Skip to main content

Full text of "Landscape and figure painters of America"

See other formats

aSS"H;:SS;:" : ' ; 7'3 








Copyright, 1917 


Frederic Fairchild Sherman 




The Landscape of Homer Dodge Martin .... 3 

Robert Loftin Newman: An American Colorist . 13 

Blakelock's Smaller Landscapes and Figure-Pieces 23 

Some Paintings by Albert Pinkham Ryder ... 33 

An American Painter of the Nude ...... 43 

Elliott Daingerfield 51 

Landscape Painting 

Nature and Art 61 

Paint and Personality 64 

The Real and the Unreal 67 



Normandy Trees Frontispiece 


The Lily Pond 4 

The Lone Tree 4 

The Sun Worshippers 6 


The Wandering Mind . . 14 

Mother and Child 16 

Magdalen 18 

Girl Blowing Bubbles 20 


Indian Madonna 24 

Going to the Spring 24 

Moonrise 26 

On the Plains 28 

The Woodland Road 28 


The Sheepfold 34 

The Forest of Arden 34 

Noli Me Tangere 36 

Pegasus 38 



The Fount of Life 44 

The Mountain Stream 46 

The Sun Maiden 46 

Sunlit Dell 46 


An Arcadian Huntress 52 

The Waters of Oblivion 54 

The City that Never Was 56 

Sunset — Mists and Shadows 56 


Blown Away 62 


Sketch 64 


Dawn 66 


Indian Summer 68 




THE work of no American painter of landscape 
more certainly requires an intimate acquaint- 
ance for its full enjoyment or more fully repays one 
for a painstaking study of its various manifestations 
than that of Homer Dodge Martin. Inness, who 
was unquestionably a greater master, in all the wide 
range of his product never but once or twice touches 
one so nearly. Wyant, who was more closely akin 
temperamentally, touches one oftener though never 
so nearly nor so deeply. His was also a poetic in- 
terpretation of nature notable for its refinement in 
the same sense as Martin's; his vision, however, was 
much more limited than either Martin's or Inness's 
and he was obviously incapable of developing the 
larger aspects of a theme as they did. 

Wyant and Martin were both poets in landscape; 
Wyant is lyrical, Martin epic in his product. One 
may prefer the one or the other, but of relative value 


of the work of the two there can be no reasonable 
difference of opinion. Inness and Wyant, the 
former in a large and the latter in a smaller way, 
are both emotional painters. Martin is consciously 
intellectual. He selected his subjects with so com- 
prehensive a knowledge of their adaptability to his 
needs and with so delicate an appreciation of their 
possibilities for the expression of his moods that 
one of his closest friends once said that his finest 
canvases looked as if no one but God and he had 
ever seen the places pictured. Wyant and Inness 
painted more nearly whatever happened to excite 
their emotion. That the emotions of the latter 
were of many kinds and those of the former of but 
few explains the variety in the product of the one 
that is lacking in that of the other. Wyant's paint- 
ings are full of sentiment of a very exquisite sort, 
tender but too serious ever to even approach sen- 
timentality. Inness's are charged with much 
stronger feeling but seldom so finely felt if invaria- 
bly more ably expressed. Indeed, both Wyant and 
Martin express more successfully the rarer as- 
pects of nature and Inness's pre-eminence rests upon 
the variety of his achievement and the high average 
of its excellence rather than upon any superior 
ability in the matter of expression. Inness is too 
fully engrossed in the reproduction of the actual 
appearances of things to bother with their spiritual 


Homer D. Martin: The Lily Fond 

Collection of Frederic Fairchild Sherman 

■-*~*****., - 

Homer D. Martin: The Lone Tree 

Montclair Museum of Art 

significance, so that, however masterly his pictures 
of peace or of storm, the full meaning of the scene 
is seldom felt in his rendering of it. Martin on the 
other hand never fails to make one keenly conscious 
of the loneliness and utter desolation of certain 
places nor Wyant of the pensive charm of others. 
In Inness we admire a wonderful faculty for the 
presentation, in a large way and with unsurpassed 
truth, of nature in her many moods, while in Mar- 
tin and Wyant it is the expression of these varying 
moods through their interpretations of nature, a 
much more delicate and difficult accomplishment, 
that impresses us most forcibly. 

That you will find the figure in many of Inness's 
finest canvases, admirably placed and beautifully 
suggested, while it practically never appears in the 
pictures of Martin or Wyant, signifies nothing if 
not that Inness felt the need of it as they never did 
in the rendering of pure landscape. Wyant often 
introduced cattle and sheep in his compositions, but 
Martin practically never did and in the best of him 
one will find no living thing to divert howsoever 
slightly one's attention from whatever mood is ex- 
pressed or to detract in the least from the feelings 
it is sure to arouse. 

To Homer Martin the look of the land with its 
accompaniment of sky was sufficiently expressive 
to make the addition of anything extraneous unnec- 


essary to an adequate realization of the spirit of a 
place and a full rendering of its suggestion either 
of peace, loneliness, gladness, desolation or what- 
ever motive its particular aspect might embody. 
While it is true that he includes in some of his 
most important canvases a deserted house, an ivy- 
covered church, a light by the sea, it will be noted 
that they are very much a part of the landscape 
in every instance as well as expressive in them- 
selves of the very moods embodied in the scenes of 
which they are a part. Martin is at his best, how- 
ever, in such works as The Sun Worshippers, On- 
tario Sand Dunes, Westchester Hills, Adirondack 
Scenery, and the others that are landscapes pure 
and simple, in which is no visible evidence of man 
or of man's work. There are no finer interpreta- 
tions of the moods of nature in the whole of Ameri- 
can landscape art and their sentiment is inescapable. 
His range in the selection of subject is deliber- 
ately restricted as his interest was confined entirely 
to such themes as offered a satisfactory means for 
the expression of those moods of nature which cor- 
responded most nearly to his own, and of which 
his intimate understanding made him a masterly 
interpreter. He does not attempt difficult perfor- 
mances in oil painting to convince one of his 
mastery of the medium; in all his product nothing 
may be found that approaches the dramatic in ac- 



tion or intensity, but perhaps no landscape painter 
has ever expressed such depth of feeling as is evident 
in his finest works; and one will look far to find 
anything finer in the way of mere painting than 
certain pictures of his like The Harp of the Winds 
or The Sun Worshippers. 

One realizes in Martin's handling of a subject 
an unerring instinct for the inevitable evidenced in 
just such a proportionate sacrifice of unnecessary 
detail and personal viewpoint as emphasizes prop- 
erly its particular significance. In several of his 
subjects, of which there are variations executed at 
considerable intervals, such as the Sand Dunes, 
Lake Sanford and the Adirondack Scenery, which 
undoubtedly derives from the Headwaters of the 
Hudson, this process of elimination and refinement, 
the calculated cutting away of insistent trivialities 
and insistence upon the primitive and elemental 
meanings of the landscape, is patent. 

I think one may find, without great effort, sug- 
gestions in Martin's work of his predilection for 
poetry and music and his reaction to the best of 
both, for certainly if the Harp of the Winds is 
not musical you will find no music in landscape 
art any more than you will find poetry there if not 
in the Old Manor House. His Andante: Fifth 
Symphony, painted with the exquisite strain of that 
air ringing in his ears, is a notable evidence of his 


cultivated taste in music, the like of which is not to 
be found elsewhere in landscape painting, and it is 
surely not presumptuous to assume in other canvases 
intimations of poetic origin; at any rate, it is im- 
possible to look upon certain of his masterpieces 
without a new understanding of that love for the 
odes of Keats which led him sometimes to recite 
them, so truly do we feel the haunting melancholy 
of that immortal verse in his work. 

Not many artists among his contemporaries were 
equally cultivated, and it is interesting to note that 
La Farge, who was the most distinguished of those 
that were, was one of Martin's few friends. That 
the small talk of the studios had no interest for him 
is the only possible explanation of his lack of com- 
rades in them, for he was a man whom men es- 
pecially found lovable. I imagine much of the 
time his fellow artists spent together in the dis- 
cussion of the problems of oil painting Martin must 
have spent steeping himself in thoughts that are too 
deep for words, pondering the memories of half- 
forgotten airs or "soaking in" the beauty of some 
immortal verse, and this difference in the use to 
which he put his idle moments is plainly to be seen, 
I think, in the kind of thing one finds in his pic- 
tures — not fine painting for its own sake, spectac- 
ular scenery for the sake of effect, or dramatic skies; 
not improvisations in color nor interesting studies 


in chiaroscuro, but certain inescapable intimations 
of the important fact that "the poetry of earth is 
never dead." 




Richmond, Virginia, in 1827 an ^ went with 
his parents to Tennessee when he was eleven years 
old. His family must have been reasonably well- 
to-do people at the time, for it is recorded that as 
a youth he read a great deal about art. He prob- 
ably painted some, too, for when he was but twenty- 
three he went to Europe with the intention of study- 
ing at Diisseldorf. He stopped, however, in Paris 
instead, and entered the atelier of Thomas Couture, 
where he remained but a few months. This was all 
the instruction in art he ever received. After re- 
turning to his home in Tennessee he made a second 
trip to Paris in 1854, and it was then that he made 
the acquaintance of William M. Hunt, who in turn 
introduced the young artist to Millet. 

To Newman belongs the credit of having been 
one of the earliest to appreciate as well as one of 
the first to purchase Millet's work. He bought 
Le Vanneur and several other canvases, which he 
later sold, through necessity, certainly not from 


choice, as they must have been the most prized of 
his possessions, as one will infer from even a slight 
familiarity with Newman's own work, in which 
not a little of the sentiment as well as the best of 
the color reveals a remarkable sympathy with that 
which is inevitably associated with the art of the 
great Frenchman. This does not imply that New- 
man's painting is anything other than individual 
and delightful in its own way, which it certainly 
is, but in a measure it helps to indicate what ten- 
dencies determined the development of his art, 
what his ideals really were and how nearly he 
eventually succeeded in realizing them in his 

At the outbreak of the Civil War Newman was 
employed by the Confederate Government as a 
draughtsman and in 1864 he saw some active service 
as a member of the 16th Virginia Infantry. How 
true it is that he is exclusively an idealist and a 
painter of ideas, interested only in some personal 
and rare interpretation of religion, history or life, 
or some original creation of his own imagination, 
may be gathered from the fact that there is no 
record in his art of his ever having been to Paris 
nor yet of his ever having been a soldier. 

For years after the surrender of Lee left him free 
to return again to his easel he worked in a com- 
parative obscurity that we must presume was any- 

Robert Loftin Newman: The Wandering Mind 

Collection of the late Sir William Van Home, Montreal 

thing but unsatisfactory to one of his naturally re- 
tiring dispositions, especially as his pictures were 
highly esteemed by a few men and women of culti- 
vation and taste who quietly collected them during 
all this time. The interest and encouragement of 
such purchasers as came to take away his canvases, 
fellow craftsmen like Wyatt Eaton and William 
M. Chase, literary celebrities like Richard Watson 
Gilder, and connoisseurs like Sir William Van 
Home and Thomas B. Clarke must have meant in- 
finitely more to him than the popular approval of 
a general public that was satisfied with the land- 
scape of the Hudson River School and the figure 
paintings of J. G. Brown. 

Not until 1894, when he was sixty-seven years 
old, was any public exhibition of Newman's work 
ever held. At that time a collection of upward of 
a hundred of his paintings, mostly loaned for the 
occasion, was arranged by a committee of the artist's 
friends and hung in a New York gallery. That he 
was practically unknown at the time even in the 
city where he lived and worked is evident from the 
statement in the Evening Post's account of the exhi- 
bition, that "his works are never seen in the art gal- 
leries, nor yet in the sales which occur at frequent 
intervals." The Post and the Tribune, both of 
which reviewed the exhibition at length, speak 
highly of the artist particularly as a colorist, the 


latter, in mentioning a hunting scene and a religious 
subject, saying that "in pictures like these Mr. 
Newman is one of the haunting masters of color." 
From a report published in the Times about a week 
after these reviews appeared, we learn that the pic* 
tures "are finding favor with buyers," which prob- 
ably means that several were sold besides the one* 
which the newspaper report adds was purchased 
by the painter, Alexander Harrison. From the 
date of this exhibition, which was perhaps the great 
event in Newman's quiet life, until that March day 
in 191 2 when he was found dead in his studio in 
New York, he seemingly never again emerged from 
the utter obscurity in which he lived, and in his old 
age, as in his youth, it was the loyalty and help of a 
few true friends and discerning judges of painting 
that enabled him to purchase the necessities of a 
life of singular devotion to a fine ideal in art that 
has never been rightly estimated or properly ap- 

That Newman was a great colorist in the best 
sense is evident in all of his finished work, and few 
who are acquainted with it would agree, I think, 
with the critic who wrote that "you feel that his 
imaginative conceptions were arrested on their way 
into concrete images by a flow of light and color 
too bewitching to let the constructive faculty of the 
artist have free play," for certainly the "obscurity 


Robert Loftin Newman: Mother and Child 

in details," which this critic remarks, is nothing if 
not deliberate, a conscious sacrifice of definition 
in particulars for the perfect realization of that 
mysterious and poetic charm of color which is their 
chief delight. His color has a loveliness entirely 
due to spontaneous feeling, and in many of the pre- 
sumably so-called obscure canvases it is developed 
with all the loving and painstaking care that an- 
other artist might have lavished on the drawing of 
a figure, and simply because he realized that it was 
a surer means for the expression of what he had 
to say than any further development of the more 
obvious detail could be. In some of his canvases 
the very indefiniteness of the no less necessary de- 
tail is readily recognized as being a condition in- 
evitable to their success, inasmuch as their intention 
is the suggestion of some elusive sentiment or an 
expression of feeling rather than any actual repre- 
sentation of the reality of things, however lovely. 

In all his pictures it is the poetry of color and of 
life rather than the prose that one finds, and in the 
sense that poetry is the higher form of expression 
it may be said that he is a greater artist than some 
of his contemporaries who are unquestionably su- 
perior painters. However much of a poet New- 
man is, it is quite true that he is never the master of 
the poetry of art that Millet is of the prose. Mil- 
let's prose is generally perfect in a way that New- 


man's poetry often is not, and yet the imperfect 
beauty of much of Newman's painting has a very 
real charm. It is an elusive charm, though, and 
is easily missed unless one is peculiarly sensitive 
to the sensations of color and to the suggestion of 
forms used merely as symbols in a manner of ex- 
pression somewhat similar to that of not a little of 
the sculpture of Rodin. A representative example 
of this phase of Newman's work is the little picture, 
in the collection of the late Sir William Van Home, 
called The Wandering Mind, where the figure, 
though crudely drawn, is a most suggestive as well 
as an entirely adequate interpretation of a vitally 
interesting idea. Further development of the de- 
tail in this canvas, or indeed anything in the way of 
more finished drawing, could hardly add at all to 
the tragic force of the picture as it stands. One 
might suppose that the character of the subject in 
this instance partly, if not wholly, accounts for the 
success of the painting, and it is quite true that there 
is something in the association of ideas that makes 
the awkward figure peculiarly suggestive and ap- 
propriate. There are other works by Newman, 
however, where the detail is quite as obscure and the 
drawing quite as crude, that are just as forcible in 
their presentation of other and less unhappy sub- 
jects. The small Magdalen in the same collection 
is one of them. The artist has painted her praying, 


Robert Loftin Newman: Magdalen 

Collection of the late Sir William Van Home, Montreal 

and it is the pose that makes the picture, as an artist 
would say. And yet here, as in the other canvas, an 
unusual but no less beautiful and suggestive color 
scheme is a powerful factor first and last in the ef- 
fectiveness of what is a spiritual or imaginative 
rather than an actual and realistic interpretation. 

The picture of the Mother and Child, one of his 
last works, dated 1902, proves that he was an ac- 
complished draughtsman and an intelligent techni- 
cian in other ways when it suited his purpose. 
This canvas is as fine a representation of a subject 
so often painted as one will be likely to find in mod- 
ern art. The figures are very happily arranged 
and the expression in the faces is so finely felt and 
expressed that the entire poem of the mother's love 
and the child's response is fully evident; while the 
golden curls and rosy cheeks of the baby against 
the black hair and cooler tones of the mother's face 
emphasize that charm of color which, like a lovely 
music, is the accompaniment to this song of life. 
The canvas is as exquisitely finished as are some of 
those rare figures of Rodin's which exhibit a similar 
though perhaps greater degree of technical pro- 
ficiency in a sculptor, who quite as generally, for 
the sake of emphasizing the ideas he wishes to ex- 
press, is accustomed to neglect many if not all of 
the little niceties of art. 

In the Girl Blowing Bubbles it is again alto- 


gether an unusual and interesting color scheme that 
emphasizes the idea of mystery which is suggested 
by the enveloping shadows and the inarticulate curi- 
osity of the watching dogs. This is a finished work 
of art, in that it is a finished piece of rich and satis- 
fying color; the figure of the child, the green-cov- 
ered couch on which she rests her hand and the two 
dogs are merely sketched in sufficiently to serve as 
notes in an exquisite color harmony, which is at once 
attractive to the last degree and highly expressive. 
To have insisted upon the drawing could hardly 
have added to the beauty of the canvas and, one 
feels, might have resulted in the sacrifice of much 
of its charm. 





A LARGE majority of the best of Blakelock's 
paintings are those of the smallest dimen- 
sions. As yet these masterpieces in miniature have 
never received the attention they deserve. If, as 
seems probable, he preferred and worked more nat- 
urally and therefore more effectively in a small 
area, in much the same sense as we may say that 
Inness worked in the compass of a canvas thirty by 
forty-five inches, it is surely necessary for us to know 
these little pictures if we are ever to appreciate 
fully his abilities. They will acquaint us with cap- 
abilities that his great canvases like the Pipe Dance, 
the Indian Encampment and the several large 
Moonlights have not already made familiar. The 
faultless drawing and the fine characterization in 
the Indian Girl and Shooting the Arrow will be a 
revelation to many, as will also the exquisite en- 
amel-like quality of color and of finish in a work 
like the Girl with the Fan. 

Shooting the Arrow is a poetic interpretation of 
a phase of primitive life in America that has passed 


away forever. The arrangement of the lighting is 
very notable. The Indian brave, clothed only in 
his loin-cloth and poised, with bow half-drawn, in 
the full glow of the setting sun, stands out in high 
relief against the shadowed darkness of the sur- 
rounding forest, like a bit of Wedgwood done in 
the colors of life — a typical and unforgettable figure 
from an heroic past. The Indian Girl presents an- 
other phase of primitive life with similar success. 
Sitting on her heels in a characteristic attitude and 
with one hand playing with a string of beads, she 
is an almost perfect piece of idealism, preserving 
the pensive charm and unstudied grace of Indian 
girlhood. The feather in her hair, the fillet about 
her forehead and her robe of soft tanned skin or- 
namented with beadwork, the deer-skin spread 
upon the ground and the trinket in her lap are all 
beautifully indicated, while the personal element 
of her own individuality is present and evident in 
a degree unique to the artistic creation of genius. 

The Indian Madonna in the collection of Mr. 
George S. Palmer, illustrates just as forcibly Blake- 
lock's ability as a figure painter. Here the compo- 
sition is so simple that the almost monumental dig- 
nity of design in the little group of the girl and her 
baby is apt to be overlooked. The artist's admir- 
able restraint and mastery of line are evident, and in 
addition a technical method exactly adapted to the 


perfect rendering of a subject of this character on a 
canvas of this size. It is, indeed, continually sur- 
prising in these smaller pictures of Blakelock's to 
note how admirably suited his method in every in- 
stance is to the character of the subject portrayed, 
a fact which is not always true of the larger can- 
vases, as one will gather from looking at even so 
fine an example as the Pipe Dance. This large 
picture is one of his most famous works and rightly 
so, for though it is a failure in some ways it is a 
splendid failure, and in other ways it is a grand 
success. In it, if anywhere in American art, you 
may read something of the epic of our native Indian 
and you will look in vain elsewhere for its like in 
our art so far as the heroic cast of the composition 
is concerned. 

A picture that comes from the collection of the 
late Dr. Charles M. Kurtz, formerly Director of 
the Buffalo Museum, is Going to the Spring. This 
young girl going to fill her jar with fresh water, 
performing a common daily task, translates one of 
the prosaic duties of life into poetry no less noble 
because of its homely human origin. She is as 
graceful in her movement as a Tanagra figure and 
with the added interest for us of being seen in her 
natural surroundings. 

Blakelock is the only American painter who has 
adequately rendered on canvas Indian life in this 


country as it was prior to the final wars, the removal 
of the Indians to the reservations and their change 
from savage dress and customs to those of our civili- 
zation. For this reason if for no other a consider- 
able part of his production can never be a negli- 
gible contribution to American art. Its evident 
historic interest and importance is sufficiently great 
to preserve all of the pictures that present this phase 
of his work. Of his landscapes and moonlights 
there is but little doubt that the unimportant ex- 
amples will cease to interest our collectors as they 
become familiar with the somewhat limited num- 
ber of really fine ones. Of examples of large size, 
sixteen by twenty-four inches or over, there are 
relatively few of the first quality. It is apparent 
therefore that there is a position of importance in 
our public and private collections awaiting his 
master-pieces in miniature and that that man will 
be fortunate indeed who may possess one or two of 
the best of them. 

It has been said and truly that "Blakelock's talent 
was a talent of pure gold — but a small one." It 
would seem that in the elaboration of some of his 
larger pictures he had often to hammer it very thin, 
producing a pretty piece of painting that is not con- 
vincing, or to mix it with a baser metal, producing 
perhaps a noble canvas like the Pipe Dance, which 
is a quite atrocious piece of painting. This is not 


u r? 

i-J ^ 

P3 >=; 
< ^ 
£ -2 

true of his smaller pictures. They glow with all 
the richness of pure color and they satisfy one as 
only the gold of genius unalloyed ever can or will. 
The space is sufficient for the composition and the 
composition fills the space ; there are no uninterest- 
ing passages, no empty spaces, nor are there any 
that are crowded with unnecessary and meaningless 
detail. Each is a simple, direct statement in brief 
of some single beautiful thought, some one fine emo- 
tion, or if but an impression yet one that is never- 
theless full of suggestion. 

The Moonrise, reproduced herewith from a 
photograph that admirably reveals the character- 
istic detail in a painting that is so dark in tone as 
to require specially good lighting to be properly 
seen at all, is a memorable piece of the pure poetry 
of night with just that touch of light withal that 
makes of it a thing of magic like the moonlit night 
itself. Furthermore it is a distinguished compo- 
sition, the subtile gradation from dark to light in- 
evitably leading the eye into the picture and em- 
phasizing the beauty that is there. It shows, 
through a tangle of woodland trees, between two 
huge boulders, the first glow of the rising moon 
across an expanse of quiet water. This little panel 
together with many other of the masterpieces of 
American landscape was formerly in the collection 
of Mr. Thomas B. Clarke. 


Of the great Moonlight, now in the Toledo Mu- 
seum, probably the earliest version was the little 
painting (No. 15 of the sale), six by eight inches, 
formerly with the Toledo canvas in Mr. Catholina 
Lambert's collection. The late Mr. John N. 
Andrews owned another and in the William M. 
Laffan collection there was a fourth, thirty-five and 
a quarter by fifty-five inches, engraved by S. G. 
Putnam, and published (1887) in the book of 
"Engravings on Wood" by members of the Society 
of American Wood Engravers. 

The Golden Afternoon is a composition that the 
artist repeated many times with but little variation 
upon larger canvases and seldom with anything 
comparable to the sumptuous beauty of its render- 
ing in this instance. Generally in the bigger pic- 
tures the necessity of an emphasis in the breaking up 
of the line of the horizon, by the introduction of 
more trees at intervals not always happily chosen, 
disturbs the balance of the composition and ruins its 
effect; while the greater area of sky requiring a 
diversity of interest to save it from monotony is 
robbed of much of the beauty and richness as well 
as all of the simplicity it has here. 

On the Plains exhibits in a space but four and 
one-quarter by nine and one-eighth inches an ex- 
panse of prairie that successfully impresses the spec- 
tator with a true sense of its vastness. Further, this 


Ralph Albert Blakelock: On the Plains 

Ralph Albert Blakelock: The Woodland Road 

Collection of Mr. John F. Degener, Jr. 

tiny canvas illustrates the artist's manner of making 
a picture out of the simplest material. Here a 
foreground of flat, uninteresting country, a group of 
Indian tepees in the middle distance and a bit of 
cloudy sky are transformed by the magic of mere 
paint into a poem of the prairies in which their im- 
mensity as well as that sense of loneliness that per- 
vades it finds complete expression. 

An interesting example of a little-known phase of 
Blakelock's work is The Woodland Road owned by 
Mr. John F. Degener. In this canvas the color 
scheme is confined entirely to a range of greens with 
which he manages a most engaging and at the same 
time very precise, if not quite literal, interpretation 
of nature. The painting was but recently seen in 
the benefit exhibition in New York and introduced 
a practically unknown expression of Blakelock's 
ability as a landscape artist. In it one realizes a 
vigorous response to the actual aspect of the natural 
world evidenced by masterly draughtsmanship, to- 
gether with a sensitive recreation of atmospheric 
envelopment that accounts for much of the basis of 
truth upon which he built the lasting beauty of those 
purely imaginative pictures like the Toledo Mu- 
seum Moonlight and the Autumn at the Buffalo 
Museum which are more truly representative be- 
cause more evidently characteristic. This wood- 
land interior, however, may almost be said to rank 


with the greatest of any school or period. The 
drawing of the trees at least reveals a knowledge of 
their anatomy that rivals that of Rousseau and the 
recognized masters. Its real charm, though, has 
little or nothing to do with drawing or with fact. 
It is inherent rather in the sense of sylvan solitude 
it so subtly conveys — a suggestion as of the leafy 
haunts of fairy folk far hidden from the ways of 




ALBERT RYDER'S color and the way in 
which he uses it is a calculable quantity in the 
genesis of his paintings just as truly as are either his 
conceptions or the designs in which they are em- 
bodied. One may estimate quite accurately its ac- 
tual value in relation to the total effect produced 
by any and every picture he has painted, though 
of course it cannot be mathematically stated. 
Whether the picture is thoroughly synthetic in its 
subtile harmonization of delicate shades and values 
or whether it be simply a masterly piece of design, 
as is sometimes the case, the color itself, though in 
the former instance entirely neutral in effect, and 
in the latter seemingly as negligible as that of a 
silhouette, is always an appreciable equation adding 
interest or meaning to the composition. His color 
simply as color embroiders his imaginations with 
rhymes as perfect as the rhythm of his line, and 
though a less important contribution to the poetry 
of his product than the design, in the sense that, 
one may say, rhyme is not a necessary part of poetry 


in that some of the noblest is written in blank verse, 
it is yet a means of informing it with an added 

Mr. Huneker in one of his brilliant essays has 
spoken of that quality of the old masters of Italy 
which Ryder's color suggests at times, and if I re- 
member aright added that the artist deliberately 
sought in his own manner to emulate the beautiful 
coloring that adds distinction to their works. He 
must have been consciously trying to work out a 
more satisfactory approximation to their customary 
habit when he undertook the little panel now in the 
Brooklyn Museum representing a lady, full length, 
in a landscape, which is seemingly done entirely 
over a background of gold. In a similar method 
he painted two panels of a three-fold screen for the 
late William M. Laffan which has now been broken 
up, these two panels and the center one, by Homer 
Martin, having been sold separately. The color 
of the Italian masters, however perfectly suited to 
the ecstatic elaboration of religious allegory though, 
is hardly that which harmonizes with our present 
day visualization of nature or of life, and naturally 
therefore he never very nearly approaches them. It 
might have been otherwise had he been of a deeply 
religious nature, which he was not, or more hu- 
manly sympathetic to that hint of divinity within 
one's self which generally was their inspiration. 


Nevertheless, one of his noblest creations is a re- 
ligious subject, the Noli Me Tangere, and though 
it has little or nothing in common with any early 
picture of the scene, it surpasses most, if not all, of 
them in an elevation of imaginative mysticism that 
distinguishes it among the masterpieces of religious 
art. He has painted the Christ as a suspended 
spirit visible in human form and clothed in the 
cerements of the grave, the very color of the flesh 
emphasizing the impression of the body of one 
newly arisen from the dead. The old masters pic- 
tured His a living presence in this incident, the 
measurable weight of which is supported by feet 
firmly set upon the earth. Ryder has succeeded in 
conveying more convincingly, at least to the world 
of today, the essential spiritual significance of the 

In such a painting as the Marine owned by Mr. 
Montross the value of the color in a composition 
notable rather for its design is very evident. It 
pervades the picture with a glamour as of the night 
at sea and puts one en rapport with this epic of the 
ocean as surely as the noble rhythm of the line em- 
phasizes the movement of the waves which it in- 
evitably suggests. However little there may be of 
any resemblance to reality either in color or in 
drawing in such a canvas, it is no less a penetrating 
interpretation of the might and majesty of the sea 


and, like a vivid dream, more moving than any 
memory of the ocean is ever likely to be. In the 
canvas called The Sheepfold, recently presented by 
Mr. Augustus A. Healy to the Brooklyn Museum, 
it is the pigment again that stamps the painting with 
the authority of a masterpiece in that it approxi- 
mates in both color and intensity so nearly the ac- 
tual effect of the moonlit night, recreating in a 
magical way the vibrating mystery that constitutes 
its essential charm. The huddled group of sheep 
instinctively drawn together by the dark and the 
lighted window of the farmhouse near by indicat- 
ing the gathering of the family therein, give the pic- 
ture an extra human interest and lend it a meaning 
associated with life that brings its beauty home to 
all. The poetry of the moonlight, the shadows 
of the trees against the glowing skies, the silence and 
the solitude of the night, it is reasonable to say are 
made evident to all by this vital human touch. 

Ryder's astonishing ability as a draughtsman, his 
unerring instinct for the very lines of truth in draw- 
ing horses, sheep and other animals as well as do- 
mestic fowls and birds, is seen in many canvases in 
which they are the chief if not the only interest. 
His horses are as fine as Gericault's and his sheep 
as fine as Jacque's when he wishes them to be. No- 
where else in art, sculpture or painting, I think, will 
one find anything more tragically beautiful or more 


Albert P. Ryder: Noli Me Tangere 

Collection of Mr. N. E. Montr oss 

poignantly pathetic than his picture of a dead 
canary. It is a more touching Elegy upon a dead 
song-bird than one may hope to find in music or 
in poetry, and it is a matchless piece of drawing and 
painting besides. Another panel with which I am 
familiar portrays three sheep so faithfully that a 
fellow craftsman once hesitated to purchase it be- 
cause it seemed to him beyond the artist's abilities 
as a draughtsman. 

He could also build up with wonderful verisimili- 
tude scenes of witching splendor like the Siegfried 
and the Rhine Maidens in the collection of the late 
Sir William Van Home or present the very essence 
of a tale from Chaucer in a painting like the Con- 
stance in the same collection. In The Temple of 
the Mind he originated an idea quite as romantic 
and expressed it just as completely and attractively. 
Indeed he is notable for his invention as well as for 
the magical quality of his color — the invention of 
new incident to inform historic facts and romantic 
ideas with new interest, as well as the invention of 
eloquent and attractive compositions in which to 
embody them. It is just this portion of something 
that is new in all of his work, the original part of it 
that is his own creatian, that is the measure of his 
genius and his greatness. 

His landscapes are the least successful of his 
works, and yet even in landscape he has done some 


fine things. Like the Sunset Hour, though, they are 
generally those in which the human element is in- 
troduced by a single figure or more, and becomes, in 
reality, the centre of interest however lovely the 
landscape may be. In practically all of his pictures 
the human interest is present, and in most of them it 
is paramount, whatever their magic of mere paint 
or color, their suggestion of music or of rhyme, of 
time or of place. It is indeed the vital thing in his 
art. It informs the most imaginative of his works 
with meaning so evident as to be almost unmistak- 
able. In the Forest of Arden one senses it in the 
broken limb of the blasted tree repeating the ges- 
ture of the cavalier who woos his lady in the fore- 
ground, he dwelling upon the beauty of Love's de- 
mesne and that dumb finger of earth's dead point- 
ing upward as if to recall the lasting loveliness of 
Heaven. I do not wish to be misunderstood as 
implying that Ryder ever consciously attempts to 
point a moral in a picture or to tell a story, but sim- 
ply to indicate how truly his work is informed with 
meaning and pregnant with suggestion — so much 
so, indeed, that from the best of it one gets an in- 
tellectual as well as an emotional pleasure of the 
highest sort. In the picture of Pegasus the figure 
rides the white winged horse out of the radiant 
heavens right over the edge of the world, bringing 
back to us today the message of the gods. What 


Albert P. Ryder: Pegasus 

matters it if the winged steed is badly drawn in such 
a picture? Perhaps the spindly legs that would 
scarcely carry its weight subconsciously emphasize 
the power of those mighty wings outspread! In- 
variably almost Ryder sacrifices everything un- 
necessary to the realization of an idea in his effort 
to give the fullest and most forcible expression and 
effectiveness to his pictures. Their interest and 
their charm sufficiently prove how wisely he chooses 
between the vital and the ineffectual elements in 
their composition and execution. 




MISS LILLIAN GENTH is, so far as I am 
aware, the only American artist whose whole 
career evidences a deliberate effort to earn a repu- 
tation as a painter of the nude. Some canvases 
with draped figures, several portraits and a few in- 
timate landscape studies, undertaken as settings for 
her nudes, constitute the remainder of her product. 
In practically all of our great museums and private 
collections of American paintings, she is represented 
by a picture of the nude. These paintings have 
about them a glamour of youth, a healthy vigorous 
beauty that seldom fails to arrest attention and to 
reward one for a generous consideration of all that 
visible portion of it which is realized in the me- 
dium. Her choice of models for her figures is con- 
fined to the gracious and winning perfection of 
girlish bodies which she habitually uses merely as 
symbols in the interpretation of romantic ideas. 
This gives to her work an inescapable individual 
character, differentiating it from that of other 
painters of the nude and indicates its limitations as 
well as its merits. Whoever delights in the buoy- 


ancy of bright color and the suggestion of poetic 
thought will not fail to find satisfaction in her can- 
vases. Her figures stand forth upon the painted 
stage of her pictures in a loveliness as altogether re- 
moved from reality as the figures that interpret for 
us in the theatre some Shakespearean scene of won- 
der and delight. 

In the sense, however, that a figure by Degas, 
Daumier or Millet seems alive, Miss Genth's are 
generally lifeless. In other words, the figures that 
people her pictures, faultless though they may be 
at times in drawing and intriguing as they almost 
invariably are in their youthful charm, symbolize 
life but do not live. Of the significance of life as 
indelibly recorded by nature in its effect upon anat- 
omy, there are no indications in her figures and the 
absence of it one senses in a definite lack of that 
modicum of realism that makes of a painted figure 
a living presence. The tragedy of bent forms and 
misshapen bodies, the endless drama of the human 
face, has, as yet, no representation in her work, 
which more nearly approximates today the popular 
portrait painters' presentation of personality in its 
attention to what may be termed the inessentials of 
feminine prettiness, as to both line and color. To 
reveal upon canvas by a broken body the tragedy 
of life or by a face of woe the drama of sinful love 
is just as possible as to paint pleasant subjects 


Lillian Genth: The Fount of Life 

Collection of Mr. Marvin Lewis 

whose symbolism permits always of happy faces and 
perfect bodies, and it is infinitely greater art. All 
of which is not to say that I quarrel with Miss 
Genth's choice of subject, but merely to suggest a 
development that I feel reasonably certain must 
follow in her art if she continues to paint the figure. 
She is too sensitive to life and too little bound by 
convention not to feel and to see its rewards and its 
consequences in figures of sorrow as well as of joy, 
and to endeavor to picture life, real life, as well as 
imaginary and invariably lovely fables from life. 
When that period arrives it will mark another and 
greater period in her art. 

A brilliant technician Miss Genth unquestionably 
is. The bravura of her brush is evident in all of 
her paintings, and yet so unerring is her stroke that 
it may be said never to jeopardize her effects. This 
may very well be because it does not involve her 
figures, which are painted with sensible deliberation 
and extreme care in an effort to draw them to the 
life, however removed that may be from any ap- 
proach to realism. As a method of painting I can- 
not help but feel that a more consistent procedure 
would produce finer results, for the broad, free way 
in which her backgrounds are brushed in seems 
often to emphasize a trifle too strongly that little of 
something approximating precision with which her 
figures are painted. She is quick to see the artistic 


possibilities in gracious and graceful attitudes 
whenever and wherever seen and however momen- 
tary or unusual, and thus even the most spiritual 
and imaginative of her nudes preserve in pose a 
relation to reality that satisfies the eyes, yet does not 
interrupt the intellectual enjoyment of the poetry of 
her pictures. 

For color as color Miss Genth has an unerring in- 
stinct, though without any of that supersensitiveness 
which would surely have evidenced itself in a more 
deliberate and careful manipulation of pigment for 
its own sake, resulting in passages of corresponding 
subtilty and appeal. The studied effects of the 
artist improvising with his medium are not to be 
found in her painting. Both her color and her 
technic are altogether individual and peculiarly at- 
tractive. Her handling of the medium and her 
brushwork are very personal and always adapted, it 
would seem, to a specific effort in each instance to 
reproduce the feeling as well as the appearance of 
whatever she may be painting, whether earth, sky, 
water, foliage, figure or flower. Her drawing is 
not faultless, but oftener than not her color is so in- 
triguing as to make one overlook little inaccuracies 
there. I do not know of any other contemporary 
artist who more delicately and successfully re- 
creates upon canvas the shimmering beauty of light, 
the silvery haze of a Spring day, a Summer blue so 

4 6 

Lillian Genth: Sunlit Dell 

soft and lovely or a green of foliage that seems so al- 
ways tremulous as though the winds of heaven were 
faintly blowing through the leaves. 

The Fount of Life and the Sunlit Dell are two of 
her finest figure compositions. The former is a 
picture fragrant with the thought of youth, fasci- 
nated by the mystery she cannot fathom, gazing 
into the quiet waters of the spring of life. The sun- 
light and the birds, the whispering leaves and the 
caressing winds are forgotten for the moment while, 
in this sylvan spot, she searches for the secret hidden 
in the pool. The latter is more elusive in its in- 
tention and escapes exact interpretation except as 
a matter of feeling that the shadowed dell, the drip- 
ping foliage with the sunlight still breaking 
through so as to touch the receding figure signify 
youth's first experience of sorrow. In these two 
canvases and in some others Miss Genth equals her 
Adagio in the National Gallery at Washington, a 
picture of the nude which she has never surpassed 
as yet. It is a figure finely drawn and truly en-, 
veloped in an atmosphere as charged with the real 
emotion of the subject as a Summer's breeze is 
with the fragrance of Summer. As a nude it chal- 
lenges comparison with the best in American art 
and takes its place with Benjamin Fitz's Reflection, 
Wyatt Eaton's Ariadne and the rest of the few 
really great ones. 




PROBABLY to no two people have colors the 
same values, and the work of any painter who 
is, in a particular sense, a colorist, more than that 
of other artists, is sure to challenge an amount and 
degree of criticism that can be pretty accurately 
measured by its importance. And the colorist, like 
the poet, generally depends upon delicate sugges- 
tions and idyllic ideas for the beauties which fill 
his canvases with visions, as of the gods and god- 
desses, nymphs and satyrs, temples and shrines, and 
the wonder of a world made beautiful by imagina- 
tion. Thus, again, from another point of view, his 
work suffers from a criticism it can never escape, 
for to not a few observers the subtile beauties of 
such painting pass unseen. That "truth is beauty 
and beauty truth" does not necessarily mean that the 
obvious are more important than the hidden beau- 
ties and truths, though they may reach and satisfy 
more people. The very fact that the obvious in 
nature and in life is understood and appreciated so 
generally, makes it all the more important that the 
artist concern himself with the elusive glories that 


escape the untrained eye and must be lost to the 
world except for his labor. 

But no mere painter, whatever his technical skill, 
has ever yet or ever will comprehend the secret 
beauties or truths, either of nature or of life, suf- 
ficiently to re-create them upon canvas with that 
inescapable touch of magic which any painting 
must have to stir the imagination and satisfy the 
eyes of them that, having eyes, look inwardly as well 
as outwardly, and see the glories beyond as clearly 
as the beauties about us. Genius only is capable 
of such a task and genius has idiosyncrasies of its 
own which give to its work individuality, some- 
times in literature a style as strange as Whitman's 
or in painting as weird as Blakelock's. But the 
work of genius, however touched with madness 
it may seem, is vital. It moves with splendid 
rhythm, it sings with a voice of heavenly beauty, it 
throbs and glows with life! 

Mr. Elliott Daingerfield, among contemporary 
American artists, pursues an ideal which the public 
imagination very often fails to visualize, and his 
most poetic conceptions indeed seem to be viewed 
by the general public as through a glass darkly, 
however brightly they may glow with that richness 
of color which at times suggests the old masters. 
As a young man his work aroused the enthusiasm of 
so able and discriminating a judge of painting as 



Q ^ 

u -^ 

U. Co 

t i 

< 2 

2 Si 

George Inness, and his later work won the eager 
and hearty praise of another great critic of art, 
John La Farge. Recently, in writing about "Na- 
ture vs. Art," Mr. Daingerfield has modestly told 
a story which goes even farther as an illustration of 
the point I wish to make in connection with his 
work, as the remark of the great surgeon which he 
quotes: "I want a picture of the sea or the moun- 
tains seen in a better, finer way than I can see it 
myself," was intended to explain the satisfaction he 
found in Mr. Daingerfield's work and illustrates 
the very real and deep meaning it has for great 
natures and great minds. Compared with the abil- 
ity to stir the imaginations and to fill the eyes of 
such men with revelations of the wonder and the 
beauty of nature and of life, a popular success, 
such as might be won by the effort more nearly to 
gauge one's genius to the understanding of the 
many, could never bring any real or lasting satisfac- 
tion to an artist capable of great things. 

I do not know that any of Mr. Daingerfield's 
pictures, save one, a Madonna done many years ago, 
has ever taken a prize in any exhibition. Some of 
his canvases which have never been entered in com- 
petition and seldom shown to the public are, how- 
ever, among the most poetic conceptions in Ameri- 
can art. I should say that their interest as well as 
their charm, is due to his insight into the glory of 


nature and the meaning and the mystery of life — 
that, and the individuality of his color, its depth 
and its brilliance. 

His landscapes are never mere pictures, for, with 
all the perfection of their finish, re-creating as they 
do the sentiment of the place as well as the scene 
itself, it is the sense of truth that is in them, their 
meaning I may say, that makes them really vital. 
And this is because he sees a meaning in our land- 
scape and fixes it in his paintings of it. 

With a subtile perfection of emphasis which is 
estimated very accurately, he fixes in his revelation 
of it the feeling, the sentiment or the meaning of a 
landscape; it may be by a shadow or by a touch 
of light, by a flower or by a figure, or by several 
figures, either realistic or fanciful. And, after all, 
the meaning is not invariably obvious but only sug- 
gested, as it is in nature itself, and so it often escapes 
the eyes of the superficial observer, just as it remains 
undiscovered in the world about us by thousands of 
unobservant people. 

Any one who has seen his painting The Waters 
of Oblivion must realize how without meaning that 
mysterious and strangely beautiful little landscape 
would be were it not for the tiny white-robed figure 
standing before those peaks of night and fairly upon 
the brink of the unfathomable pool lying at their 
feet. Except for that touch, with all its miracle 


Elliott Daingerfield: The Waters of Oblivion 

Collection of Dr. Fred Whiting 

of rich color, the canvas would be a monstrous 
thing, not simply unreal but unnatural. Yet as it 
stands this painting is one of the most vital and 
most beautiful that I recall by an American artist, 
and it has an almost inescapable meaning, the whole 
suggestion of which lives in that little white figure. 

Sunset — Mists and Shadows illustrates very 
forcibly how literally true it is that the lasting love- 
liness of his most imaginative revelations of the 
beauty of landscape has its firm foundation in a 
conscious and just appreciation of the necessity for 
realizing the actual aspects of a scene sufficiently to 
be always convincing. However he may enrich 
with color or with imagination the visible beauty of 
a scene, its essential individuality is duly em- 
phasized and informs the poetry of his landscape 
with an inevitable and unmistakable resemblance 
to the reality of the world in which we live. 

A fine example of his offering in the lyric vein 
is the Arcadian Huntress, in the City Art Museum 
at St. Louis, a landscape pervaded by a perfume 
from Parnassus, in which Diana is glimpsed again 
as in the brave days of old, still following the chase. 

Mr. Daingerfield visited the Grand Canyon a 
few years ago and ever since his first trip thereto 
it has continued to be the inspiration of many of his 
most important canvases. Beginning with the ap- 
proximately realistic rendering of its shimmering 


glory in the Opalescent Morning, which turned out 
to be but a prelude, he developed the motive with 
the assurance of a great composer improvising upon 
an enchanting theme and produced that miraculous 
apotheosis of earthly beauty, the City That Never 
Was, which is certainly the equal of a fine Turner, 
as well as the brooding mystery of the moonlit 
Tower of Silence, that mighty rock in the wilder- 
ness standing alone like a monument to a vanished 
race on the edge of the world. 

His paintings of this locality are not literal 
transcripts of any scene you will see, but marvelous 
re-creations of the glowing color and the wild gran- 
deur of the place — opal mountains and crimson 
peaks touched with mists of pearl and of pink and 
the chasms between brimming with many-colored 
shadow. He has put into his renderings of it the 
miracle of color which is the essential glory of the 
Canyon without sacrifice of necessary truth to na- 
ture in his drawing, and the result is that his can- 
vases are full of the poetry as well as the beauty, 
the wonder as well as the grandeur, of its scenery; 
and while they impress one with its sublimity they 
thrill one at the same moment with the joy of its 
vibrating light and the peace of its shadowed mys- 

In his figure subjects it is the subtile meaning of 
a gesture, the look on some half-turned face or a 



pose perhaps that suggests the emotion of the scene ; 
but always his paintings are informed with some 
motive sufficient to lift them beyond any peradven- 
ture of the commonplace. 





THE work of no artist who truthfully reports 
the facts of nature is negligible. Whatever 
method he may employ in the accomplishment of 
that end matters not at all. He may be as literal, 
as precise in his elucidation of detail as Hobbema, 
as indefinite as Monet or as preoccupied with the 
expression of his moods as Tryon, his canvas in any 
case will be worth while. Whatever its faults, its 
one conspicuous merit of truth is sufficient to make 
of it something of real value. It may not satisfy 
one, it may lack any special distinction either of 
composition or sentiment, it may express little of the 
spirit of a place, little of the mood of a moment 
charged with feeling, nothing of the personality of 
the painter, but the one thing it does it does truth- 
fully. It holds a mirror up to nature in which 
we see an accurate reflection. 

The sketches in oil of Wyant and the water- 
colors of Winslow Homer are of this order of 
things. Dissimilar as they are in method and in 
style, they each mirror nature in a way almost mi- 


raculous. Homer gets his effects with an economy 
of effort that is wonderful for anything so finished 
in its finality. Wyant, with loving attention to all 
the precious detail of his subject, particularizes in 
his studies the things Homer simply suggests. 

There are painters whose best work never goes 
farther than the studies of such men and who yet 
must be reckoned with in any consideration of land- 
scape art which pretends to be in any way conclu- 
sive. And the ability to produce such work is after 
all not so common as to seem simply ordinary. I 
doubt if it ever will be, for it implies a painstaking 
and serious study of landscape painting and a really 
admirable knowledge of the various forms of nature 
and of nature's coloring. An artist with such an 
equipment is pretty well capable of doing work 
that is far enough above the average to arrest at- 
tention. His trees will be distinguishable — chest- 
nuts, elms, birches, maples; his shrubs and grasses 
no less, and his pictures of Italy will never look like 
American landscapes in which Italian shepherds 
guard their sheep. 

Some of the European canvases of even so great 
a landscape artist as Inness are more American 
than foreign so far as the landscape itself is con- 
cerned — with perhaps no more than a peasant driv- 
ing his flock, or some women washing clothes in a 
stream to tell that they are pictures of Italy or of 


France. On the other hand, Wy ant's Irish sub- 
jects, with nothing but the look of the land to dis- 
tinguish them by, are unmistakable. This fidelity 
to the facts of nature in the painting of landscape is 
of sufficient importance for the absence of it to af- 
ford an opening for criticism of a very material 
sort regarding some of the accepted masterpieces of 
contemporary artists. It is a too essential part of 
great landscape art for any painter ever to slight it 
and produce a truly great picture. 

The knowledge of nature's forms and the faithful 
rendering of them is almost as necessary to the land- 
scape artist as is the knowledge of anatomy to the 
painter of the nude. Too frequently he tries to 
work without ever having seriously studied the an- 
atomy of nature. The various tree forms are recog- 
nizable in the canvases of comparatively few con- 
temporary painters. And apparently they know 
the rock formations but little better. It is only the 
more evident topographical characteristics of a 
landscape that they seem to get — the sort of thing 
that could never escape the notice of any one with 
eyes to see. 

Any painter, to embrace that branch of art, ought 
to go to school to nature — study the trees, the rocks, 
the earth, and learn to draw and paint their various 
forms in such a way as shall be distinguishable to 
others before he hangs out any sign of his pro- 


fession in a public place. When he has mastered 
all this, finished a very thorough schooling in the 
great out-of-doors, and learned to paint nature as 
she is, then, even if he fail to express himself 
through her or to interpret any of her many moods, 
he will nevertheless be able to add something of 
real value to landscape art — a truthful picture of 
nature. Later he may learn to differentiate the es- 
sential from the trivial facts, to sacrifice the unneces- 
sary detail for the larger aspects of a scene and, 
progressing along these lines, arrive finally at some 
such understanding of nature as will enable him to 
express some one or more of her many moods in such 
a way as to produce a really great picture. 


THE personality of an artist as it affects his art 
is an interesting study in itself, and if in land- 
scape it is a more elusive quality than in other sub- 
jects it is no less effective. Without it many land- 
scapes of unquestioned merit are produced through 
sheer ability to see and to paint Nature as she is. 
Often enough the influence of a painter's personal- 
ity in his art makes for something other than truth. 
For instance the light in Sorolla's canvases is gen- 
erally rather artificial than real, more like flame 
than the sunlight. But the light in the great 
Spaniard's work is its chief attraction, and it is, one 

6 4 



* ? :;:. ; :;, 


' 1 

< ^ 

may say, the light of his own personality in as much 
as it is peculiar to his work. Thus one realizes 
how the personality of a great artist expressing it- 
self in his work gives to whatever he does a certain 
quality that distinguishes it from the work of all 
others just as the "style" of a great author distin- 
guishes his poetry or his prose from that of all 
others. But only a great author or a great artist 
may ever be said to have a "style," because none 
other is ever able to fully express himself, his per- 
sonality, in his work. 

There are many good writers as well as good 
landscape painters who have no "style" at all ; they 
tell good stories, paint real pictures, but with noth- 
ing in the manner of their making to make them 
memorable, no hint of what joy or sorrow moved 
the maker's heart nor of the mood that was upon 
him. They have learned to do their work, to write 
stories, to paint pictures, but unfortunately not yet 
how to express themselves in their work — and until 
they shall they may never achieve a "style" that will 
distinguish them among even their contemporaries 
much less, in the future, among the artists of all 

The dreamy loveliness of Tryon's landscape is 
never likely to be mistaken for the work of another. 
It is the expression of too singular a personality. 
And in all that he does this dreaminess, this thin 


strain of minor poetry, is inescapable. It breathes 
in the budding trees of his Springtime, it blossoms 
in the stars of his night and it sings in the sunshine 
of his Summer. It may not satisfy you, may not 
be food for your thought or light to your path, but 
unless you are blind surely you can not fail to sense 
its beauty. 

We are much given to thinking and talking about 
the poetic quality of both Tryon and Francis 
Murphy, a quality which is unmistakable surely in 
their landscape but that just as surely is not the 
vigorous epic poetry of the earth. The poetry in 
their pictures is mostly their own, a drenching of 
the fields and the foliage in the sunshine or twilight, 
the mists or the shadow of their own thought, an 
interpretation of nature through the atmosphere 
of their own personality. Their canvases have 
something more than the simple truth, a faithful 
rendering of the facts of nature, to recommend 
them; they shimmer in the light of their creators' 
thought, fade in the shadows of their moods or 
sparkle with the splendor of their fancy. Always, 
however, one is conscious of how inevitable are 
their limitations, prescribed as they are by the per- 
sonalities they so charmingly express. As most of 
us have a bit of poetry in us, the effect of which is 
to add something of beauty to our understanding of 
the world in which we live, it is not to be questioned 


that it is less of an accomplishment adequately to 
express that in one way or another than it is to dis- 
cover "sermons in stones and books in running 
brooks." In other words, it is a far more magnifi- 
cent landscape that expresses the epic poetry of the 
earth than that sings the song of any artist however 
great a poet he may be. 

There is a lot of feeling in contemporary land- 
scape art, but too much of it is personal feeling and 
not enough the feeling, the sentiment, the mood of 
Nature herself. Few artists seem to understand 
her, as few in proportion as there are men who have 
any understanding of women, and without a deep 
understanding of her and of her moods no artist 
may ever expect to interpret her in the fullest, finest 
sense — to paint for us a portrait of her in which we 
shall see not simply a face but a soul. 


SO much of what is unreal in landscape art is 
extremely interesting and lovely that one may 
be pardoned for exaggerating its importance. 
There is no question but that the artist whose per- 
sonality pervades his landscape, whose pictures ex- 
press his moods, produces work more charming and 
poetic than he whose ability stops at the point of 
painting simply the visible aspects of a scene. Art- 
istic arrangement in landscape helps an artist to 

6 7 

express what he has to say and helps others to un- 
derstand him, but however important, however 
fine, however enchanting his message may be, Na- 
ture herself has that to say which is of infinitely 
greater importance to mankind. That this fact is 
not more generally appreciated is natural because 
so few understand Nature. 

Human nature, however, we all understand, more 
or less, and so it is that landscape which expresses 
the personality of the artist, his feeling, appeals to 
us all. We enter into it more easily because of the 
trail he has blazed and we are apt to believe that 
the view which we get is the finest there is to be 
had. As a matter of fact the painter, in all prob- 
ability, chose his course with particular regard for 
what interested him, and with a very definite idea 
of expressing himself, in pretty much the same way 
as the woodsman would cut a trail as directly as 
might be to a fixed point, with due regard for mak- 
ing it as easy as possible for travel and as pleasant. 
Few of us are able to really enter into the spirit of 
a landscape except where a path is beaten for us 
through the personality of the artist, as few as there 
are of us who are able to find our way in the virgin 
forest or the pathless desert. The result of this is 
that whatever of beauty is visible in landscape art is 
that which we see through the personalities of the 


artists, and most of whatever feeling we get out of 
it is that which they have succeeded in putting into 

Artists, like the rest of us, are men of tempera- 
ment, of sentiment, of emotion, of one kind or an- 
other, and they generally succeed in expressing it 
in their work, but that they should express it in a 
landscape that is as singular as its variations are 
many, and that serves them, with but few excep- 
tions for a lifetime, is as curious as it is regrettable. 
A single arrangement, a single picture, as it were, 
suffices them for the expression of practically every 
emotion, this is as true of Corot as of Tryon, as true 
of Daubigny as of Murphy. Their greatness con- 
sists rather in doing one kind of landscape superla- 
tively well than in doing many kinds in a manner 
to mark them as real masterpieces. Their pictures, 
whether silvery with the morning light, or golden 
with the after-glow, tremulous with the winds of 
Summer or carpeted with the fallen leaves, are 
mostly of one spot or of places very much alike. 
Atmosphere is the stuff whereof their masterpieces 
are made, the landscape as it were a mere scaffold- 
ing on which are hung their filmy tapestries of 
shadow and of light. And very beautiful their pic- 
tures are too, but with little of the lofty grandeur 
of nature, no more than a mere suggestion of that 

6 9 

infinite variety of beauty which is all about us in 
this world in which we live. Looking at one of 
their pictures and noting its similarity to all the 
others, one wonders if perhaps that particular land- 
scape is the only one the artist found lovely, only 
to realize in a moment that even that loveliness in 
their eyes was probably very much a matter of their 
success in glorifying it in the atmosphere of their 
own emotion. Their ability in doing just this sort 
of thing is prodigious, their mastery of atmosphere 
marvellous indeed. With anything so subtile, so in- 
substantial, so elusive, to express so much — for they 
do express a wide range of feeling — is an accom- 
plishment of considerable importance in itself. 

But some of us at times get just a little tired of 
the artists, their moods, their emotions, the atmos- 
phere of their personalities, and wish for something 
more of art — pictures with the large, deep feeling 
of the great out-of-doors in them, landscapes that 
express the moods of nature, the wistful tenderness 
of the Spring, the loneliness of the moorlands, the 
peace of the little hills lying in the sun or the 
shadowed mystery of the night. 

Without forgetting one's self one may never hope 
to win one's way to Nature's heart, to really get to 
know her, to understand her well enough to even 
begin to express any one of her various moods, and 
until one can do this he may never hope to do the 


best in landscape art, for the greatest pictures of 
that sort are those that express her, her moods, not 
the feelings, the personalities of artists. 





\*%ii'->J / 


3 ^Dfifl 002157^ 2 

nmaa ND205.S550 
Landscape and figure painters of America