The “T” Word: Tonalism

July 7, 2010 Leave a comment

George Inness in his studio

Have you thought at times that technology, in spite of its usefulness, has also encroached upon your peace of mind, your serenity, your need for inspiration from sources other than television and the internet? If so, you probably shared the feelings of Americans who more than a century ago became weary of the many new inventions that were intended to make life better as the industrial revolution evolved.

These were not old fogies who couldn’t deal with inevitable change, for they welcomed progress, but they were also romanticists unwilling to trade nature for technological advancement. Art historians have referred to them as Tonalists.

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Local and Specific: How Painters Created Modern Lanscapes (by Looking in their Own Backyards)

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

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“Local and specific” refers to the post-Hudson River School focus away from grandiose and Sublime imagery of America’s wilderness toward specific areas of the landscape: quiet, intimate corners of land with which the artist is personally familiar. The most intimate landscape was both more informal and less composed.

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Pretty Young Things

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

It was the period of the women’s suffrage movement at the turn of the century…
The fight for equality in the field of Fine Art was just as difficult as their fight for the vote. For the most part, American women painters who worked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries got a raw deal from their male counterparts. Their unenviable lot in life owed mostly to male chauvinism inside and outside of the art community. It was bad enough for a talented, beginning male student but nearly impossible for a young woman to become a successful professional artist. The odds were not in their favor. Usually their efforts, regardless of quality, were sidestepped by the art hierarchy because they were looked upon not as serious art students but as pretty young things seeking husbands.

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The Good Life

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

“It was a way of life in a special world for the successful artist of the late nineteenth century; art and life were one, and the pursuit of harmony and tranquility were goals of living as well as painting.”

Richard J. Boyle,  “American Impressionism,” 1974 [p. 179]

Such an idealistic quest was part of the American Genteel Tradition. The ultimate goal was to become financially successful, to fit into society, and to enjoy such luxuries as owning summer homes, hiring cooks and servants, and traveling world-wide to exotic painting locales. No longer a romantic, eccentric recluse, the successful American artist was invariably a well-groomed, business-minded cosmopolitan who knew how to market his “product” and to promote himself (or in some cases, herself) through networking in organizations and exhibitions.

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The “V” Word

February 11, 2010 2 comments

Without a doubt, the question I’m asked most frequently is how one arrives at a “value” for a picture. Of course, a purist would declare that every art-image has value, if only to its creator. But usually, the V-word (value) is attached only to the monetary considerations of the painting. Therefore, one who determines monetary evaluation of art must consider a variety of factors. While a few of these are determined a priori, therefore subjective, and falling within the parameters of connoisseurship, most factors are objective. Assuming access to certain standard research facilities factors (listed after the break) should provide the best basis for determining the monetary value of a painting.

Here they are…

Happy American Art Day!

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Compared to most nations, America provides few holidays. Having been set up on Judeo-Christian principles, our democracy has evolved celebrating religious holidays, which have become traditional. Moreover, we all take time off from our routines to celebrate a few patriotic holidays such as the Fourth of July and Presidents’ Day. Our schedules often include recognition of unofficial holidays: Mother’s and Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, even Sweetest Day. It almost seems as if greeting card companies and the flower trade have lobbied for more holidays to be declared, for instance, Secretary’s Day, to boost sales. The common denominator in all of these “Days of Honor” is our wish to recognize, even celebrate events and the achievements of individuals or groups who have contributed significantly to the history of this nation.

In fact, our usual routines have been suspended, put on the back burner, as it were, to commemorate these persons or events. And is this not a wonderful way to demonstrate our recognition as a nation, of the value of their contributions, frequently at sacrifices to their own well being? We need not reiterate the worth of unselfish contributions of the Revolutionary War heroes or Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. because the impact of their careers has affected our lives so greatly.

But what about the value of the contributions of American artists? What about the worth of their careers, which many pursued unselfishly at extreme sacrifice? Surely our great public museums and private collections are testaments to the value of our nation’s artistic talents. Do our artists not deserve a national day of recognition?

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A Query for President Obama

January 19, 2010 1 comment

Image courtesy of dragonartz.netWith the exception of major works, the previous year 2009 has wreaked havoc on the American art market. If politicians who always have inside knowledge of the economy’s condition couldn’t forecast the year’s financial collapse, how would those involved in art have known? Perhaps no one could have expected the “big hit” on all art except for the finest.

Part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program, designed to combat the Great Depression, involved a project that was known as the Public Works of Art Project. It called for a six-month plan by government subsidy of artists and ran from December 1933 through June 1934. Painters and others were paid to make art.

I find myself wondering if a similar program would work in today’s world. Shall the government pay painters to make art? Should tax dollars go for those cultural products? Is the subsidy of art a worthy comparison to health care? Let’s consider the validity of an art subsidy program for Mr. Obama’s Administration.

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