To celebrate the official start of summer, we thought we would highlight some of Hawthorne Fine Art’s exciting spring acquisitions of American landscape painting.
Two recent additions to our inventory feature the distinct tonalist brushwork of George Inness (1825–1894). Both Pompton and Pastoral Landscape with Reclining Male Figure were completed in or around 1877, when Inness’s American Barbizon style was in full swing. Inness had spent extended periods in France in the 1850s and early 1870s where he encountered the Barbizon painters working near Fontainebleau. Inness surely felt an affinity for their focus on the cultivated landscape and inclusion of human figures, features which had set his own paintings apart from the untamed views of nature produced by America’s Hudson River School painters. The reductive sensibility, loose brushstrokes, and outline-dissolving chiaroscuro of the Barbizon painters eventually prompted Inness to move away from the precision and clarity of the Hudson River School-type works.
While both paintings feature loose and direct brushwork, they were most likely completed in the studio as opposed to en plein air. Michael Quick argues that Pastoral Landscape, which contains tack holes suggesting the image was hung on the artist’s studio wall, was a compositional study for a finished landscape painting completed later the same year, as well as two later paintings from 1887. Yet Inness develops the atmospheric effects of the darkening sky and varies the textures of the greenery, giving this preparatory image a more polished appearance. Likewise, Pompton contains evidence of Inness’s working process: underdrawing indicates a change in the size and shape of the river bank. Yet, as Quick notes, this small studio painting is “executed in a self-consciously artistic manner as a gem for the connoisseur. Warm and cool colors, darks and lights, masses and active lines are carefully balanced. Every decorative brush stroke of highlights is executed with flair.” Despite their compositional differences, such as the canvas orientation and the addition or omission of solitary figures, these images both bridge the particular moment in Inness’s career as he turned from French Barbizon technique to softer, tonalist compositions reflective of his conversion to the Swedenborgian faith.
Of a very different subject is Louis Charles Vogt’s (1864–1939) C & O Railroad Bridge Construction of 1929. This painting depicts the construction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Cincinnati Bridge. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad was formed in 1869 by Collis Potter Huntington, one of the “Big Four” of western railway expansion. By the twentieth century, the C & O Railroad was primarily used to haul bituminous coal. Vogt’s image depicts the 1929 bridge that replaced the original 1889 structure.
Vogt’s image juxtaposes the carefully delineated structural forms of the bridge with thick impasto clouds of smoke to conjure the unpleasant and hazardous work site. Quick swipes of bright colors on the ground and in the figures’ clothing provide a sense of vibrancy in the fast-moving work place. A study for this painting is in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio. While Vogt did create pastoral landscape scenes, he produced numerous scenes of New York and other cities. Like C & O Railroad Bridge Construction, many of Vogt’s cityscapes feature the construction of new structures that aided in expansion and transportation.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Louis Charles Vogt studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy with Frank Duveneck, and later in New York. Through his training, Vogt developed an urban realist style reminiscent of the Ashcan School, which emerged in New York in the early twentieth century. Like the Ashcan artists, Vogt’s painting style features sweeping strokes that capture the vitality and sometimes grittiness of the modern world, as opposed to the leisurely scenes favored by Impressionists.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about our recent spring acquisitions as we transition into the New York City summer! We invite you to make an appointment to view these spectacular works at our new gallery space at 12 East 86th Street, Suite 527, in Manhattan.