Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Inness in Medfield and the Barbizon school and the Hudson river school contrasted.
Inness lived in and visited many places. In 1860 Inness moved from New York to Medfield Massachusetts. Medfield was then a quiet rural village surrounded by open fields, woodlands, and rolling hills. It is of course now a part of the grsater Boston sprawl and irt is now very proud to list in its town website that Charles Innes (sic) once lived there. It is always amazing to me how foreign art is to most people, even supposedly educated people.No one who proofread this text or evidently anyone else in the greater Medfield pantheon of civic officers knew either Inness's first name or the correct spelling of his last name. Curt Schilling lives there today, they got his name right of course.
Prior to this time Inness made some great paintings, like the Lackawanna Railroad picture. But his output had been mixed and many of the pictures prior to this time were uneven. But now Inness becomes a mature and confidant artist. The painting above of the broad fields of Medfield
is as fine as anything made by any American painter. That sky is a tour de force, and he has developed his "take"on the Barbizon style. He is now , in my opinion Americas finest landscape painter. His breadth of handling makes the Hudson River school paintings of a generation before seem a little primitive.I absolutely love Hudson River school painting, but I think Inness is, at this point, operating at an artistic level far above any of them. The American art appreciating public of the day agreed, and artists like Bierstadt and Church were rapidly forgotten, and died in obscurity. Upon the death of Albert Bierstadt in 1902 a critic famously remarked "I had no idea he was still alive!"
This is a really great Inness. Again from the Medfield period. All of the detail is now subordinated to the larger shapes and the painting is an arrangement of shapes and colors intended to arouse an emotional response in us. I have been talking so much about Barbizon style paintings that I think I had better show a few. Below is a Theodore Rousseau, not to be confused with the later Henri Rousseau who painted the jungle scenes in a primitive style a generation later. This painting is arranged rather than observed. It is a synthetic landscape not a topographical image. Rousseau did not "paint the day".
Below is a Camille Corot.
Notice the minimal detail in those trees , I think by way of illustration I will throw a Hudson River school painting in here so you can see the difference between the two approaches.
Thats a Bierstadt above, and below is a Church. Look at the difference in the detailed Hudson river school paintings and the simplified broader look of the Inness paintings and the Corot.
images from artrenewal.org and athenaeum.org