- Title: A View of a Lake in the Mountains
- Artist: George Caleb Bingham
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Date: between circa 1856 and circa 1859
- Dimensions: Height: 53.9 cm (21.2 ″); Width: 76.5 cm (30.1 ″)
- Current Location: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
What I love about this picture:
This scene depicts an hour of utter serenity in the turbulent life of the artist. The late afternoon sunlight falls gently on the rocky path above the calm waters. Shadows fall in all the right places but don’t darken the moment. There is a dreamlike quality to the day, as if the artist painted his deepest wish. This is a pleasant, restful painting.
About the Artist, via Wikipedia:
George Caleb Bingham (March 20, 1811 – July 7, 1879) was an American artist, soldier and politician known in his lifetime as “the Missouri Artist”. Initially a Whig, he was elected as a delegate to the Missouri legislature before the American Civil War where he fought the extension of slavery westward. During that war, although born in Virginia, Bingham was dedicated to the Union cause and became captain of a volunteer company which helped keep the state from joining the Confederacy, and then served four years as Missouri’s Treasurer. During his final years, Bingham held several offices in Kansas City, as well as became Missouri’s as Adjutant General. His paintings of American frontier life along the Missouri River exemplify the Luminist style.
Bingham ran for election as a Whig to the Missouri House of Representatives the following year. He appeared to have won in 1846 by 3 votes but lost in a recount. In a reprise of the election in 1848, Bingham won the seat by a decisive margin, becoming one of the few artists to serve in elected political office. He actively opposed the pro-slavery “Jackson resolutions” in 1849, although their proponent was also a resident of Saline County. He would also represent Missouri’s eighth district at the Whig National Convention in June 1852. Bingham’s political interests would be reflected in his vivid paintings of frontier political life.
About the Luminist style, via Wikipedia:
Luminism is an American landscape painting style of the 1850s to 1870s, characterized by effects of light in landscape, through the use of aerial perspective and the concealment of visible brushstrokes. Luminist landscapes emphasize tranquility, and often depict calm, reflective water and a soft, hazy sky.
As defined by art historian Barbara Novak, luminist artworks tend to stress the horizontal, and demonstrate the artist’s close control of structure, tone, and light. The light is generally cool, hard, and non-diffuse; “soft, atmospheric, painterly light is not luminist light”. Brushstrokes are concealed in such a way that the painter’s personality is minimized. Luminist paintings tend not to be large so as to maintain a sense of timeless intimacy. The picture surface or plane is emphasized in a manner sometimes seen in primitivism. These qualities are present in different amounts depending on the artist, and within a work.
Luminism has also been considered to represent a contemplative perception of nature.
Novak states that luminism, of all American art, is most closely associated with transcendentalism. The definitional difficulties have contributed to over-use of the term.
The artists who painted in this style did not refer to their own work as “luminism”, nor did they articulate any common aesthetic philosophy outside of the guiding principles of the Hudson River School.
Credits and Attributions:
A View of a Lake in the Mountains by George Caleb Bingham, via Wikimedia Commons. Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain].
Wikipedia contributors, “George Caleb Bingham,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=George_Caleb_Bingham&oldid=900386053 (accessed June 6, 2019).
Wikipedia contributors, “Luminism (American art style),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Luminism_(American_art_style)&oldid=886912140 (accessed June 6, 2019).