Friday, March 05, 2010

Plein Air Exhibit at the Yale Peabody Museum

I had a wondeful surprise when I was at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, CT last Sunday. View the video on YouTube if you're receiving The Poetic Landscape via e-mail.

I was delighted to find an excellent exhibit of plein air paintings by James Perry Wilson, creator of some of the most impressive dioramas at the Peabody Museum and at the American Museum of Natural History. The entire exhibit Invisible Art is quite fascinating.

Working on a curved concave wall (yes, I misspoke in the video! Sorry!) Wilson, who was also a designer and draftsman for the architectural firm Bertram Goodhue devised a grid "system of 'unsquare squares' which change size according to how far the background wall was along its curve from the normal viewing point in front of the diorama. Wilson's grid system insures that all objects will appear in proper scale across the background, transmitting the feeling of 'rightness' that is his trademark" ~from Invisible Art:The dioramas at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, which you can purchase at the Peabody Museum gift shop.

Wilson used panoramic photographs but also painted sketches and fully developed paintings en plein air because in his words.."... you can't rely on photographs, even the best color film, to record the color exactly as the eye sees it. Color film tends to increase contrast. So I use my field paintings as an overall check."

Wilson'e greatest diorama achievement and my personal favorite at the museum is the Coastal Region diorama. 

Since I wandered into the exhibit at the end of the day after sketching in the museum all afternoon I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to really enjoy the exhibit so I'll be going back to take a closer look.

If you're near New Haven, CT the Peabody is always great fun to visit, and this plein air exhibit makes it extra special  right now.

1 comment:

AutumnLeaves said...

And all I can think on is the mathematical formula he might have used to come up with the grid system to prevent distortion in the curves...