Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


It's always interesting to compare what's happening here in art to what's happening there in art.  Here, of course is the United States (in my case) and there, I guess being virtually anywhere else having a viable creative arts culture.  Of course, we must always be careful to compare apples to apples, similar cultural backgrounds, histories, and traditions making the comparisons all the more apt and the differences all the more meaningful.  For instances...

At a time when their French counterparts were discovering the exquisite effects of light and color upon their pastoral countryside and expressing the wonder of that discovery through Impressionism, artists on this side of the ocean were making a similar discovery as well. Except that instead of a loosening of style and technique characteristic of the emotional element inherent in the French psyche, on this side of the Atlantic, just the opposite was occurring.

The American counterpart to Impressionism has come to be called Luminism. Among its illustrious practitioners were Martin Johnson Heade, John F. Kensett, Worthington Whittredge, Sanford R. Gifford, and most notably Fitz Hugh Lane. (I like to think he was a famous ancestor but I've never looked into it.) His paintings of the New England coastal environs explore with a stunning, yet studied, Yankee precision many of the same artistic elements the Impressionist were rendering from a much more intuitive point of view. Impressionism was romantic. Luminism was intellectual.

Braces Rock, Eastern Point, Gloucester,
1864, Fitz Hugh Lane
In France, landscape paintings were peopled with those of the rising middle class. In this country, when man intruded into these noble scenes at all, it was in the person of what we now call the Native American. Though not all American landscapes were of the Luminist variety, many of the dramatic (perhaps even melodramatic) lighting effects were quite similar. Impressionist paintings were usually of modest proportions. But in this country, where "bigger is [always] better," the canvases were often of immense size, perhaps in keeping with the overwhelming immenseness the artist felt as they viewed their subjects firsthand. Whatever the case, in both countries, the landscape rose to a forefront of art that it had never known before...or since.

No comments:

Post a Comment