Thursday, April 14, 2011

"An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision."



I didn't even know this existed until, well, today. In my mind, it's kind of an American parallel to European Impressionism (with the blurred, hazy scenes created by heavy, impasto paint), but they kind of blend together (like their colors!) as time goes by. It's a genre rooted in Aestheticism. Tonalist works are characterized by an overall tone of color or atmospheric, implied mist. You see a LOT of green in these works. I found a sweet NY Times article/review from a 1997 exhibit on the Tonalists for you to read, HERE.

It developed around the 1880s as a soothing, dream-like world of repose for the eyes of those Americans who were "breaking down" from the speed and scale of accelerating modern life. Two artists I wanted to particularly share with you today are John Twachtman and Thomas Wilmer Dewing.

John Twachtman - 1853-1902

The White Bridge, 1895. What a pretty little picture! Not the most characteristically tonal I've seen (you'll see what I mean later ;)), but you get the idea. Very broken, fuzzy brushstrokes haze all of the edges and lines. The yellow-green of the grass and foreground tree's leaves really dominate. The dark evergreen colors kind of blob about, and then there's the soft blue-white of the water. Don't get me I think we can all see, there's a definite scene here. But do you see the hazy, fuzzy-lensed look of it?

Round Hill Road, 1900. I had to show you this one for the a) pure contrast between the light, springy green of the previous painting and b) to show you how Tonalism worked to the extreme in snow! This image does really nothing for you, for I'm sure if you were to see it in person, the painting style would be very tactile and there would be many more facets for you to look at. But you get the idea of the very indistinct shapes of the houses and trees, all covered in snow. Very unusual. :)

"Winter... that feeling of quiet and all nature is hushed to silence."
- John Twachtman

Thomas Dewing - 1851-1938

In the Garden, 1892-1894. Unlike Twachtman, Dewing frequently incorporated wistful, graceful female figures in his works. There is usually more than one, showing the woman interacting outdoors in a dreamworld landscape. They aren't really in a specific space, rather just a green outdoor haze. You even get a peak of the white moon behind the tree on the right.

Haze. Outdoors. Green. Atmospheric. Dreamy. Lots of repetitive words. All (mostly) applicable.

Summer, 1890. I really like this one. I think it's because of the flecks of pink mixed with the green and blues. As I mentioned in Rosina, Rosina, I really have this thing about little hints of pink in landscape. Pink and I didn't even start to get along till I was at sophomore in college and one of the main colors for my sorority was pink. What is that about?!

I also like that the ladies appear to be fishing in their finery and lovely society dresses. It's the kind of painting I'd probably hang in my daughter's room, you know, if I had a daughter (Don't worry, Mom, not gonna happen ANY time soon). It's bright, it's cheerful, little comedic (who fishes in a gown?!). But this isn't the kind of comedy you'd guffaw at. A simper would be more appropriate.

Other artists you could potentially investigate for this movement are Dwight Tryon, Alexander Thomas Harrison, Julian Alden Weir, the latter work of our good ol' boy James McNeill Whistler, George Inness, John La Farge, and Google will help you find the rest. :)

Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, 1877, James McNeill Whistler. Yes, the same man who painted his mother and the Peacock Room also painted this almost abstract piece. Just to clarify... it's a night piece featuring the fireworks at Cremorne Gardens. Whistler called it an "artistic arrangement," NOT a specific view of said gardens.

I know these are only the tiniest, tiniest representation of all this movement has to offer. But it, once again, gives you an ideal to possibly fuel your own investigations. Title quote of this entry belongs to Whistler.

What do you all think of this movement?

"We are all the subjects of impressions, and some of us seek to convey the impressions to others. In the art of communicating impressions lies the power of generalizing without losing the logical connection of parts to the whole which satisfies the mind." - George Inness

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