I've been reading a book about the Hudson River School. I have an abiding love of American painting in all it's forms to the tune of shelling out for a subscription to "American Art Review". It comes in a cardboard box so the cover won't get dinged. My first issue was a bit of a pity party because the first thing I did, before I read so much as a page, was put it on my coffee table. One of my offspring spilled a whole glass of water on it and didn't tell me. The damage was mostly in the back. I took it out to the yard to dry and resigned myself to unsticking pages as needed with my imaginary library knife, though I barely got through the first quarter before I spilled a whole glass of red wine on the front. Better luck next time.
The book is doing better. I bought it because I became curious about these painters during my trip to New York State. As I watched the Adirondacks go by, I thought a lot about the rules of landscape all that blue into blue to bluer receding to the horizon. And how Picasso was right, "...you'll never find that green."
But the rules of landscape then were a lot different than they are now, for beyond the matter of replication of sight and feeling was also that a Victorian landscape was freighted by the requirement of edification. And this was so even in the New World.
From Different Views in Hudson River School Painting by Judith Hansen O'Toole
"What may at first seem paradoxical to the continually changing conditions of nature is the relative constancy of individual elements that together constitute her features: trees, mountains, lakes, rivers, sky, clouds and so on. These elements had been witnessed, observed, and documented by artists for centuries.
Though the contemporary reader is surely aware of this continuum, we are less likely than our 19th century counterparts to consider its symbolic meaning ad to recognize constants represented by allegorical interpretations of nature. In part, this is an effect of our concept of time, which is linear and focused primarily on the present.
The Hudson River School painters emerged from ...the long and distinguished tradition of landscape painting that had preceded them. They were fully cognizant of the historical use of certain symbols in nature to express underlying, pivotal ideas. The iconographical codes, some established as far back as the 16th century, created a well-recognized and observed practice of transferring meaning through landscape painting."
The passage goes on to state how the artists of the Hudson River School added to this language from elements specific to the American landscape. Deer = wilderness and innocence. Cow=cultivated land, all of which could be read like Mongolian embroidery. Food for though that indeed, the past is another world.
caught my attention for how it reminded me of my complete inability to handle a similar subject.
This is not the exact image that brought me to downfall but it is one of my favourites of the many.
Why couldn't this particular child of the present handle the subject? It is full of opportunities to try something new. It's a chance to try composing with people. Though if I made another attempt I'd definitely cut the green way back. The older example offers excellent advice on how. I think the biggest problem was perhaps, the iconogoraphical codes I was reading unawares. It's the fear of sugar shacks and horses. I've seen enough of those paintings looking back at me from gallery windows and I loathe them. Is there a way to take it back? Maybe I can find out how to do that by looking to the past.
And reading about light is never a bad afternoon anyway.
This is what I'm working on now.