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