Saturday, July 2, 2011

Eastern Artists...Western Scenes

As we have been going through the numerous art museums over the last month, we have noticed that many artists who call the East Coast their home, sometimes travel out West and paint landscapes of a different sort of scenery. Many of these artists end up staying forever, such as Georgia O'Keefe or the Taos Artists among many others. Back in the Hudson River School days, which is to say, the late 1800's, some of these artists made a more significant contribution. Thomas Moran traveled many times to the "Majestic West" and his large romantic paintings were instrumental in the US Congress deciding to make Yellowstone into a National Park. Moran was particularly taken with the Wyoming area and painted many paintings of its land. A favorite place that he returned to over and over again was Castle Rock and the painting on the left is entitled "Green River in Wyoming" which he painted in 1899. This is a fairly typical painting in the Hudson River style although it is rather understated compared to some of Church's or Cole's work. But you can still see the soft romantic haze which is in the far distance and the glow of light in the center of the painting. I sometimes think that Thomas Kinkade, the artist that paints all the little cottages with the lights in the windows and the setting sun lighting up the forest, took his inspiration from the Hudson River artists. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A contemporary of Thomas Moran was Albert Bierstadt who was born in Europe but lived and painted in the US. He also traveled all over and painted studies of scenes that he saw which he later incorporated into a very large painting in his studio. He was not hesitant to use any of his studies to create the landscape that was in his mind and not necessarily geographically correct. A good example of this is "In The Yosemite Valley" painted in 1866 seen on the right. For those of you who have been to Yosemite, you will notice that Half Dome is missing and the trees are not pine and fir but a deciduous tree that is not in Yosemite. Not that they don't have deciduous trees, but the Oaks are usually small with the needle type trees standing taller. The granite wall face is OK but is not any particular geologic feature of the valley. None of this was known to the people from the East coast and based on his paintings like this, they flocked to the West to see all the wonders of Yosemite. I hope they were even more impressed by the real thing. . . . . . One of the artists who bridged the gap between the Tonalists and the American Impressionists was John Henry Twachtman and he traveled to Yellowstone to do a commissioned painting of the "Emerald Pool" in 1895. What a difficult subject this must have been for him and yet he accurately depicts the transparent color of the water with the mist and steam rising around the far edge. The horizon line is just visible in the distance and his impressionist painting becomes almost an abstraction.

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