In 1870, financed by a Boston art dealer, Inness returned to Italy for five years. Inness seemed to have a wanderlust. As a landscape painter it was certainly useful to put new scenery in front of the easel.
Above is an Inness and it is filled with interesting little things, scattered artfully about its surface. There are all these actors that Inness likes to trot out onto his stage. There are little white rocks, some goats, and an extremely odd tree in front of the lake. Inness is scattering these things across his canvas as decorative accents. He begins to use these accent spots in so many of his paintings now that they become a personal mannerism with him. If I were to try to imitate Inness, I would scatter these little accents all over.
Notice how the big odd tree in the right foreground is countered by the smaller odder tree on its left in front of the lake.To the right of the foreground tree is a triangular rock,with a friend or two. Out there by the smaller tree in the mid distance to its left, a matching triangular rock with a friend or two. There are juxtaposed mirrored passages, one large and one small right in the middle of this painting. None of this happens of course by accident (sometimes referred to in this blog as observation).
The midground of this painting is based on a decorated diagonal line, here is a post from some time ago I did on this time honored device. The post I created the link to shows the same device used in both a Metcalf and a Hibbard. That puts it into three successive generations of wildly different landscape painters. The rising diagonal line in this painting is crossed by another diagonal going the other way that is smaller. The foreground is a sort of a big X as a result.
ALL OF THIS IS DESIGNED RATHER THAN OBSERVED INTO THE PAINTING!
It feels good to throw one of those capitalized "important" sentences in, I haven't done it in a while. I think it is really important to stress over and over that artists like Inness are not "painting the day", or just copying that which is in front of them. They are making slightly concealed, intelligent arrangements, sort of armatures on which they hang their paintings.
Inness has also counterchanged that big foreground tree against its background. It is bright against the dark shadow that runs behind it, and then stands proud of its light background because of the shadow side it bears as it rises.
Here is another Italian picture from the same era, and again it has those little incidents scattered artistically about its surface. There are also the counterchange games going on here too. (If you need to backtrack and read about counterchange go here). See the little tree in the foreground again standing bright in front of that shadow behind it?It is counterchanged against the bright green above that with its color. The background being green and the tree red.
There is also a sort of strange symmetry going on with the bright ruined arched bridge in the foreground, mirrored by the bark group if trees above it in the same position. They are mirror images of one another separated equally by that band of dark that runs across the middle of the painting.
- This image is REALLY strange. It is so mysterious, almost creepy. Squint at it to eliminate its details and notice the absolutely bizarre arrangement of its shapes. Notice also how Inness "sews" the little monks head to the wall above him. There is a pleasing balance of the horizontals formed by the plane trees and the forms of the ground with the uprights of the tree trunks decoratively arranged across a band upper part of the picture. Those on the left are dark in front of the light sky, for two thirds of the way across, then those on the right third are light against a dark background. In the foreground below each section a mirror image is happening. Below the upper section of dark trees against a light sky is a section of light tree trunks against a dark background. Below the area of light trunks against dark foliage above, the lower band has dark branches in front of a light background.
Well that's it for tonight. See you tomorrow!