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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Autumn Art

On the Saco, Albert Bierstadt
Now that radiant beauty of this year's autumn season lies in several blanketing layers of dull, drab, wet leaves all over our front yard, I suppose it's time to ruminate over their timely passing. Although I've definitely done my share in glorifying the season in paint on canvas over the past fifty years that I've been a man with an easel, I've done so mostly at the behest of the prevailing art market. As a landscape painter it's not my favorite season (I prefer winter scenes). Summer is too "green" for my taste and spring has always seemed to me as being too light and delicate. I guess that makes fall my second favorite time of the year from a painting standpoint (below). Judging from the incredible depth and breadth of images to be found on the Internet, other artists seem quite partial to this season with the silent "n" on the end.

The autumn leaves descend across the country.
In choosing the red, yellow, orange, and brown art and artists to highlight such work, I'm beset with way too much pretty good art and way too little distinctly outstanding creative work. I sympathize. It's extremely difficult to produce unique autumn art when there are literally thousands of other artists striving to also do so. As King Solomon claimed (erroneously, I believe) "There's nothing new under the sun." Finding the "new" can be done but, as they also say, "It ain't easy." Perhaps, to set the bar a bit lower, the autumn artist should, instead, try to render that which is "somewhat rare."

Claude Monet's two versions of autumn on the Argenteuil,
both painted in 1872
Autumn Leaves, 1855,
John Everett Millais
I'm not sure if I should really be surprised, but in delving into autumn art, I've discovered that the best such works are the older ones, especially dating from the 19th century; artists such as Albert Bierstadt with works like On the Saco (top), Frederic Edwin Church, John Everett Millais (left), Claude Monet (above) and perhaps most prodigiously, Thomas B. Moran (below). Notice that three of those five are American artists. It would seem that paintings of fall foliage are very much an attribute of landscape painters from the U.S. One fact that has surprised me most in researching autumn art is that there is extremely little of it before 1800. There was much in the way of summer and winter landscapes, but It was as if, until the 1850s, European painters had all decided to take a hiatus every October and November.
Thomas B. Moran's autumn landscapes
In the search for a new way of "handling" the "same old, same old" so often seen in such seasonal scenes today. I chose to look down, not up. The painting, Final Nesting Place (below) dates from 2000, and is based upon an actual photo taken in our backyard. The work is done on Masonite permitting me to extend some of the leaves beyond the frame. It is also painted about life-size, which allowed me to attach actual oak leaves to the surface. This adds a Postmodern element bridging the gap between the real world and that which merely looks real.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Final Nesting Place, 2000, Jim Lane

Quattro Stagioni-Autunno,
(Four Seasons--Fall),
1993-05 ,  Cy Twombly

Some artists, such as Cy Twombly (left), go to extremes in their search for new ways to depict (or at least, suggest) that which has been depicted in so many similar ways by so many similar painters so many similar times in the past. Some succeed. Some may go too far.


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