NATIONAL GALLERY EXHIBITION – FREDERICK CHURCH AND THE LANDSCAPE OIL SKETCH


THROUGH AMERICAN EYES:  FREDERICK CHURCH AND THE LANDSCAPE OIL SKETCH
Frederic Church is one of America’s Hudson Valley painters. He lived from 1826 to 1900.

OLANA HOUSE EXTERIOR

OLANA HOUSE EXTERIOR

OLANA
We went to Olana, his Husdon Valley home and estate, one day in July last year, during what was a debilitating heatwave. Temperatures up on the high 30s!  We were on a visit to stay with family, who live in Ulster County, New York State, so it was within driving distance, and the car had  air con of course.

There are a number of interesting large houses on the banks of the Hudson River, which are usually placed on high ground giving fine views of this beautiful river.  The rich used to come there for the summer, to get away from the humidity of the city.
This particular house is very well preserved and quite unusual; it is built in the Persian style and was constructed at a time when Frederick Church had made himself a wealthy man from his paintings. So everything was of the highest quality.  The house is smaller than I had imagined it would be, and dark inside, with so many ornate surfaces and dark works of art, both paintings and sculpture and ceramics.

BOOK YOUR TOUR IN ADVANCE!

BOOK YOUR TOUR IN ADVANCE!

Remember to book your admittance though. We arrived at the ticket office a little after our booked time, due to the problem we had in finding a parking space.  The car park is tiny.  For that reason we had to wait for about 45 minutes before the next slot for visitors.  The house is kept closed and locked unless opened for a group tour, so all you can do is wander around the grounds, or buy stuff in the shop.  Luckily for us, there is a small barn where a film is shown, probably on a loop, about Olana and the Church family.

Inside we were conducted around and given a good introduction to Church and his work, but the guides are all volunteers so you may, or may not, get a good one. A bit like our own dear National Trust.

I liked the Church landscapes very much, and the family nicknacks were fascinating, as was learning about the background to the painter and his fellow artists of the Hudson Valley School.

RUSTIC FENCES ADD CHARM AT OLANA

RUSTIC FENCES ADD CHARM AT OLANA

HUDSON

The heat outside was still very enervating, and there is no cafe or drinks stall, so we decided to drive across the river to the small town of Hudson, where we parked.  Then we shrivelled up in the blast of midday walking along the deserted streets, to a well-reviewed Italian restaurant for a good lunch.

It is well worth going to Olana if you are there on holiday, and also try and see the other mansions in the Hudson Valley, they are quite different from our own stately homes, because they were designed for holiday residences and not long term family homes. In those days you travelled to your holiday home by river steamer, because the railroad had yet to reach that far up river.

NATIONAL GALLERY EXHIBITION

I was very interested to read the article in The Daily Telegraph Travel section of February 2, by Susan Marling, called ‘A brush with the sublime’, about the new exhibition at the National Gallery dedicated to Frederick Church.  The photographs too were excellent.  The exhibition is called:
Through American Eyes: Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch’
The exhibition runs from February 6 until April 28.

http://www.olana.org
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/frederic-church
http://www.gotohudson.net/about.php

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DULWICH PICTURE GALLERY, NORMAN ROCKWELL EXHIBITION


NORMAN ROCKWELL EXHIBITION ENDS 27 MARCH 2011

There is a comparison to be made at the Dulwich Picture Gallery,  between the work of American artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell and the Spanish painter of the 17th century, Murillo.

Make sure you take the opportunity to look at Murillo’s paintings after seeing the Rockwell, then  walk down to the end of the gallery and admire the beautiful Vermeer, which is ‘A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman‘ on loan from Her Majesty the Queen.

First, the Norman Rockwell is full of work that brings a smile to the lips, and a great deal of amused appreciation from the viewers.  I noticed several people pointing out dogs.  You probably know the Saturday Evening Post magazine covers,.  They are famous, and all 323 of them are on display.

EARLY STUDIES

More interesting are the actual studies and examples of the originals, which were completed in oils.  A few are in gouache.  Particularly attuned to today’s tastes are the studies such as ‘The Problem  We All Live With’, in gouache and  ‘Peace Corps in Ethiopia’.  The paint is fluid and yet dense, with texture and freedom of application, brush marks are still there and the colours are still brilliant. They dated from 1964 and 1966.

Norman Rockwell’s early works are also in very good condition, luminous and obviously  owing much to Rockwell’s admiration of masters such as Vermeer.  That is why it is so interesting to be able to compare the two painters at Dulwich.

DULWICH PICTURE GALLERY, DULWICH VILLAGE, LONDON SE21 7AD

I consider the sentimental subjects and choice of models spoils the work of Norman Rockwell, unfortunately – work which was of course not created to appear in hallowed halls of famous art galleries but to be seen on a paper journal’s cover, produced weekly, laughed at and then thrown away.

WORKING METHODS

The artist’s working method was explained.  In particular I read about his creation of ‘Charwomen in Theatre’, a study of 1946.  Rockwell visited the theatre in New York, made sketches and had a photographer along to do photos of the setting, the seats, the lights and darks.  Back home he had two neighbours posing as the charladies which in the picture are reading the programme, surrounded by bucket and mops.  The colours here again are just delicious, the ladies blocked in freely and the result is tactile and fresh.

There are a lot of little boys, elderly men, sailors, grim old women, dogs, courting couples.

‘It’s lovely, isn’t it?  I heard one young woman exclaim with delight.  For me the illustrated covers of Saturday Evening Post are too twee and ‘feelgood’, there are too many stock figures, funny animals, faces in grotesque grimace.

SHORT ON MALICE

One of the large displays of text which are on the walls of the gallery explain that Rockwell was ‘short on malice’ and I wonder which painter or illustrator is ‘long on malice’?  Maybe a cartoonist such as Gerald Scarf, but malice – with or without – seems a strong word to describe a visual creation.

MURILLO

Now to the Murillos just outside this exhibition.  There they are, two paintings, each of little boys, one with a cute dog.  Painted in the late 1660s, they are poor boys – they are not lovely, one child smiles.  Apparently Ruskin described them as ‘repulsive and wicked children’,  and the paintings showed  ‘mere delight in foulness’  (he was a bit weird anyway).  The paintings tell a story, just as the Rockwells do, why is the child with bread being cajoled by the boy with the dog?  You make up the answer.

VERMEER

The Vermeer is different again, bright, crisp shapes of the marble floor, the windows and walls, soft and slightly out of focus figures but no dog, no humour.  You can still make up the ending of the story.  Would you describe this as ‘photo-realism’?  It is more real than that.  Its realism with humanity.