Thursday, October 04, 2012

Painting in Maine Sublime

Frederic Edwin Church
Sunset, circa 1856-65
oil on paper mounted on panel
11 5/8 x 18 1/4 inches
Collection of Olana, 

On my painting trip to Maine in July, we stopped at the Portland Museum of Art on the way up specifically to view their summer exhibit, Maine Sublime, Frederic Edwin Church's Landscapes of Mount Desert and Mount Katahdin. The exhibit was wonderful, and the whole museum was a pleasant surprise! Bright spacious, broad stairways, with a very gradual rise which made going from floor to floor very easy and a lovely gift shop.

I was interested to see what it was that inspired Church, and by extension what it is that makes some locales inspiring to many artists.

This was a lovely small show which included many of Church's preparatory drawings which I especially enjoyed seeing. There were pencil sketches with numerous color notes, little half finished oil sketches, all very authentic. Real working sketches and drawings, which are always fascinating to see, a rare look into the mind of the artist.

Lake Scene in Mount Desert (Little Pond and Jordan Cliffs) F.E. Church, 1851

Here is a snippet of Church's account of his first trip to Mount Desert... "We have not come thus far to be disappointed, I assure you...There is an immense range of mountains running through the island, one some two thousand feet high, and f admirably varied outline...We are exceedingly delighted with the scenery, and with the people too....Around in Frenchman's Bay, there are precipitous rocks that come down abruptly to the water, some four hundred feet high. You face the East there; and in stormy weather, the surf dashing against the rocks must be grand.  [He went on to exult about] the fierce, frolicsome march of a granite wave. We tried painting them, and drawing them and taking notes of them, but cannot suppress a doubt that we shall neither be able to give actual motion nor roar to any we may place upon canvas."

 While Church was awed by the grandeur and ruggedness of the landscape I was more taken by it's subtler charms. Here is a passage from my own journal written on day two of the trip...

"Wake to the sounds of seagulls - a lonely, plaintive sound - but so very Maine. Rose colored light floats gently over Mt. Desert. mauves, lilacs, rose and warm tan defines the mountains. Low tide reveals another world, muddy, earthy, warm and watery. Shorebirds gleaming white dot the mud flats. Rock exposed, green with algae softening their cubic shape. Pines tall, alive, reaching high. Sky, up high in the water of Flanders Bay reflected still and calm. Deep blue shadows anchor the evergreens to the land. Indescribable color of earth, matte, subtle - yet containing a thousand shades of earth-red-brown-gray-yellow-pink. Seagulls flap, glide, dive, sit, waddle, they are calling. Six-thirty a.m."

If you missed the show in Portland, you can purchase the beautiful hard bound book HERE.

If you would like to see the painting that illustrates my journal entry stop by our upcoming exhibit, The Maine Attraction opening Thursday evening, Oct. 18th, 6-9pm at the Essex Art Association Gallery, 10 North Maine Street, Essex, CT There is a whole week end of free, educational and inspiring art events, including a Plein Air Painting Round Table Discussion, and two painting demos. 

Here's all the info...

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