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Monday, November 21, 2016

John F. Carlson

Sunlit Banks, John F. Carlson
Anyone who reads what I write in this blank space on a regular basis has probably come to realize that I have a warm place in my heart for snow scenes. The only problem with that is that the snow keeps melting. Maybe I should be more "coldhearted." I've painted quite a few such works myself and seldom see a painted "snowscape" for which I don't stop and enjoy for at least a few lingering seconds. Let me point out that such winter scenes may not be the most difficult type of landscapes to master, yet they do have their own set of pitfalls and difficulties to challenge even the experienced landscape artist. Moreover, I wouldn't consider any painter of landscapes to be highly experienced who couldn't handle any of the four season, their weather, and times of the day with a reasonable degree of ease. That would certainly be the case with one of the few past "experts" in this painting endeavor, John F. Carlson.
Fortunately for Carlson, it snows a lot in Woodstock
area of New York just west of the Hudson River.
I might ordinarily point to Carlson's Sunlit Banks (top) as being one of his best, most exceptional works. However, as attractive as it is, it's not an especially outstanding example of his work. Actually, it's quite typical. As the other examples of Carlson's winter images (above) tend to show, virtually all of his winter scenes (in fact all his landscapes) are of this high caliber. You might say that Carlson "wrote the book" on landscape painting. If so, you'd be right. In 1928, Carlson published an instructional book titled Elementary Principles of Landscape Paintings. The book was reprinted in 1953, 1958, 1970 and 1973. More recent editions have been titled Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting.
The man has been dead nearly seventy years, but still
John F. Carlson's books on landscape painting remain
a sort of "bible" on the subject.
John F. Carlson was born in 1875 near Kolsebro, in Småland, (southern) Sweden. He and his family came to America in 1887 when he was twelve. His earliest training was at the Art Students League in New York City, where he studied from 1902 to 1906, primarily under Frank Vincent Dumond. Carlson later became involved in teaching at the League, primarily in the summer program in Woodstock, New York. He assisted in directing that program starting in 1909, becoming director himself in 1911. After 1918, he became director of the Broadmoor School of Art in Colorado Springs until 1923 when he founded the John F. Carlson School of Landscape Painting back in Woodstock. The school operated until 1938, becoming very influential in the genre for which Carlson is most known.

 In addition to his numerous teaching positions, Carlson was
awarded the status of Associate and later, Academician,
of the National Academy of Design.
Such was Carlson's reputation and stamina in painting outdoors in the harsh conditions of winter that in 1914, he accompanied the Amundson Polar expedition, as seen in his striking watercolor depicting the intrepid explorers (below). It must have been quite a challenge, painting with watercolor under such freezing circumstances.
Amundson Polar expedition, 1914, John F. Carlson
Although, being from Sweden, Carlson seems to have specialized in winter landscapes, by no means was his painting limited to North Pole watercolors of snowy meadows and streams. As his Gloucester (below) would indicate, Carlson's skills went far beyond even landscape painting to include harbor scenes and even portraits as seen in his Pink Kimono (bottom) from 1906-07, painted early in his career of his future wife, the painter Mary Goddard Carlson. They were married in 1913. John Fabian Carlson died in 1947, his wife in 1964.

Gloucester, John F. Carlson
The Pink Kimono, 1906-07,
John F. Carlson,


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