Friday, May 23, 2008

The View from Seat 23F

If Frederic Church booked a seat on a modern airline, what would he think of the view out the window? How would he respond to a landscape of pure clouds with no terrestrial foreground?

Early in his career Church painted this scene based on the sunrise view from the eastern scarp of the Catskill Mountains. It has the feeling of being detached from the ground, but there are still vestiges of rocks and trees beneath our feet.

A couple months ago I sat atop Storm King, a mountain overlooking the Hudson River near the cities of Newburgh and Beacon. As I sketched, I found myself unconsciously wanting to invent a repoussoir element in the foreground to give the viewer something to hang onto.

I was thinking of Caspar David Friedrich’s famous painting of the wanderer above the sea of clouds. He puts us on the dizzy heights with the world below almost swallowed up in vapors.

One contemporary artist, Hillary Brace, draws cloudscapes entirely devoid of solid ground.

I think Church would have loved the challenge to paint a pure sea of clouds. After all, his most famous painting, Niagara, dispensed with a solidity and security altogether.

Landscape painting at its best uses visible matter to convey invisible realms of space, air, depth and silence.

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Thanks, Chris. Hillary Brace, link. Jing Hao, link.

5 comments:

Sasha said...

Thanks for sharing these interesting cloudscape artists. I've always loved cloudscapes, I often find myself wishing I had my camera with me on afternoons when the golden hour's skies are particularly amazing.

Art wise, I've always admired Jennifer Miller's paintings of skies- you might want to take a look, they're very captivating.

Susan's Scribbles said...

Thanks for the post. I always enjoy the information you share. It's interesting and helpful and we never know what to expect next! Thanks again!
Susan

wonderboss said...

Great observations, J. F.E. Church is the prince among landscape painters, IMHO. I could spend hours in front of THE ICEBERGS, HEART OF THE ANDES, COTOPAXI, etc. -- in fact, I have done so! And I envy you your easy access to the countryside that so inspired him...

Ambera said...

Hi James! What a great post, I really enjoyed that. I'm fascinated by clouds, I'm always painting them over and over in whatever which way I can. Eric Orchard directed me to your blog, I'll be back again. Thanks!
Ambera

John Nez said...

I guess I just don't fly enough, because I'm always astonished to see most passengers on airlines just pull up the shade and go to sleep.

Since I only fly once every 10 years or so, I'm always entranced by the wonder of it all... with my neck glued to the window the whole flight.

I usually think of Tiepolo when I see clouds... and often wonder what Tiepolo himself would have thought if he could share the same point of view that most jaded airline passengers get.

Thanks for the great blog... you really put a lot into it.

:0)