Tag Archives: American Artists

#FineArtFriday: Autumn On Greenwood Lake – two landscapes by Jasper Francis Cropsey

Jasper Francis Cropsey created many paintings of Greenwood Lake, a freshwater lake on the border between New York State and New Jersey, beginning in 1843. Over the next few decades, Cropsey painted numerous scenes of the area, many from the same viewpoint on the lake as today’s featured paintings, each with varying intensities of color.

What I love about these two paintings, done years apart, is  difference in the quality of  the light. One is done in an early autumn, the other later in the season. The subject matter is similar, cows drinking at waters edge, fishers and their rowboat, but the trees are different, more mature in the second, and it is later in the evening.

Clearly, this was a place that was beloved by the artist, as he returned year after year, and made many landscapes of this beach and the surrounding area.

About the artist (Via Wikipedia):

Jasper Francis Cropsey (February 18, 1823 – June 22, 1900) was an important American landscape artist of the Hudson River School. He was best known for his lavish use of color and, as a first-generation member from the Hudson River School, painted autumn landscapes that startled viewers with their boldness and brilliance. As an artist, he believed landscapes were the highest art form and that nature was a direct manifestation of God. He also felt a patriotic affiliation with nature and saw his paintings as depicting the rugged and unspoiled qualities of America.

Jasper Cropsey died in anonymity but was rediscovered by galleries and collectors in the 1960s.


Credits and Attributions:

Autumn on Greenwood Lake, ca. 1861, by Jasper Francis Cropsey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Autumn in America, by Jasper Francis Cropsey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Jasper Francis Cropsey,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jasper_Francis_Cropsey&oldid=842742891 (accessed October 19, 2018).

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The Catskills, by Asher Brown Durand 1858

Quote from Wikimedia Commons on The Catskills: This painting was commissioned by William T. Walters in 1858, when the 62-year-old Durand was at the height of his fame and technical skill. The vertical format of the composition was a trademark of the artist, allowing him to exploit the grandeur of the sycamore trees as a means of framing the expansive landscape beyond. Durand’s approach to the “sublime landscape” was modeled on that of Thomas Cole (1801-48), founder of the Hudson River school of painting. The painters of this school explored the countryside of the eastern United States, particularly the Adirondack Mountains and the Catskills. Their paintings often reflect the Transcendental philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), who believed that all of nature bore testimony to a spiritual truth that could be understood through personal intuition.

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Quote from Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge): Asher Brown Durand is remembered particularly for his detailed portrayals of trees, rocks, and foliage. He was an advocate for drawing directly from nature with as much realism as possible. Durand wrote, “Let [the artist] scrupulously accept whatever [nature] presents him until he shall, in a degree, have become intimate with her infinity…never let him profane her sacredness by a willful departure from truth.”

Like other Hudson River School artists, Durand also believed that nature was an ineffable manifestation of God. He expressed this sentiment and his general opinions on art in his essay “Letters on Landscape Painting” in The Crayon, a mid-19th century New York art periodical. Wrote Durand, “[T]he true province of Landscape Art is the representation of the work of God in the visible creation…”

I grew up in a forested place, not unlike that depicted here. That sentiment has endeared this style of art to me. I have become attached to the modern fantasy painters, those modern artists like Michael Whelan and the late Darrell K. Sweet, who paint images in this style for fantasy novels and RPG games. Their style is called Imaginative Realism.

What strikes me the most about this particular painting is not only the attention to detail, but the fairy-tale quality of Durand’s vision of realism. Viewed as a whole, this composition has an otherworldly quality to it, almost as if Elrond or Galadriel lurk just out of view, beyond the edges.


Credits and Attributions

Wikipedia contributors, “Asher Brown Durand,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Asher_Brown_Durand&oldid=845716778 (accessed June 14, 2018).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Asher Brown Durand – The Catskills – Walters 37122.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Asher_Brown_Durand_-_The_Catskills_-_Walters_37122.jpg&oldid=164572034 (accessed June 14, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: After the Hurricane, Bahamas by Winslow Homer

After the Hurricane, Bahamas is a watercolor painting by the American artist, Winslow Homer. It shows a man washed up on the beach after a storm, surrounded by the fragments of his shattered boat. The wreckage of the boat gives evidence of the severity of the powerful hurricane, which is retreating. Black clouds still billow but recede into the distance, and sunlight has begun to filter through the clouds.

The man may have lost his boat, but he has survived.

I love the way the whitecaps are depicted, and the colors of the sea are true to the way the ocean looks after a severe storm. Winslow Homer’s watercolor seascapes are especially intriguing to me as they are extremely dramatic and forceful expressions of nature’s power. The beauty and intensity of Homer’s vision of “ocean” are unmatched—in my opinion his seascapes are alive in a way few other artists can match.

This painting was done in 1899 and marked the end of Homer’s watercolor series depicting man against nature. That series was begun with Shark Fishing in 1885, the year he first visited the Caribbean and is comprised of at least six known paintings. The most famous of these watercolor paintings is The Gulf Stream, which was also painted in 1899. After the Hurricane, Bahamas is the last of the series.


Credits and Attributions:

After the Hurricane, Bahamas by Winslow Homer, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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#FineArtFriday: A Back Road, by Childe Hassam

If you want to know what a road looked like to travelers before the advent of blacktop and concrete made the modern freeways and highways possible, turn to art. The above painting by Frederick Childe Hassam, shows what a good road looked like.  It goes across the land, cut into the earth by the travelers who use it. Along the better roads, such as this one, ditches were dug to enable drainage.

No bridge crosses the small creek–travelers must cross the water on foot or in the wagon. In winter it becomes a mushy, muddy track, and in summer it’s sun baked and hard. In spring, the grass grows green, making it a pleasant place.

A Back Road (1884) was painted in his early years, while Hassam was still influenced by the works of William Morris Hunt, who like the great French landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, emphasized the Barbizon tradition of working directly from nature.

From Wikipedia: In 1885, a noted critic, in part responding to Hassam’s early oil painting A Back Road (1884), stated that “the Boston taste for landscape painting, founded on this sound French school, is the one vital, positive, productive, and distinctive tendency among our artists today…the truth is poetry enough for these radicals of the new school. It is a healthy, manly muscular kind of art.”

I like the composition of this piece, the way the land is larger than the sky. The grass feels damp and the clouds herald more spring rain–this painting has life.

In his later years, Hassam moved away from realism and became known as one of the best of the American impressionists.


Credits and Attributions:

A Back Road, Childe Hassam 1884 [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Childe Hassam,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Childe_Hassam&oldid=831999910 (accessed April 6, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Albert Bierstadt, The Rocky Mountains, Landers Peak 1860

When I sit down to write, my work is usually fiction. Even so, I want my work to have authenticity, although I might never have experienced what I am writing about. Whether a piece is set in an alternate world, or in this one, or if it is in the past, present, or future, a source of visual information you can use to fire your imagination exists on the internet–Wikimedia Commons.

For example, today’s image is a landscape painting by Albert Bierstadt, an American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West.  This painting shows what tribal life after a successful hunt might be like, and if you are writing about any group of people who hunt or gather food, this particular painting contain a wealth of historically accurate visual information. He painted what he saw. In all of Bierstadt’s work, you will find a world that existed 150 years ago, complete with children playing and dogs barking.

Wikipedia has this to say about the painter:

Born in Germany, Bierstadt was brought to the United States at the age of one by his parents. He later returned to study painting for several years in Düsseldorf. He became part of the Hudson River School in New York, an informal group of like-minded painters who started painting along the Hudson River. Their style was based on carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism. An important interpreter of the western landscape, Bierstadt, along with Thomas Moran, is also grouped with the Rocky Mountain School.

The life of the American West of the 19th century can be directly translated into a science fiction novel, or a fantasy novel–because the elements of hunting and gathering remain the same no matter what world you set it in. A great many people were involved in taking down a few animals–two antelope, one mountain sheep, and one bear. Hunts of this nature, even with modern weapons, are difficult and fraught with danger. For this reason, the take from this hunt will supply the entire camp of perhaps 100 people for one or two weeks., so foraging for roots, berries, and greens was an important task, as was fishing.

In this painting, you see how the tribe’s homes were constructed, and how the camp was laid out–the butchering party is well away from the rest of the camp, which is on the banks of a river. Everything that was important to the lives of these people is laid out in detail, exactly how it was the day the artist set up his easel in the wilderness and began painting.

Go to history for your world building, and go to art for your history. Don’t be afraid to ‘waste time’ looking at paintings and examining them for minute details, because your imagination will run with it, and your work will have a sense of realism.


Wikipedia contributors, “Albert Bierstadt,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Albert_Bierstadt&oldid=793302910 (accessed August 11, 2017).

The Rocky Mountains, Landers Peak; Albert Bierstadt 1863 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAlbert_Bierstadt_-_The_Rocky_Mountains%2C_Lander’s_Peak.jpg, accessed August-11-2017.

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