Monday, November 16, 2009


Four Contemporary Provocative Pairs of landscape and seascape:
John Wimberly (Paget, Bermuda, 1945) San Francisco from Mt. Tamalpais, ca 1970-80
I met Wimberly's black & white prints at Photography West Gallery, Carmel, CA, This view is one of my favorites and compares with one from a different artist in North Carolina

View of Charlotte [NC] Skyline, 2001.Photographer Unknown.

Si Chan Yuan (Chikiang Provence, China, 1911-1974) Big Sur Coast, ca 1970
Yuan is one of the finest painters to come out of the Monterey coast tradition of landscapes and seascapes. His work occasionally appears for sale in the James J. Rieser Gallery, Mission Street, Carmel, CA
Hiroshi Sugimoto (Tokyo, 1948) [Medi] Terranean Sea, 1996. Using a large format camera, he waits for the right moment in seeking stillness in his images of the sea. Clearly, he works in the minimalist style.

Frank Stella (Maiden, MA 1936) Picnic on the Grass (appropriates the title of two well-known mid-nineteenth century paintings for his minimalist, post-painterly abstract version of the same scene.

Manet,Luncheon on the Grass, 1863

Ansel Adams, above, The Golden Gate (before the bridge), 1932 [Reproduction print 16" x 20" $110.00].

Below, Adam's view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Baker's Beach, ca 1953 [Reproduction print 8" x 10" is priced at $57.00]


Okay, let's say that you are a food enthusiast, a food lover, even a not-too-shabby cook.You need to find something for the dining room, just above the table, but you are ill-prepared for decor or a search in art history. You wonder how to dip into that field and find something worth talking about over the Salade Nicoise. I suggest the landscape - large enough to contemplate, subtly spiced, thoroughly acceptable, sometimes reasonably-priced, and easy on the palate.
But, what is a landscape?

Allow me to set before you a bit more of my sampler but without food.
High-quality photo reproductions of most of these landscapes are available at museums and galleries for $35-50.00, suitable for framing:
Paul Caponigro (Boston, 1932-), Trees and Fog, Redding, Connecticut, 1968.
Caponigro studied with Minor White in San Francisco and eschews the high drama of snow-capped peaks and crazed urban centers for the subtle, understated landscape, nuanced shades and gentle forms, following in the formalist traditions of that time and place.

Caponigro's black & white photographic prints were among the first I saw when, in 1994, I took a PT sales job at Photography West Gallery in Carmel, California. I earned about $6.60/hour but I got to see, handle learn about and sometimes even sell (with a small commission) the highest quality photography in the U.S., both color and black & white, from Edward Weston to Brett Weston to Morley Baer, Christopher Burkett and Caponigro.

Christopher Burkett, Aspens, Colorado, 1993 [30" x 40" original prints, $10,000]

"Working rapidly, I found the image on the ground glass in the fading light and had time for only one exposure. Because of the low light levels, it was necessary to give the film about 90 seconds of exposure."

Morley Baer (1916-1995) Double Surf, Garrapata Beach, 1968

And just for the sake of comparison, Garrapata Beach by Brett Weston (1911-1993)

Now, Paintings by Some 20th Century American Masters:

The first visual tidbit is from Grant Wood,
Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930

the guy who painted those two elders with pitchforks and dour looks:
Grant Wood (b.Iowa, 1892-1942) Stone City, Iowa,1930

One of the few paintings by Wood that suggests that people lived in towns and traveled by cars, not with horses and wagons. Nevertheless, Stone City is a turning point in Wood's career because it more or less set the style which he maintained for the rest of his life in what may be called "American Scene Painting."

Stone City was an art colony that operated from from 1932 to 1933 on the John A. Green estate as an alternative to popular(and wilder) colonies at Woodstock, NY, and Santa Fe, NM.

Here, Wood wore suspenders or bib overalls and traveled and worked for the establishment of regionalism in landscape painting (along with his colleagues elsewhere, Thomas Hart Benton, Reginald Marsh, and others) against strong opposition from more radical artists in the 1930s who were influenced by European abstractio
n such as Max Weber, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O'Keefe, Arthur Dove and Charles Demuth.

America's first cubist landscape painter experimented with a variety of forms that included architecture, landscape and even numbers.
Right: Demuth, "5", 1924-29
Charles Demuth (b.Lancaster PA 1883-1935) My Egypt, 1937

Minor White (born Minneapolis, MN, 1908-1976) California Artichokes and Cliffs, 1951

White was student of both Steiglitz and Weston and a member of the f.64 group in California in the 1930-40s. He worked in the WPA during the Depression.
He taught at MIT and founded and edited the photography magazine, Aperture (1953-57). Woody Gwyn (born San Antonio, TX 1944-) Clayton Road Cut, 2008 He is noted for his contemporary, large-scale landscape paintings whch usually include reminders of our modern life. [see Neo-Terrraine, below]

Wayne Thiebaud Sacramento River Delta
Wayne Thiebaud's abstract landscapes emphasize the varied terrain of California, but he is equally well-known for his realistic food images.

Ashley Lathe is a native of North Carolina, has worked in design, teaches art in Charlotte, and is a former resident student at Charlotte's prestigious McColl Center for the Arts. He specializes in his own minimalist style of landscape and city-scape watercolor painting.

Western art's favorite genre, the landscape, is often food-related but, early on, was almost entirely restricted to battle scenes views of farms, fields and orchards, food gathering scenes or picnics (sometimes called "a pleasure party"). It can be a sentimental genre. It can relate a historical event or evoke a memory.
Above: John Constable (Suffolk, England, 1776-1837), The Cornfield, 1826.
Constable was the consummate landscape painter of nineteenth century England. The Cornfield is a prime example of the English Romantic landscape that nourished the idea that England should manage an empire reaching around the world.

Constable loved paintings the fields and farms, mills and streams of England, especially Dedham Vale, now called "Constable Country." by art historians. He presents not so much a direct representation of food as the presence of food production in a sentimental, idealized setting.

Constable minimalized human figures in his landscapes because his principal concern was color, light and the sheer majesty of the land. Like so many of his colleagues, he presented a strong nationalistic message. And so, we have in the poetry of Robert Browning (1812-1889) the question, Who would not choose to live in England - "now that April's there" [from "Home Thoughts from Abroad"].


Wols (born Berlin, Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schultz, 1913-1951)
Cite (City), 1945

Wols is the founder of "Informal" painting which focuses on painting technique and the material used rather than a "subject," which is supposed to emerge in that process.. His photography was "discovered" in the 1970s and called "decidedly abstract" and surrealist, crammed with everyday objects and people: an antique dealer, peddlers, tramps, stair railings, streets. He adopted the pseudonym, "Wols" in 1937. Cite is from
The European Tradition:

his period after 1937 when he worked in the South of France on landscapes and still life painting.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) Apple Picking, 1886

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) Olive Grove [with Orange Sky], St. Remy, 1889

Raoul Dufy (Le Havre, France,1877-1953) Wheatfield, 1929

Joan Miro (Spain, 1893-1983) The Farm, 1922

A Selection of American Food-scapes:

The images and themes seem governed by Americans' preference for mobility:
Picnics, Food on the road
, Fishing, Fast food, Food markets, but also Farms and orchards.

James Peale (Chestertown, MD, 1749-1831), Pleasure Party by a Mill, 1790

Edward Hicks (1780-1849) The Peaceable Kingdom, 1848 [0f 61 versions]

Hicks was a Quaker sign painter (Hicksville, NY, is an old Quaker community) but dabbled in realism but only within the boundaries set by his conservative community. In 1823 he was part of of a movement that split the Society of Friends into "Hicksites" and "Orthodox," the former worshiping in a manner somewhat like modern secular humanism, while the latter was bibliocentric. While not a "food painting," this image of Eden or William Penn's Sylvania is linked with that region's abundance of resources.

Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889) Picnic Along the Hudson, 1881

Thomas Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910) Trout Fishing in the Adirondacks, ca 1862

William Bliss Baker (New York City, 1859-1886) Pleasant Day at Lake George, 1883

George Innis (1825-1894) The Trout Brook, 1891

Clarence Hudson White (West Carlisle, Ohio, 1871-1925), The Orchard, 1902 [platinum print]

George Bellows (1882-1925) The Picnic, 1924

Grant Wood, Spring Turning, 1936, and Stone City, Iowa,1930 (above)

Carl Schaefer (Ontario, Canada,1903-1995) Summer Harvest, Hanover [southern Ontario], 1935

Walker Evans (St.Louis, Mo 1903-1975) City Lunch Counter , New York, 1929.
Gas Station, Reedsville, West VA
, 1935

Berenice Abbott (Springfield, Ohio, 1898-1991) Blossom Restaurant, NYC (from the WPA funded Changing New York Project, 1935-38). Compare to Lee Friedlander, below.

ItalicEdward Weston (Highland Park, Ill, 1886-1958) Tomato Field, Big Sur, CA, 1937 (Weston, a formalist within the avant-garde, was called "The heroic modernist")

Betty Waldo Parrish (Born Betty Eames, Cologne, Germany, 1910-1986)) Adirondack Farm, 1939
Ansel Adams (1902-1984) Farm Workers at Japanese Relocation Camp, Manzanar, CA, with Mt. Williams in background, 1944 [silver gel print] Adams' images of Mt. Williams are part of his legacy of fine art photography. Set here in a different context, the image assumes political nuances,

William J. Eggleston (Memphis, TN, 1939) Jefferson County Salt, 1951

Minor White (Minneapolis, MN 1908-1977) California Coast with Artichokes, 1951

Thomas Hart Benton (Neosho, MO 1889-1975) Keith Farm, Chilmark, 1955
Post Modern Images of a Social Landscape:
Lee Friedlander (Aberdeen, WA, 1934-) Newark NJ, 1962; Las Vegas, 2002

Garry Winogrand (NYC, 1928-1984) Albequerque, NM 1958; New York City, 1968 [woman with pretzel]

Arenas Luna SW (DOB unknown), Sweet Candy Landscape, 1999

Jeff Brouws,
McDonalds in Minnesota Landscape, 2004

Gus Foster, Soybeans, Iowa (from Cross-Country Walk and the Panoramic Phototgraphy Project, 2004-05) Road stories, like Jack Keroac's 1957 novel, On The Road have been strong presentational formats for art photographers like Stephen Shore and Gus Foster.

Stephen Shore (New York City, 1947) The Falls, 1976 [from portfolio Twelve Photographs, the Biographical; Landscape, 1976] Shore also undertook a road trip and produced a book ful of images.

The Psychological Landscape of America: Foreground, Background, and the Every-Day Life:

Ilse Bing (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, 1899-1998) New York, Me and the Elevated, 1936.
Known for daring perspectives, cropping, and images of man-made subjects, using natural light, Bing was outstanding as a photojournalist, fashion photographer and modernist, avant-garde artist in the company of Man Ray, Brassai, and Cartier-Bresson.

Note her self-portrait within the lens of the telescope, a detail used by other photographers interested in questioning the "frame" of the image.

Richard Estes (Kewanee, IL, 1932-) Broadway Still Life, 2003 Photo-realist landscape/cityscape painter. His reflected view of New York's Flatiron Building is appropriated from a 1905 photo by
Edward Steichen. A sandwich sign and fruit display complete the still life.

William Eggleston (Memphis, TN, 1939); Untitled (Fast Food Stand), 1974
Eggleston likes to take a stand against the obvious. "I don't like thangs." So, as the art history professor told us, try to get beyond the object and try to see the subject. He is not a documentary photographer; he relies on anecdote and contest to make it make sense.

Jeff Brouws (San Francisco, CA 1955) Approaching Nowhere: the Highway Landscape, 1990

A Post-Civil War Landscape and The Landscape of the Mind:

Salvador Dali (Spain, 1904-1989), The Sublime Moment, 1938 (See blog for November 9) 2009, below)

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