Sunday, January 15, 2006

A few American luminists

I was on my mission to complete the tour of 19th C. American sculpture at the A.I.C.-- but I couldn't help noticing some of the paintings in the gallery that day -- and -- well -- maybe -- these appealed to me more.

John Kensett (1816-1872) Almy Pond, Newport , 1857


I don't remember any of this genre from Cincinnati -- but I do remember being stopped by Kensett at the Met -- and stopping viewers at the Met is the most that any painter can aspire for. There's the glowing -- there's the minimalism --there's, let's face it -- Puritan art -- a bit more geometric and a bit less sensual than its Dutch counterparts. And lack of sensuality provokes sensuality -- at least in me.

Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880) Morning in the Hudson, Haverstraw Bay, 1866



I don't remember ever seeing Gifford before -- but I like him just as much - maybe more -- because the severe geometry begins to feel mystical: i.e. that big boat in the middle of all those triangles should be boring, but it's not. It turns out that late in their careers, Kensett and Gifford traveled together to view the wild west. Ahh --those were the days. I wonder if they ever made it into an episode of "Maverick" or "Gunsmoke". In Cincinnati, I grew up with the French landscape painters of that day (Daubigny, Rousseau, Corot etc)-- but now I guess I like their American peers as much if not more. These painters are the worthy compatriots of Hawthorne and Melville.

(Note: these two paintings are on loan from the Terra Foundation -- and a sad reminder of what the Terra Museum was -- and could have been if it's board of directors had not pulled the plug.)

5 Comments:

Blogger Cobalt Blue said...

The Gifford one is very nice. I'll have to go see it in person.

January 16, 2006  
Blogger Gawain said...

Hi Chris, I didnt know any of these guys and am glad for learning about them. But where do you get "Puritan" or "Minimalist"?
There is nothing Puritan or Minimalist to me about the picture: this is exactly what you could see from some vantage points on the East Coast -- cape cod in particular. unless, of course, you think that "minimalist" and "puritan" are terms as well applied to works of nature (real life views) as they are to their representations done by human hand? and even then i would argue with you: i find the view immensely rich, not in any sense minimalist at all! (perhaps i dont know the lingo). best regards

January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A number of years ago, at an exhibit in Cleveland, called "American Luminists, I saw a portrait titled, Doctor John Sappington and his Wife."
I would like to find that portrait, but I cannot be any futher help because I cannot remember the artist's name.

October 24, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

A luminist portrait ? It's hard for me to imagine what such a thing would be like -- but I'll be keeping an eye out for one. I'll look in the Ryerson library this week -- maybe they'll have the exhibition catalog.

October 25, 2006  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

I like the Luminists, too. Think the last time I saw some luminist pictures was at the National Gallery last year.

Mystical seems right: tranquility defined by light.

If you're thinking about what's "kindred" to Hawthorne and Melville, I'd say that the Luminists are entirely too light! Forms bathed in light...

The Hudson River Valley painters are more dramatic and rocky and shadowy and tumultuous. They're just more "Romantic" in the way of Hawthorne and Melville. Although there are some moments in Moby Dick that praise the sea spray and foam that are just as light-loving, Melville is usually not calm, as the Luminists are. His calm is the calm after storm. And Hawthorne has small luminous details. But you'd have to describe both, in the end, as bathing shapes in darkness and mystery.

February 03, 2007  

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