Monday, September 7, 2009

Luminism and tonalism contrasted, also baby goats

I met these young goats the other day on a farm in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire and was quite taken with them. In keeping with my ongoing policy of featuring baby animals, they are included in this evenings post.

I was asked in the comments to explain the terms Luminism and Tonalism. I will begin with the earlier form, luminism (my spell check always suggests Leninism when I write that). Here is a luminist painting below by Martin Johnson Heade.

and here is another by Samuel Coleman.

Luminism is a term that is used to describe the work of the second generation of Hudson River school painters. So we are talking about an era just before and after the civil war. Luminist painting is characterized by a stillness, a fascination with the effects of light, often at sunset, large dramatic or sublime vistas often of exceptional scenery, rendered in extraordinary detail with an invisible brushstroke that disguises the hand of the artist. Often the sun is within the painting, causing everything to be backlit. If the sun is placed inside a painting it will glow, as the light seems to shine from it.

Below is a tonalist painting by R. Swain Gifford,

and another by Inness

Tonalism is the American school of painting that replaced Luminism. Influenced by the Barbizon painters, (more about them here) the tonalist painters were almost the opposite of the luminist painters

Tonalist paintings are usually shot through with a single pervasive color, of no particular place, have visible and rough brushwork, and are heavily designed or invented rather than made from careful observation of some actual place.

Where luminist painting is often concerned with clarity and infinite detail, tonalism is usually broadly painted and often has lots of murky and mysterious areas.Tonalism is only being rediscovered now, there are few references on the subject and compared to the well known Luminist painters like Fitz H. Lane or Sanford Gifford , artists like Bruce Crane and Henry Ward Ranger are pretty obscure.

I will return to the tonalist painters soon, however in order to do it I am going to have to scan things from my clipping files. There just isn't enough accessible material I can find on the net. See you all tomorrow.

images from and


Gregory Becker said...

Thanks Stape, the chickens isn't that big of a disappointment because my wife's aunt owns a farm and has tons of chickens and she's been hinting that she wants it so I'm sending it to her.
When ever I do a search on tonalism I get mostly Inness results and I love Inness but how do you find these obscure artists out of the same movement? They are interesting enough and yet difficult to find. I've never heard of Bruce Crane and Henry Ward Ranger. The tonalists are my favorite and I want to find more on those artists.

Philip Koch said...

Ah, morning coffee and Stape's latest selections- life is good!

What's so fun about this is you don't know ahead of time what painters he's going to throw at you. A delight to see work from the less well known artists. I am convinced that much of the best stuff often remains unseen or little seen- and often this blog does a little something to help remedy that.

P.S. Those goat look like confirmed Tonalists.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the clarification.

Cigar coming your way...

Stapleton Kearns said...

IU think over the nexxt few years books will become available. There is now material on Charles Warren Eaton, and also Dwight Tryon. There is some obscure European stuff on their equivalent movements, which like impressionism became a world movement.
Their is surprisingly little on the net though.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I expect that there is all kind of great stuff tucked away in the basements of American museums unseen for generations. There will be a great retrospective and return to popularity soon I expect.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you,I am laying down in the driveway quietly awaiting the delivery of my cigar.

Philip Koch said...

Now R. Swain Gifford I don't know at all. Is he related to Sanford Gifford"

Unknown said...

Thanks for taking the time to define the differences. I can usually recognize, to some limited degree anyway, a tonalist painting, and sometimes can even figure out the luminist, but this has been a very helpful description and will provoke further study.
There is so much good art out there, and I have to say that 90% of what I see produced today seems to be thrown together and not composed and orchestrated like these older works. Sort of rushed, and simplified. ( Not yours, of course.)
I may be taking the dog and the truck up north to the White Mtns. for a few days if the weather is good. I might even visit Profile Lake (made even more famous by your recent painting).
"evitest" the most evit ever.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I dont believe so.I am certain he is not related to Gifford Beale, am not sure about Kathy Lee..........

Stapleton Kearns said...

was there again the other day and as I was leaving another artist I know was coming in with a camera.You may have to have a reservsation'.

evitest= cross between effete and elitist,often used to describe academics, celebrity opinionistas, and senators..