Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lighthouse Paintings

Colossus of Rhodes, Andrei Pervukhin
Unveiling the Statue of Liberty,
1886, Edward Moran
I'm not sure I should be writing about painting lighthouses or even lighthouse paintings. I've only done two (that I can recall) in all my years painting. One of them, the Nubble Lighthouse on the coast of Maine is titled Winter Light (bottom) shown next to a watercolor painting of the same lighthouse by another artist. Both are rather bland compared to those built by the ancient architects and sculptors from the past, the most powerful of which was the Rhodes Lighthouse (above) as depicted by the contemporary digital artist, Andrei Pervukhin. It and the Alexandria Lighthouse were listed as two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And lest you roll your eyes that anyone would build such a Colossus, keep in mind, it has been "guesstimated" to have been somewhere between 393 and 450 feet in height (120 and 140 m), roughly the same size of the big green lady lighthouse in New York Harbor painted by Edward Moran in his Unveiling the Statue of Liberty (left), in 1886. The Colossus of Rhodes was, for many centuries, the tallest man-made structure on Earth.

Choptank River Lighthouse, Cambridge, Maryland, Richard C. Moore
I'm tempted to say that no two lighthouses ever built have ever looked the same, but that would probably be overstating the case. Suffice to say there is a very, very, broad range insofar as appearances are concerned, determined by each ones purpose and location. Some are exceedingly graceful in their tall, noble beauty, while others are downright bug-ugly (above). In any case I'm also sure this wide variation accounts for much of their fascination for artists down through the ages. Painters as renown as the British artist J.M.W. Turner (below) to Claude Monet (below Turner) have turned their hands to painting lighthouses.

Bell Rock Lighthouse, 1819, J.M.W. Turner
The Jetty at Le Havre, 1868, Claude Monet
One of the most prolific lighthouse painters from the 20th-century was the New York-born Edward Hopper. And, although Hopper and his wife traveled far and wide over much of the country starting in 1927 when he sold a painting for the incredible price of $1,500. He was thus able to purchase an automobile for the first time. And though he'd long spent summers painting the New England coastline, he was now able to go in search of subject matter much more easily. Two of Hopper's lighthouse paintings, Lighthouse Hill (below, left) from 1927 and Lighthouse at Two Lights (below, right) from 1929, demonstrate both his affection for such lonely structures as well as his style in painting them. Many critics would go so far to say such works were also a reflection of the artist's quiet, reclusive, introspective personality. Hopper might well have made an excellent lighthouse keeper.

The subject reflects the man.
Hopper wasn't alone in painting lighthouses or in using them as a vehicle in revealing his own persona as an artist. Probably the most popular lighthouse in America, insofar as the painter's brush is concerned, would be the Portland Head Lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Completed in 1791, it is the oldest lighthouse in Maine. Today, the lighthouse is fully automated and maintained by the United States Coast Guard. The former lighthouse keepers' house is a maritime museum within Fort Williams Park. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Portland Head Lighthouse (below) is the fact that, having been painted by so many different artists, it allows us a glimpse into the different ways in which artists look at lighthouses in particular, and painted seascapes in general. Like lighthouses themselves, no two artists' renderings are alike.

The Portland Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
(The two paintings without attribution are by unknown artists.)
Lighthouse I, by present-day folk artist, Warren Kimble,
perhaps the most personally distinctive lighthouse of the lot.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Winter Light, Jim Lane, the Nubble Lighthouse, also known
as the Cape Neddick Lighthouse, built for $15,000
in 1879, and still in use today.


No comments:

Post a Comment