Friday, June 19, 2009

More John Carlson images

There's a spring painting by John Carlson.

I will begin the blog tonight by acknowledging the passing of a great American artist and teacher, Frank Mason 1921- June 16th 2009. Frank Mason was a legendary teacher at the Art Students League in New York city and was the primary exponent of the Frank Riley- Frank Vincent Dumond school of painting. He taught the use of a prepared palette and the use of Marogers medium. I never met Frank Mason, but I have known many of his students. Mason was one of those places that real artists came from, like Hensche and Gammell and a few others, he had the ability to give young men and women the information and the guidance necessary for them to grow into professional artists. Few men in American history have taught more people to paint than Frank Mason. He began teaching at the League a year before I was born, in 1951 and retired last year.

I have known many artists of that generation because of my time in Rockport including several students of Frank Vincent Dumond. I have watched all of them pass away, save one. I wrote a post sometime back about that called some things I have seen. When I was young I did value the old guys and was always delighted when I was allowed to tag along. Painting is a multi generational affair and there are a lot of times I have been painting with an artist in his 20's on one side, and an artist in his 70's or even 80's on the other.

I am going to paste a succession of Carlson paintings up. For some of you they will seem a little repetitive, but for those of us who have studied Carlson they will be fascinating. I beg your indulgence. Even among artists who have loved Carlson for years, very few have every seen this many, they are hard to find and rarely seen. I am proud to be able to present them here. I would again, like to thank their anonymous donor, who for the sake of continuity I shall refer to as.......Linda.

I think these paintings are strongly effected by the Prussian blue that Carlson used. That's what artists used before Thalo blue. It is a greenish blue with a lot of pigmenting strength. Put it in a a painting and you get that 1920"s look. The sky in the painting below has the Prussian blue color and I think it is laced through all his shadows. Depending on its' quality, Prussian is impermanent. These pictures look OK to me though.

One of you asked what Carlson did in the summer as there are so many snow paintings? Carlson made small sketches outside and turned those into finished large paintings in the studio. So this picture could conceivably have been made in August. We are so used to the idea of plein air one shot paintings today. Most of the impressionist painters I idolize were not "premier coup" painters. Some made one shot studies but there are very few one shot paintings in the museums.

There are "green Carlsons, as you saw at the top of the page . There are also nocturnes and city scenes which I like. There is a particularly good one in the book. It has a bridge in the background. A number of years ago I saw a study for that for sale, it was more than I could afford, but by fine art standards it was reasonable.

In the 20's to the present, artists have traveled to paint in Jefforsonville Vermont. It is a place I have painted many times and I have always day dreamed of moving there. Its a real good place to paint. You will be welcomed by the Mary and Alden Bryan memorial gallery there. That is a small museum that has, as part of its purpose showing the paintings of the artists who go there to work.
In the 20's and the 30's the group that regularly met in the winter at Jefforsonville contained John Carlson, Emile Gruppe, Aldro Hibbard, Tom Curtin, Chauncy Rider, Alden Bryan , Loring Coleman and others .

Of all those painters, only one is alive today. Loring Coleman. I saw Loring last year in a gallery in Acton, Massachusetts and knowing this bit of history i asked him to tell me about it. What he told me was this, He would ship his equipment to Jefforsonville on the train and then drive his big Indian motorcycle up. He must heve been a lot younger than the others. He related that in the evening at the inn there wasn't much to do after eating dinner. There was no television then, so they would talk late into the night and entertain one another. One thing they would do was listen to John Carlson sing. He evidently had a beautiful voice. That all seems so different than today.

Above is a picture of Gloucester harbor. Carlson and Emile Gruppe ran a painting school there together for several years and I think this picture may date from that era. I used to paint that building on the right. This was painted next to the present location of the Gloucester House restaurant. The old wharf burned about 10 years ago and all of those wooden draggers are gone. Pretty much all of the old Gloucester waterfront is now gone. The last of the Eastern rig draggers was the Vincie N. I painted it the last time with C.W. Mundy. The Vincie N. looked just like the ones in this picture except it was 120 feet long. It was built in the 1920's

I wanted to stress something you have heard me say before, if you have routinely been following this blog.


Carlson did not carefully copy nature in front of him and end up with all of those lovely and unique shapes. He had to invent them. He would observe, think and then decide what the painting should look like. If you want to make original paintings of artistic value, you will need to do more than just copy that which is before you.

There are enough Carlson paintings for another night, maybe two. Then I will be on to something else. I have a series of posts that I want to do that are more" how- to", about separating the light and the shadow in different ways. However doing those posts will require me to make some little demo illustrations and I am working to get a 30 by 40 out of the studio for a gallery that needs it.
This is getting to be the busy half of my year. Before the current recession I used to say," the first half of the year I can't give them away, The second half, can't keep up".


armandcabrera said...


When I lived in California I would go to John Pence Gallery in San Francisco to look at the two Carlson’s they had. It is a great big gallery and you had to be buzzed in. Anyway they were always very nice when a group of us would show up and they would take us in the back to see the paintings. I think one was 'The Templed Hills' and it was big and the color was exquisite and the design was so beautiful, as nature should be. It was a snow scene looking across a valley with this glowing warm light.
The other was one of the forest interiors I think from the book and it was even larger, maybe 50x60 and the bare gray trees were painted with this heavy impasto of blues and pinks and greens of the same value but when you stepped back from it the trees were gray. It seemed like magic and I never tired of looking at it.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing these Carlson images. It is such a rare treat to see them in color. And thanks for the time you take to write this blog and respond to all the comments.

ozessess: a strange fascination with painting scarecrows, witches, tin men and cowardly lions.

Bob Carter said...

I tried to post something on this yesterday, but it seems to have been lost in cyberspace. What I said, and would say again, is "wow". These Carlson images are a treasure trove. I'm saving them to a special folder on my computer for future reference and will probably burn a CD just to be safe.
Your comments on Carlson's design reminded me of a point Gruppe made about his tree paintings. Gruppe said that Carlson often contradicted the facts of nature. He noted that Carlson deliberately painted trees closer together than they could possibly survive in nature to emphasize the profound dignity of the forest. Most of these images illustrate that and are great examples of your point about installing design in a painting. Thanks for posting these, and as always thanks so much for this blog.

Maree Clarkson said...

Truly lovely paintings. discovered your blog through Mary Byrom.

jeff said...

As you know I was one of Frank Mason's students. He was an great painter and teacher who had this ability to transform not only how one painted but perceptions of what a painting is supposed to be, ones vision. Like Carson he was big on you learning to use nature to compose, and to design a good picture.

He would get on you if after a few weeks of painting in Vermont(he took his class up to the Stowe area for a month in June) if you were still trying to copy nature and not getting it as he would say.

The DuMond palette that we used was designed to help us see the violet/gray control and values and so on.

Frank Mason was also an excellent pianist and I remember at parties that he held in his studio or in Vermont he would always play some Beethoven or Bach or something he wrote. He would hold court and regal people with stories about his past and DuMond. He had this huge infectious laugh and was a big man who would command the presence of any room he entered.

He will be missed.

Anyone interested there will be a funeral on Saturday, June 27 at 11 A.M. at the Grace Cathedral
802 Broadway (corner of 10th)
New York , NY

The Salmagundi Club is also having an open gathering at from 12PM to 3PM on Saturday June 27 to honor him as well.

Unknown said...

Between Carlson's voice and Hibbard's card tricks, everyone was probably well entertained. As you guessed, I am reading the Hibbard book. I will give you my opinion when I finish it.

Thanks agin for sharing these images. Having just read Carlson's book, they are invaluable.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will talk briefly tomight abpout my own experience seeing some.Glads dto see you are still out there.Check out Armand's blog at
always something to learn over there. Armand is a professional landscape painter living in Virginia.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deb; You are welcome: here I am again pecking away.
ozessess, is ssessezo backwards as in because I ssessezo, thats why!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bob: Gruppe both studied with and
cotaught with Carlson. There are some early Gruppes that look a whole lot like Carlson, done really, really fast.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jeff: You werwe lucky to have studied with him. You musty try to remember all you can and write it down someday. I intend to do more of that on Gammell. I won't be the authoritative voice by any means, but someday it may be useful to someone doing that book.I think one thing we can do to pay back our teachers is to preserve their memory.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The important thing about the Hibbard book is that it exists. It was written by one of his friends and it is not a great piece of writing, but it is full of some good stories and it does have pictures. It is the only book available and was long out of print.The back has a few pages of noted taken down by some of his students that are interesting. As I have said I idolize Hibbard and have hunted down some of his painting sites and helped stage a massive show of his art some years ago,