Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Michel Delacroix

Le Moulin Rouge, Michel Delacroix
When you hear the name, Pissarro, you naturally think of the French Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro, right? When you hear the name Picasso, you think of Pablo. When you talk about Michelangelo, you think of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. And when you mention Delacroix you think of the French Romantic artist, Eugene Delacroix. One of the pitfalls of simply thinking about artists is that, in every one of those cases, other less well-known, but highly accomplished artists also bear the same name. With Pissarro, for instance there's a whole family tree full of Impressionist painters to climb. With Picasso, there's his daughter, fashion designer, Paloma Picasso. With Michelangelo, there's one named Buonarroti and another named Caravaggio. And with Delacroix, there's Eugene and Michel.
Le Canal St. Martin En Autonne, 1990, Michel Delacroix
The two Michelangelos, of course, are not related (except perhaps in disposition). And more surprisingly, despite their last names, neither are Eugene and Michel Delacroix (insofar as I've been able to determine, at least). The Picasso artists, and the prodigious progeny of Pissarro, are not only related by blood, but also as to their painting styles. Conversely, in the case of the two Delacroix artist, they are neither blood relatives nor related stylistically. Most of us recognize Eugene Delacroix's Romanticism immediately. Michel Delacroix, however paints in a style the French call "Naif." Likewise their content is as different as noon and midnight. Michel paints only French (usually Paris) street scenes.
A painter since his teen years, the artist paints the Paris he recalls from "then" not what he sees "now."
If you're at all familiar with French, you'll recognize that "Naif" is related to our English word, "Naïve." They're not only related, they both mean exactly the same--inexperienced or perhaps innocent. Of course, Michel Delacroix is neither. Born in 1933 and still alive and well and living in Paris at the age of eighty-four, Naif applies only to his style, not the man. If you were to further describe Michel Delacroix's work you might term it French urban folk art. Yet Delacroix is not untrained, and only paints in a "primitive" mode because he wants to. Actually, as a young man, he studied at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand (the high school of Louis the Great), a Paris educational institution dating back to 1563.

The Roofs of Paris under Show, 1991, Michel Delacroix
The Paris Delacroix paints is not the urban metropolis of the present. The viewer is not going to see modern day Paris. Instead, Michel Delacroix paints a dream-like place the city became in the 1940's, during the Occupation, when, as he puts it, "We suddenly jumped fifty years into the past--no more cars on the streets, very few lights. Paris suddenly became very quiet, very dark, and, though people were afraid, there was a brotherhood and spirit that was very delightful." Delacroix, was only a child of seven. Thus he spared by his age any understanding of the cruelties and absurdities of war. For the young boy, it was the one of the great adventure of ;his life.

In that he most often paints from memory, Delacroix is also free to paint from virtually every point of view, from street level to almost map-like depictions.
In years past, Michel Delacroix has been able to get out of the city to paint some of the great landmarks his country counts in the thousands. Michel is not unaware of the works making up the rich, cultural history of his country, nor that of the more illustrious "other" Delacroix. During his early years as an artist he experimented with virtually all the styles of the past including the Impressionism of Monet and the Post-impressionism of Seurat, Gauguin, van Gogh, and others. Fabienne Delacroix's Bateau-au-mouillage (boat--the anchor), below, would seem to be a homage to Monet, Seurat, and several others of the period by his daughter, Fabienne, who is also a working artist.

Bateau au Mouillage (boat--the anchor), Fabienne Delacroix

Mt. Vernon, Michel Delacroix. No, you can't
see Washington's home from Paris. Delacroix's
son, Bertrand, owned an art gallery in New
York which sold his father's work in the U.S. for
some fifty years.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Giuseppe De Nittis

Breakfast in the Garden, 1883,  Giuseppe De Nittis
Transitions are always difficult. Even at best they are periods of relatively rapid changes, over varying lengths of time. We in the United States are daily watching the transition from a relatively stable, slightly left of center government to a relatively unstable, (way) right of center government the likes of which this nation, and likely most others, have never seen before. We watch with a mixture of bemusement and dread as a new president tries to grow with the job. Whether he has, or is, seems debatable. What is not debatable is the agonizing growing pains he and we are enduring as this transition takes shape on Twitter and in the mainstream media. Echoing Bette Davis's famous line from All About Eve, "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy ride."
Westminster, 1878, Giuseppe De Nittis
Art and artist sometimes find themselves in periods of Transition. During the 1940s and 50s in the U.S., Abstract Expressionism triggered such a transition. Impressionism did the same in France during the 1860s and 70s. During the turbulent first few decades of the 20th century artists in Europe (mostly France and Germany) went through a painful art transition. When we contemplate the life and works of the Italian painter Giuseppe De Nittis, we find ourselves adding Italy to that list. The only difference was that France, Germany, and to a lesser extent, England, had been going through such stylistic transition periods for at least a generation or two. In Italy, until the early 1900s, not much had changed as to the prevailing style of painting since the Renaissance some four-hundred years earlier.
The drawn portrait of De Nittis just above is by an
unknown artist with the initials H.T.
De Nittis had been born in 1846. He was born in Barletta, on the western coast of southern Italy (on the ankle of the Italian "boot," so to speak). He first began studying art at the Academy of Fine Art in Naples during the mid-1860s but soon got kicked out for insubordination. A year later he had some success with two paintings at the 1864 Neapolitan Promotrice (the approximate equivalence to the Paris Salon). Art history doesn't record which two paintings. In any case, an exhibit of his work in Florence caused him to fall in with the mildly rebellious Macchiaioli gang. The problem was, De Nittis had been brought up in the longstanding classical traditions of Italian academic painters only to discover he was not much into academics, nor academic art. And in any case, such art, was becoming decidedly old-fashioned, even in culturally rich Italy. De Nittis was caught in the painful transition from classical art to Modern Art. It was a "bumpy ride."
At the Races at Longchamp, Giuseppe De Nittis.
I'm not sure what the ladies are gaining by climbing precariously up onto chairs
In 1867 De Nittis bailed out. He said goodbye to his politically and artistically turbulent homeland and moved to Paris. There, he found a city where change was just as controversial as back home, but much more vibrant, becoming the life's blood of the French art world. Though the Impressionist were still battling with the Academics, enlightened art dealers such as Adolphe Goupil were welcoming competent, but unknown painting rebels such as De Nittis with open arms (and wallets). The two made a deal which called for De Nittis to produce saleable genre works (Not exactly cutting-edge or avant-garde.) After gaining some visibility by exhibiting at the Salon he returned to Italy where, he now felt free to paint from nature. He produced several stunning views of Vesuvius, which was erupting at the time.
The Opera, Giuseppe De Nittis. Notice the young boys off to
the left peeking through the door, spying on the adults.
When De Nittis returned to Paris in 1872, he was no longer bound to Adolphe Goupil and his clientele demanding familiar family scenes. This time he fell in with the budding, struggling group of Impressionists as a result of his friendship with Edgar Degas. Although he was not accepted immediately, by 1874 De Nittis was regularly displaying with them. A trip to London in 1875 resulted in a number of Impressionist works. His star was rising, his home in Paris was a favorite gathering place for Parisian writers and artists, as well as expatriate Italians, he executed pastel portraits of sitters including De Goncourt, Zola, Manet and Duranty. De Nittis exhibited twelve paintings in The Exposition Universelle of 1878, and was awarded a gold medal. Today, we'd probably be more familiar with his name, perhaps ranking him alongside the great Impressionists of his day except for the fact that he suffered a sudden stroke and died in 1884 at the age of thirty-eight. Nonetheless, De Nittis' works can be found in many public collections, including the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, British Museum in London, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The Races at Longchamps from the Grandstand,
Giuseppe De Nittis--one of his favorite subjects.

Study of a Cat, watercolor, Giuseppe De Nittis

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT

Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont.
When is an art museum not an art museum? Moreover, when does an art museum become much more than an art museum. Those are both rhetorical questions, by the way, but nonetheless food for thought. In my continuing series promoting small museums, I came upon the Shelburne Museum located in Shelburne, Vermont. As art museums go, it isn't much of one, it's collection of paintings having some works by important artists, but not very many of them. They don't talk about actual numbers but I'm guessing their art collection falls well short of one-hundred. Can you still call that an art museum?

The Shelburne Museum (of art and everything else).
Having said that, to conclude that the Shelburne Museum is just a museum is to sell it far short as a repository of valuable artifacts from the past (including paintings). The Shelburne is a small village full of little else but museums--thirty-eight of them, to be exact, with twenty-eight of those being to some degree historic. It sprawls over some forty-five acres near Lake Champlain. Counting everything within those museums, the Shelburne holdings reaches upward to around 150,000 items. Only Henry Ford with his Greenfield Village (and museum) near Dearborn, Michigan, and the Rockefeller involvement with Colonial Williamsburg come close to matching it in size, breadth, depth and scope.
Besides an excursion steamer (below), Shelburne has its own lighthouse (miles from the lake) and a round barn.
Many wealthy American families over the past couple centuries have collected art. The wealthy sugar manufacturer, Henry Osborne Havemeyer and his wife, Louisine, collected Impressionism, and to a lesser extent a few important American painters from roughly the same period. But they, and most other wealthy industrialist families, pale in comparison to the collecting spree their daughter, Electra Havemeyer Webb, embarked upon around 1911 and for the next fifty years of the 20th century. If it was historic, artistic, and not tied down (sometimes even if it was), Electra collected it. She referred to her items as a collection of collections. Most famously, Electra bought, then plopped down right in the middle of her outdoor museum, a 220-ton steamboat that had once churned the waters of nearby Lake Champlain.
The Ticonderoga last sailed in 1953 before being hauled over
two miles to Shelburne. The cost? No one talks about that.
Electra Havemeyer was born in 1888, and later attended Miss Spence's School. As a young girl, she enjoyed traveling with her family over the American West, as well as France, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Greece and Austria. She did not attend college. Electra married polo champion James Watson Webb II, a member of the Vanderbilt family with whom she had five children. Perhaps the most interesting work in the Shelburne collection is a pastel portrait by the American expatriate painter, Mary Cassatt (below), a portrait of Electra and her mother. Among the other Impressionist her mother collected are works by Degas, Manet, and Monet.
Electra would have been about seven when the portrait
above was commissioned.
Among the works by American artists hanging in natural, homelike, period settings to be found in the many Shelburne museums, are Albert Bierstadt, Winslow Homer, Fitz Henry (Hugh) Lane, George Henry Durrie, and Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses (below). Virtually all the Shelburne art is on display all the time, a feature only the smaller museums can boast.

Unlike many of her fellow art collectors, and her own parents, Electra Havemeyer Webb showed a distinct preference for American art, especially Folk art.

Among the Shelburne's major holdings holding other major holdings are a general store (left), a round barn, displaying duck decoys and carriages, a horseshoe shaped barn (with circus memorabilia, an art gal-lery featuring the work of American artist Ogden Pleis-sner, famous for his Life mag-azine illustrations, landscapes, and sports art. The museum also displays an extensive array of quilts (below) representing all periods of American quilting art.
Contemporary quilt Exhibit, by Velda Newman
There's also a covered bridge (bottom), a general store (above, left), a print shop, blacksmith shop, a train depot complete with a car shed, locomotive, and antique railroad cars. This woman obviously did not think small. Electra Havemeyer Webb died in 1960. Her museum, however did not die with her, but in fact, has continued to grow and expand under the wise, but aggressive oversight of her five children (all of which have since died). As evidence of this, it should be noted that not every building at Shelburne is hundreds of years old (or at least looks that way).

Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education, Shelburne, Vermont.
The Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education (above) was designed and built not with the past in mind, but the future. Strikingly postmodern in style and function, the center is a regional mecca for art, music, film, lectures, and more. With its soaring central space, two expansive modern galleries, a 130-seat auditorium, and 2,000 square feet of flexible classroom space, the Pizzagalli Center is an anchor for the Shelburne Museum campus. Its award-winning design by Ann Beha Architects of Boston establishes it as part of the same history of design and architecture that the museum and its collections celebrate.

The Shelburne Museum is located seven
miles south of Burlington, VT, on US 7 south.

Summer adult admission is $24. During the
winter months that drops to $10
(speeding fines not included).


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Factory Art

An unknown artist's depiction of factory working conditions
during the early years of British industrialization.
Yesterday, I dealt with Farm Art (the item below). Such art dates back hundreds of years. That is not the case with factory art. Such early images, most commonly found in painting, date back only to about 1790 in England. (In the U.S. industrialization came mostly after the War of 1812.) There were many artistic movements during the period of British history, each of which was a reaction to the times, as well as to the movement which preceded it. By the time the Industrial Revolution really took hold, some artists were at odds with the ideals which it espoused, ideals such as discipline, temperance, structure, and views of the Enlightenment. Such feelings translated into the Romantic movement, which encouraged individualism, freedom, and emotion. Romanticism was by far the most important artistic outgrowth of the Industrial Revolution. Even today, its broad effects and artistic achievements are still seen, and nowhere more than in our painted depictions of modern-day industrialization.
Now mostly relegated to museums, this was the opening
shot of the Industrial Revolution--the steam engine.
The Industrial Revolution changed the British social structure dramatically. Before this revolution most people lived in small villages, working either in agriculture or as skilled craftsmen. They lived and worked as a family, doing everything by hand. Three quarters of Britain's population lived in the countryside, where farming was the predominant occupation. However, industrialization changed all that. Machines capable of huge outputs made small hand weavers and others uneconomical. This forced upon them the need to work at the new factories, and required them to move to growing cities to be close to their new jobs. In doing so, they found themselves making less money and working longer hours. Factory owners took advantage of this new work force, with working conditions barely one step above slavery.

In Germany, the Industrial Revolution had but one name.
That name was KRUPP!
There was no social safety net, no industrial regulations, and few in the upper classes who even cared to know about worker abuse, which often effecting women and children most harshly. There were no photos to document their plight. Only artists had it within their power to depict the abhorrent and dangerous working conditions the lower classes faced daily. Yet even they were inadequate in their role as a social safety valve. Large scale worker violence erupted. For a time, law enforcement and the military tried to contain it, but eventually, in no small part due to artists an other socially conscious individuals, laws were passed (below) which today, seem to us grossly inadequate, but in effect, sowed the seeds of the 20th-century labor movement and the regulations in force today preventing the "near slavery" of the Industrial Revolution.

Though heavily regulated, child labor (except on farms) was not totally abolished in the United States until 1949.
For artists, factory art had long been far less about ugly buildings and faceless machines than those using them. Worker abuse, pollution, dehumanization, and (in recent years) computerization and robotics arouse the interests and ire of artist now as well as then. The French painting icon, Claude Monet saw the steam engine in terms of greater freedom to escape to the countryside to paint, though he also seems to have been fascinated with the means to do so as seen in his La Gare Saint-Lazare (below), from 1877, and his A Tranchée des Batignolles (The Trench of the Batignolles). Despite the rampant social ills it fostered, the Industrial Revolution brought many positive changes (at a cost) to each country it touched.

Monet's French version of the Industrial Revolution.
England enjoyed a sort of head start on the rest of the world when it came to both factories and factory art. England had two vital resources which were invaluable for industrial development, coal and iron ore. Moreover, they had the engineering know-how to combine the two and the shipping capacity to export them around the world (below). British artist William Bell Scott captures all these valuable assets in a single painting.

Iron and Coal, 1855-60, William Bell Scott
England also served as a social testing ground for the alleviation of many of the negative consequences accompanying such a social upheaval. One of these upheavals was the advent (spurred by two world wars) of women and their place in a factory environment. The moment women began inhabiting factory floors, everything from their political relevance to their trousers and the way they wore their hair began to change. Artists such as Stanhope Forbes and Sir John Lavery (below) recorded these changes, and may even have had apart in triggering them.

The factories of the Industrial Revolution, in England, the U.S., and all around the world, changed the role of women forever.
Today, Americans and industrialized nations around the world are left with two disturbing images of factories. One is a symbol of the overwhelming industrial strength and power they provide, while very often doing great harm to the air we breath, the land we inhabit, the clean water we demand, even our health and psychological wellbeing (below). The second is that of a desolated battleground where another revolution is taking place, where factory men and women are becoming interchangeable with integrated circuitry and robotic artificial intelligence (bottom). Like the Industrial revolution, which made it possible, the data revolution (or whatever you want to name it) carries with it both the dysfunction of those unable or unwilling to adjust to a new social and economic order, as well as unimaginable benefits to human existence.

Ohio Pollution, watercolor, artist unknown.
Old Factory, Tukap88


Friday, February 24, 2017

Farm Art

Folk Art Farm, 2012, Toni Grote.
She lives on a farm in Iowa, by the way.
Very often we take for granted that which is most critical to our survival. We assume that when turn the faucet, water will come out, and that it will be safe to drink. We assume that somehow, somewhere, someone is designing and making our clothes for us. We buy or rent a house or apartment and take for granted that whenever we unlock the front door everything will be as we left it. We don't even think about the very air we breathe. We know our food comes from farms, but when was the last time you even thought about a farm, much less set foot on one. Yet this nation (the United States) was founded as a fundamentally agriculture society. Today less than one percent of our total population live or work on a farm. In 1790 (counting slaves) the figure was ninety percent. That radical change is reflected in all aspects of our daily lives. And since I, and those who read what I write, are involved in art to some degree, it is also reflected in our notions as to farm art. But if we seldom think about farms, it's a good bet we're even less likely to think about farm art. Quite apart from art, we think nothing of any of these vital items until our life-giving supply chain is interrupted or broken.
Farm art by Walt Curlee
If and when you think about farm art, you picture images such as those above by the popular rural artist, Walt Curlee, then you've fallen into an antique stereotype that is at least two or three generations old. Absolutely none of Curlee's images (above) reflect farm life in the 21st-century. Occasionally you'll spot an antique pickup truck or a tractor in one or two of his works, but for the most part, this Georgia artist and his art wallows in agricultural nostalgia. It's not surprising that his art sells so well, half of America is wallowing with him (yearning for the way things used to be). On the other hand, if you found the painting by Toni Grote (top) somewhat jarring...welcome to today's Postmodern farm art. (She's from Iowa and lives on a farm.)
Almost four-hundred years of farm art.

Today artists don't paint pictures of
barns so much. They paint pictures
on barns.
For those wanting to see farm art of the past, then check out the work of those famous artists (above) which records farm life from the era in which it was painted, starting with Pieter Bruegel (the elder) dating from 1565 and ending with the "oh, so neat and trim" work of Grant Wood in the 1930s and 40s. A more accurate representation of farm life in the past can be found in the little known work of F.H. Shap-leigh and his Old Barn in Eaton, New Hampshire (below) dating from 1878. I love it when a painter resists the temptation to dwell on surface details and in-stead goes inside, in this case probing behind the weathered barn siding.

Old Barn in Eaton, New Hampshire, 1878, F.H. Shapleigh
Although no farm today could get along without one, I've purposely omitted paintings of tractors and all the other mechanized labor-saving equipment responsible for the drastic decrease in our farm population over the years. Today, you're just as likely to see farmers (or their wives and kids) riding a bicycle or a motorcycle to and from the barn to do their chores or to round up cattle for milking. Today, it's quite likely the most important piece of equipment the farmer owns sits in the kitchen with a glowing screen, mouse, and keyboard.

Digital painting of an old bicycle against a barn by Sandra Lise.
Just as farming has changed over the years, so has art.
Even that computerized kitchen, perhaps the most used room in the farmhouse, and arguably the most important fraction of acreage on whole farm, looks nothing like the "thoroughly modern" kitchen as seen below from the 1930s. Perhaps the raw produce on the kitchen table is the most anachronistic. If the farm is small, very often the farmer and his wife have second jobs making in or farming a part-time endeavor. Whatever the case, who has time to pick and preserve fruits and vegetables when both are available cheaper and almost as fresh at Walmart?

Farmhouse Kitchen, by Gayle, Southern Maine.
For farmers, now and then, the road to the present and future has not been easy. Artists such as Terry Redlin and Thomas Hart Benton have portrayed the travails of rural life from the from the romantic sod-busting days marking the end of one century and the beginning of the next, to the "dust bowl" era of the Great Depression (below). Their paintings are marked by nostalgia, myth, folklore, trials, tribulations (disastrous weather), hard work, inspiration, and fortunately, a good deal of humor. This is what farm art is all about...not trucks and tractors.

Hard work and hard times.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Out Behind the Barn, ca. 1980, Jim Lane,
my version of farm art.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Joseph R. DeCamp

The Hammock, 1895, Joseph DeCamp,
the artist's wife Edith, daughter Sally, and infant son Ted.
In times of relative peace and prosperity, the arts flourish. Figuratively speaking, art loves money. Literally speaking, so do artists. However, during such times of social and economic stability, the arts also have a tendency to stagnate stylistically. The perfect example of this would be the period following the Civil War in the United States up until the start of WW I. It was a period of tremendous growth in all aspects of American life, not the least of which was painting. The problem is, in reviewing the art of this era, there are a tremendous number of outstanding painters to cover and discover, but not much to discuss in the way of innovation among them. It's as if tastes in art among those affluent enough to buy art, had become set in stone. Artists painted what sold. Moreover, in doing so, they had little incentive to pursue anything new and different. During this entire fifty-year period, only the importation and gradual acceptance of Impressionism stands out as a marked change in American tastes.

Joseph R. DeCamp

The Cincinnati-born painter, Joseph R. DeCamp (right) was typical of the type of artists I'm referring to. Born in 1858, he came of age near the beginning of Mark Twain's "gilded age." As with virtually all such artists of this time, early in his academic career, DeCamp "decamped" for Europe, specifically the Royal Academy in Munich (Cincinnati was heavily German at the time), then later spent time in Florence. Upon return to the U.S. DeCamp gravitated to the Boston School (below), led by Edmund C. Tarbell, where he focused on figure painting, before adopting the style of Tonalism during the 1880s. Although their styles differed somewhat, and to the trained eye, their works are distinguishable one from the other, as a group, these "Ten Men" (as they came to be called) formed the backbone of American painting during the latter half of the 19th-century. Moreover their similarities make it difficult to study this period of American art without a distinct feeling of deja-vu.

The Boston School (The Ten): Seated (left to right): Edward Simmons, Willard L. Metcalf, Childe Hassam, J. Alden Weir, Robert Reid. Standing (left to right): William Merritt Chase, Frank W. Benson, Edmund C. Tarbell, Thomas Dewing, Joseph De Camp.
In the Studio, 1890-95,
Joseph DeCamp
If you click on the links above and look closely at the type of work each artist did during this period, you'll notice much of what they had in common, and that drew them together, especially as to content. Second only to portraits, as represented in De-Camp's offspring (below), you'll notice a tremens-dous number of landscapes, many (but not all) bearing the indelible influence of French Impres-sionism. Unfortunately, most of DeCamp's land-scapes were destroyed in a 1904 fire at his Boston studio. They painted their wives (top), and of course, competed one with the other for com-missions to depict the upper crust of New England society at the time. One item conspicuously absent in the work of "The Ten" is the presence of self-portraits. I could find only one of DeCamp (right) while many of his peers left behind only two or three. Perhaps this is due to portrait photography coming of age around the same time.

DeCamp's portrait renderings of three of his
four children are especially sensitive and loving.
In the portrait work of Joseph DeCamp I came across two quite similar but also quite different portraits. The first (below, left) that of a very dignified Steward, also titled Louis of the Porcelain, dates from 1919. The second (below, right) an equally dignified commissioned portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt dates from 1908. Despite their vastly different stations in life, DeCamp painted them as strong individuals, each comfortable within their own skin, each firmly grounded in the American sense of God-given equality.

Two of a kind--Lewis of the Porcelain (1919)
and President Theodore Roosevelt (1908)

Venice (also known as Becalmed), probably
from around 1883, Joseph R. DeCamp.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Charles Harold Davis

The Old Homestead, Charles Harold Davis
When it comes to landscape paintings, I set a pretty high bar. I think the reason for this is that over the years I've painted quite a number of them and, on the whole, never felt really challenged in doing so. As compared to portraits, genre scenes, still-lifes and most other types of painting, I find them to be "easy" art. In fact, I highly recommend them to beginning painters for that very reason. Except for the medium of watercolor, when painted under some degree of instructional supervision, it's very rare that even a first-time painter doesn't come up with something they'd proudly hang over their couch. And therein lies another reason I have minimal respect for such works--they very often (the vast majority) are "couch" paintings. Aside from the innate beauty of God's green earth, they convey little as to meaning and message. You could get far more satisfaction by simply cutting a hole in the wall and installing a window (with the added advantage of having a framed landscape that changes with the four seasons).

A Clearing, Charles Harold Davis
Charles H. Davis, 1914
I'm not saying landscapes don't have their place in art. They do; but most often as backgrounds for some more interesting item or element (they don't such things "centers of interest" for nothing). Charles Harold Davis was an American landscape painter born in 1856. He grew up in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and studied at the schools of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts before tripping off to Paris to study at the Academie Julian. From there it was just a short trek to the Barbizon Forests and his first flirtation with Impressionism. When he returned to the U.S. in 1890, Davis settled in picturesque Mystic, Connecticut. There he made a permanent shift in his style to the Impressionism, except that rather than concentrate on the landscapes of his Impressionist peers, he took up painting the varied cloudscapes overhead (above). It was for these that Davis became best-known.
Twilight over the Water, 1892, Charles H. Davis
Even though Charles Davis was American, his landscapes, perhaps owing to their Impressionist roots, seem to me more French that "New Englandish." Davis's Twilight over the Water (above), dating from 1892, seems quite reminiscent of Monet's famous Impression, Sunrise of 1872. Although Davis' cloudscapes do have a certain degree of interest, as seen in his Clouds After Storm (below), from 1900, to me they do not "carry" the painting, much like a beautifully filmed motion picture with little plot and no characters. Compare the work below to The Old Homestead (top). Both are landscapes but one has a center of interest. The other doesn't (beyond some colorful clouds).

Clouds After Storm, 1900, Charles Harold Davis,
Even with the addition of a road through the forest and some colorful (if somewhat monochromatic) fall foliage, they do little to rescue Davis' Golden October (below), from the realm of bland. Roads were intended for travel. Where's the traveler(s)? Perhaps a group of hunters, or even a forlorn cow would serve to lift this work from the mundane to the modestly interesting.

Golden October, Charles Harold Davis.
When Davis makes up his mind to do so, he is quite capable of injecting various elements of human interest into his paintings, such as seen in his A Ruined Homestead (below) from around 1915. The painting remains a landscape, but one loaded with pathos, and no doubt history and a lingering human presence despite it's deserted present. Even though the landscape is rather dull and uninteresting, Davis' dilapidated farmhouse is anything but.

A Ruined Homestead,  ca. 1915, Charles H. Davis.
One of Davis's best-known and most-beloved paintings is The Oak (below), dating from 1903. It's only when Davis steps back from what he knows and does best, moving outside the realm of what we've come to call a "safe zone," that his work becomes in any was exceptional and thus memorable. During his lifetime, Charles Harold Davis met with critical acclaim and commercial success. He was represented by several galleries, including the Macbeth Gallery in Manhattan, where he had eight solo exhibitions and a memorial retrospective. He was inducted into the National Academy of Design in 1906, and in 1913 he was a founder of the Mystic Art Association (now Mystic Arts Center). His works are in the collections of institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. At the time of his death in 1933, Davis was likened to Millet and to great literary figures like Hardy and Tolstoy. Though such accolades were impressive, soon thereafter he was largely forgotten. Mundane landscapes have that effect upon artists. Some claim Davis did not promote himself enough. He is often thought of as shy and diffident. If that was the case, this same trait is evident in most of his landscapes as well.
The Oak, 1903, Charles Harold Davis
All Hallows Eve, Charles Harold Davis