Saturday, February 18, 2012

Looking at Inness and Twatchman

A Gray Lowery day, George Inness, 1877

This is a photo I took in Maine last summer. This place immediately made me think of Inness' painting above. Can you see the resemblance?

I'm hesitant to paint this because it's soooooo green! Inness does an amazing job creating many subtle shades of green that are modified by the gray atmosphere of the day. It's the atmosphere in the Inness that I love so much. The restless brooding of the sky and the close humid feeling in the air around you brings you right to that place. When I look at this painting I know that the rain is about to fall, in fact you can hear the raindrops hitting the tree foliage over to the right. The wind hasn't picked up yet but it will momentarily and then the trees will begin to toss. The grass is already damp from an earlier shower and the bird song is dying down as the birds retreat to their roosts to weather  the storm. 

It's the naturalness of Inness' greens that is partly responsible for this vivid believability. Look at the greens in the painting compared to the photo, really quite amazing. I have yet to find a green that seems this natural either from a tube or something I've mixed myself.

Chromium oxide green when used in a mix has come close but I'm still searching for that perfect summer green. I think that greens in summer are much cooler in temperature than we realize. Yet, they are not a true blue-green either, they retain some yellow, yet never give away their blue completely. I've been accustomed to neutralizing my greens with reds (which I'm now beginning to think keeps the green to warm), I'm pondering whether a touch of black or Paynes Gray is a better way to go. Ideally, I'd like to figure this out before the summer plein air season is here, but I'd settle for figuring it out sometime before I die which is a more likely scenario. LOL.

John Henry Twachtman, Horseneck Falls, Greenwich, Connecticut, c. 1890-1900
Twachtman knew at first look that a farm on Round Hill Road in Greenwich was for him. By 1889, this Cincinnati native had given up his New York studio and was living in Connecticut year-round and commuting to teach at the Art Students League in New York. He remodeled the house, planted gardens, and, happily for American art, painted his property again and again.

Though completely different in style this Twatchman was painted  just a thirteen years after Inness' Gray Lowery Day. I think that Twatchman also shows a good command of green. But that's not what I find so arresting about this painting, which I have seen many times in person. It's the square format with the tree smack in the middle and growing out of the stream! I'm going to suppose that it's spring and the little falls is over flowing with snow melt and spring rain and that the little sapling tree isn't usually standing in the water. This is a simple, very charming piece and because of all it's unconventional elements it becomes very memorable.

 July Pastoral, Killingworth, Connecticut, c. 2009, 24x24, acrylic on canvas, Jan Blencowe

When I saw this scene and took photos I was reminded of the Twatchman, and I decided to follow his lead and position my tree right in the center of my square canvas. Twatchman's central tree is anchored compositionally by an "S" curve and so is my central tree. Follow the winding path to just beyond the tree and then up and over the crown of the tree and along the curve of the distant tree tops. 

This painting is going to be auctioned off at the Salmagundi Club Annual Spring Auction in March. You can bid live, in person or on-line. If you find this painting memorable, as I find Twatchman's, be sure to check out the auction because the starting bid is going to be very, very attractive! Plus you're auction purchase is tax deductible since Salmagundi Club is a 501C3, non-profit organization. To top it all off you'll be supporting one of the country's oldest art clubs begun in 1871 just six years before Inness painter A Gray Lowery Day, in fact George Inness' palette and brushes are in a glass case in the Salmagundi Club!!! And you'll be supporting me and helping me support an organization I am both humbled and proud to belong to.

I will have more auction information as it becomes available.

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