Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Dutch comparison

Both images on this page are provided by the website. They are an enormous help to me and much of this blog has been made possible by their images and I am indebted to them. Check them out, their website is listed in my side bar and they have an enormous online museum that is where almost all of the historical images on this blog originate. Here we have to the left another Jan Van Goyen. Below and on the right is a painting by Asher B. Durand,an American , who was one of the earliest of the Hudson river sch00l painters.

The Hudson river school is as you probably know where American landscape painting begins. Prior to this most of the American painters were portrait artists or made historical scenes. Like the Dutch, America had a growing mercantile class that wanted pictures of a different sort than the aristocracy in other countries.

Durand and the other artists of his generation knew Dutch painting but largely from engravings, the way that they saw most painting. It is strange to think that we know so many more paintings than these men because of the good reproductions available today. The artists of earlier eras knew far fewer works than we do and most of those through engravings which barely convey the appearance of the real paintings.

Look at the similarities of the two paintings. The way the two are arranged is very similar. Note how Van Goyen balances the big tree on the right with the small boat on the lower left. Durand uses the same device but in his picture it is a rock outcropping balancing his grouping of trees. I should point out that both L shaped designs owe a lot to Claude Lorain but that is for another of my posts to cover.

Both images are full of carefully rendered passages for the viewer to explore. Both reveal a sort of homey domesticity and peaceful enjoyment of the tamed natural world. Neither is full of crumbling ancient ruins or idyllic shepherds, mythological heroes or courtly hunting parties like the art of the aristocratic patrons who bought most of the art in other societies.

The Durand is more colored because he had available to him more pigments than the Van Goyen did a hundred years prior. If you took the more naturalistic colors out of the Durand and presented it only in the brown gravy colors of Dutch painting it would be hard for the casual observer to know that they were from different nations and times.

Both of these paintings were made in the studio from drawings made on location and assembled into idealized scenes that usually represent a combination of different places rather than, a single actual place. Their light is conventionalized and warm.


1 comment:

jjwoodee said...

Your post is an ever reminder that as we paint, we must always have an awareness of design and what we change in our picture to make it better. There is a liberation of spirit when we reach a level in artistic growth that we no longer have to be slaves to every detail or shape in front of us.