending a lesiuerly afternoon at a museum, you meet all kinds of fascinating people that bring new perspectives on the art your viewing.
This piece by J.F. Kensett, Sunset on the Sea, 1871 was of particular interest to me for several reasons. First, with its high key color palette it strongly reminds me of an impressionist painting. It seems a bit prophetic that just three years later the first impressionist exhibit would take place in Paris and Monet's painting Impression Sunrise would via the art critics give rise to the movements name. Though to my knowledge, it is unlikely that Heade and Monet ever crossed paths.
Second, Kensett is often categorized by scholars as a luminist, the difference (from tonalism and the Hudson River School) being a complete subduing of brushwork, a technique that produces smooth almost porcelain like surfaces. However, this painting seems to have, at least in the water, a discernable,rhythmic brushwork again reminiscant of the impressionists to come.
Thirdly, as Kensett matured his compositions became more and more minimal. there were a few other examples of his later work in this show that reinforced that notion. I personally like a more minimal composition and was very drawn to these later works, none of which I had seen in person before.
Well, after a lovely lunch in the museum cafe, where by chance I ran into three friends, I wrapped up my day in the giftshop where I purchased a great new sketchbook, and some Hudson River School postcards and then headed home.
If you have never treated yourself to such a delightful pursuit I encourage you to make plans to do so as soon as possible. You'll love it!!