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Posts Tagged ‘American Barbizon’

Two of Hawthorne Fine Art’s newest additions illustrate the experimental changes yet steadfast spirituality of Douglas Arthur Teed’s oeuvre. Teed’s career developed during important transitions from Hudson River School landscape painting, through Tonalism and Impressionism, and even touched on Symbolist and early twentieth century Modernist trends. Teed studied in both the United States and Europe, and traveled in northern Africa and India, experiencing both emerging artistic movements and “exotic” locations that contributed to his late-career Orientalist subjects. Maple Sugar (1883) demonstrates the artist’s transition from finely detailed, carefully observed Hudson River School style to quickly rendered Barbizon-inspired Tonalism. Italian Landscape (1917) is a late work that revives Teed’s earlier Tonalist paintings that were widely successful. Most importantly, both works capture Teed’s intense Romanticism and reverence for nature. The range of Teed’s oeuvre as it spanned the transition from Romanticism to Modernism makes the artist a remarkable figure in American landscape painting

Douglas Arthur Teed, Maple Sugar, 1883. Click to enlarge

Douglas Arthur Teed, Italian Landscape, 1917. Click to enlarge

Douglas Arthur Teed was born on February 21, 1860 in New Hartford, NY (near Utica) to Fidelia M. Rowe and Cyrus R. Teed. Growing up, Teed was surrounded by his father’s spiritual fervor. Cyrus Teed developed a following in New York, and eventually left his family to found a religious sect in Florida called Koreshan Unity. Although Douglas Teed never converted to Koreshanity like his father, these ideas of spirituality were reflected in his mystical and sometimes mysterious works, especially later in his career. Douglas Teed generally had an idealistic perception of the world, and he believed in the spirituality found in God-created nature. The artist thought paintings should be more than aesthetically pleasing; they should create an allegory for this spirituality.

Teed began painting as a young boy, and opened his first studio at age 14. His work always focused on a Romantic depiction of nature, stemming from the Hudson River School tradition that was so prevalent in New York State. When his mother died, Teed went to live in Binghamton, New York, where he built a studio (1889). Teed’s early technique living in upstate New York focused on delicate, faithful representations of nature based on the artist’s own close observation of his subjects. However, Teed also spent time in the studio of George Inness, most likely in the early 1880s. Inness was a convert to the Barbizon movement that originated in France in and near Fontainebleau, and focused heavily on Swedenborgian spirituality as reflected in the peace and harmony of nature. HFA’s Homeward Bound from 1865 is a striking example of Inness’s early transition to Tonalism.

George Inness, Homeward Bound, 1865. Click to enlarge

After working with George Inness and experiencing Inness’s transition to American Barbizon painting, Teed painted Maple Sugar (1883). This charming image of a forest interior that nearly qualifies as genre painting captures Teed’s close observation of nature in the texture of the tree bark and the hazy atmosphere of the snowy forest on a dreary winter day. However, the thick impasto that appears in the tree trunks and in the dash of white snow on the roof of the cabin reveals the influence of Inness’s more rapid paint application in the Tonalist manner. Despite this move toward a Tonalist manner of painting, Teed still infuses this composition with his Romantic sensibility and reverence for nature. The monumental size of the trees dwarfs the figures and cabin, sheltering them in a cathedral-like embrace, while the subject of extracting resources from the environment alludes to a harmony between man and nature.

In 1890, Douglas Teed traveled to Italy for further study. The artist attempted classical depictions of the Roman Compagna, but also conveyed his Romantic sensibility through Tonalist depictions of the Italian landscape. While in Europe, Teed attended the Universal Expositions in both Paris (1891) and Munich (1892) where he would have viewed contemporary European paintings, and paintings by Americans living in Europe. After this, Teed eventually began incorporating Impressionist techniques into his manner of painting. One critic described Teed’s paintings in 1905: “Mr. Teed’s landscapes are said to recall the soft effects of Corot, though his style is so original that it would hardly be correct to speak of any other artist. His genre work is superb, and whether he finds inspiration in the warm tones of Southern Europe or the cooler tints of the more temperate zones, his work displays the same qualities of breadth and individuality.”[1]

In 1897, Teed married Ms. George E. C. Earle and moved to Hallstead, PA, where he built a studio (referred to by neighbors as “Teed’s Castle”) overlooking the Susquehanna River. Between 1907 and 1911 Douglas and George Teed visited Egypt, Morocco, India, and Algeria, where the artist developed his interest in Orientalism. Teed had already created Orientalist works based on reproductions of paintings by European Orientalists, but after this trip he began creating his own original Orientalist paintings. These paintings combine this Romantic and exotic perception of Africa and the Near East with Impressionist painting techniques, since Teed had never trained in the academic painting style.

For the remainder of his career, Teed continued to experiment with different painting styles, always infusing his subjects with a sense of mysticism. In 1917, the year Italian Landscape was painted, George Earl Teed died, resulting in Douglas Teed’s relocation to Detroit. Despite his personal loss, Teed was financially successful in Detroit, selling his paintings for high prices to wealthy industrialists. His buyers preferred established art forms like Tonalism and Impressionism, manners in which Teed continued to work. Italian Landscape is an example of the Barbizon-inspired Italian landscapes Teed began painting after his trip to Italy in 1890, yet it is dated much later. Teed managed to balance experimental and highly mystical paintings with more widely accepted manners throughout the changing artistic movements in the early twentieth century. Italian Landscape, therefore, is a later example of Teed’s devotion to a Romantic manner of painting that captured a divine sense of harmony in nature. In this image, the sun hangs low over the horizon line, bathing the landscape in a glowing light and silhouetting the distant Italian architecture. A lone figure stands in the middle ground taking in the scene while simultaneously becoming a part of nature to the painting’s viewer.

Teed continued to paint subjects related to his foreign travels throughout his career, leading one writer to ask the artist if he found it difficult to remember the details. Teed responded, “On the contrary, I have a much better perspective now of what I saw there. Also, as the superfluous details leave my memory, the really important ones stand out all the more clearly.”[2] Interestingly, Thomas Cole (1801-1848), the founder of the Hudson River School of landscape painting, made a similar argument almost a century earlier. Cole stated, “…I never succeed in painting scenes, however beautiful, immediately on returning from them. I must wait for time to draw a veil over the common details, the unessential parts, which shall leave the great features, whether the beautiful or the sublime dominant in the mind.”[3] These similar attitudes to the profound effects of nature and subject matter connect Douglas Teed’s constantly developing style with the foundation of American Romanticism as put forward by Thomas Cole and the first generation of Hudson River School artists.


[1] Lucie Page Borden, “Distinguished Artist at Estero,” The Flaming Sword (May 30, 1905): 14; Quoted in Pamela Beecher, Douglas Arthur Teed: An American Romantic, 1860-1929 (Elmira, NY: Arnot Art Museum, 1982), 28.

[2] Velmas Stevens Hitchcock, “Color, Clay and Crafty,” Club Woman, Vol. 19 (September, 1926): 25; Quoted in Beecher, 31.

[3] Cole to Asher B. Durand, Catskill, 4 January 1838, NYSL; quoted in Noble, The Life and Works of Thomas Cole, 185.

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On September 13, 1881, Jervis McEntee recorded in his dairy:

Jamie and I returned this morning from our visit to Lucy at Fort Halleck Nev. The two past months have been among the most interesting in my whole experience. The ride over this vast stretch of country and particularly over the Pacific rail road was crowded with interest day by day and never wearied me. I made a number of sketches and have returned with a hopeful and happy feeling and with the robust health born of living most of the time in the open air.[1]

A recent addition to Hawthorne Fine Art, Near Fort Halleck, was one of the oil sketches completed by McEntee (1828–1891) while in Nevada, where he traveled between June 28 and September 13, 1881 to stay with his sister and to take a “mental rest.”

Jervis McEntee, Near Fort Halleck, 1881, oil on canvas (Click to enlarge)

Demonstrating looser brushstrokes typical of oil sketching technique, this picture captures the sprawl and diversity of the landscape in a panoramic format. The lush vegetation in the foreground is dotted only sporadically with man-made structures, while the vast mountainscape in the background reveals a hint of snowcapped peaks at right that seem to hover in the atmosphere. As McEntee described, “The landscape is very fine and the mountains as picturesque as possible. Great sweeps of distance dotted with herds of cattle and terminating in Snow mountains are characteristic of the region.”[2] The format of this image effectively captures the vastness of the Nevada landscape, the remembrance of which could be used in a final painting upon the artist’s return to New York.

Jervis McEntee, An Adirondack Lake, oil on board (Click to enlarge)

A more typical subject matter in McEntee’s oeuvre is An Adirondack Lake. Born in the Hudson River Valley, in Rondout, New York, McEntee frequently depicted views of the Catskill and Adirondack mountains throughout his career. An Adirondack Lake reveals McEntee’s early training with Frederic Church (1826–1900) in its dramatic color palette and sensitive brushstrokes, while the luminosity of the scene exposes the influence of the artist’s close colleagues Worthington Whittredge (1820­–1910) and Sanford Gifford (1823–1880). The soft gray and brown of the lake and mountain contrast sharply with the flaming red of the autumn skyline. This juxtaposition of muted versus vibrant tones creates drama amid this serene lakeside vista. The bright autumn leaves frame the narrative of a man in his boat as a sharp peak rises dramatically above the lake.

Born in 1828, McEntee decided to devote himself entirely to painting by 1855 after working briefly in the flour and feed business. He took up a studio at the legendary Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City, where artists such as Church, Winslow Homer (1836–1910), and Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902) worked and exhibited. In 1858, McEntee had an additional studio built next to his father’s home in Rondout where the artist spent many summers painting the local landscape. He was elected an associate member of the National Academy in 1860, and became a full member the following year.

McEntee’s belief in the capacity of the natural landscape to arouse profound emotions often inspired him to exhibit his paintings with passages of poetry, reflecting the influence of the poet Henry Pickering (1781–1838) who boarded with the McEntee family during the artist’s childhood and introduced the young boy to fine art, poetry, and literature. McEntee’s austere autumnal landscapes, with subdued tones and a pensive and at times melancholy mood, set him apart from those Hudson River artists who preferred sublime topography and vivid colors. Today, McEntee’s works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others.


[1] Jervis McEntee, Diary Entry, September 13, 1881, The Jervis McEntee Diaries, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

[2] Quoted in A Selection of Drawings by Jervis McEntee From the Lockwood DeForest Collection (New York: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, 1976), unpaginated.

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By the time Matt Rowland’s Road, Old Lyme, CT was completed around 1919, Clark Greenwood Voorhees (1871-1933) was well versed in the plein air painting technique of Impressionism. Depicting a local landscape near the Old Lyme, Connecticut, art colony where Voorhees made his home, this painting captures the crisp autumn air and vibrant foliage of the Connecticut countryside. Voorhees’s even brushstrokes and thick dabs of paint are typical of the Impressionist manner, which occupied itself with natural effects of light and air. But in this nostalgic image of tangled, overgrown land and a rickety bridge emerges Voorhees’s tendencies toward Tonalism, influenced by the American Barbizon movement.

Voorhees, Matt Rowland's Road, Old Lyme, CT, c.1919

American Barbizon artists such as George Inness (1825-1894) painted in a Tonalist manner using washes of harmonized colors in an attempt to encourage introspective viewing of the image, rather than sensory overload through academic naturalism. Originating from the Barbizon movement in the Fontainbleau region of France, the American Barbizon artists likewise focused on the wildness of local landscapes as a retreat from modern urban life. Voorhees, while incorporating the painting techniques of the Impressionists, is reflecting on this small, seemingly insignificant plot of land along a country road as an escape from the progress of modernity.

The man whose name gives this painting its title was lifelong resident of Old Lyme, Matthew L. Rowland. Recording himself as a “Farm Laborer” in the 1870 Federal Census, Rowland most likely lived and worked near the location depicted by Voorhees. Whether the road was in fact named after Rowland, or if Voorhees simply applied the farmer’s name to the location is unknown, as is any relationship that may have existed between the artist and Rowland, who lived until about 1920. Voorhees’s choice of this local resident and location allows for a meditation on change in the landscape over time, a common theme in both Barbizon and Impressionist philosophy (for example, seasonal change; times of day; or the progress of society). A regular biker who enjoyed physical connections with the landscape, Voorhees aspired toward a subjective interpretation of nature in his paintings, such as this.

1870 Federal Census showing Matt Rowland. Click to enlarge.

By 1919, when this painting was most likely completed, Voorhees and his family, a wife and three children, began to travel to Bermuda each year to escape the Connecticut winter. Voorhees may have completed this autumn scene just prior to his escape to a warmer climate, incorporating the idea of change, in this case seasonal, so prevalent in Barbizon painting and Impressionism. As the brightly colored leaves dry out and fall to the ground, everything and everyone prepares for a long winter in New England. Whether it was Voorhees’s intention or not, it is difficult to avoid the metaphor of the changing seasons, the changing society in which Voorhees was living, and the “autumn” of Matthew Rowland’s life and land.

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