Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Hudson River School for Landscape

A group of over 30 landscape painters has been working for almost a month in Hunter, New York, in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. They’re participating in the second annual Hudson River School for Landscape, founded by Jacob Collins, who is also renowned for his atelier called Grand Central Academy of Art in New York City.

Travis Schlaht produced this painting of the Stream at Kaaterskill Falls during last year’s five-week session.

The lodging and tuition are provided for free of charge thanks to a generous fellowship from the Catskill Mountain Foundation. Over a hundred people applied for the positions, and Jacob told me it was very difficult to make the selection. The participants are young and talented, and they hail from as far as Spain, Germany and Australia. “It’s a little intimidating, honestly,” Jacob told me, and I agree.

I joined the group for a day of painting (Jacob Collins at left and me at right), and I probably brought bad luck because a torrential downpour opened up as soon as we got going.

Scott Balfe switched to a sombrero and Army-issue poncho to head off the downpour.

Here's my 11x14 painting of Scott (sans sombrero) alongside Schoharie Creek, with Jacob’s dog Finney wading in the shallows.

Once a week or so, the group gathers with their work-in-progress. I joined them last Wednesday for a supper, and I gave a slide show about the working methods of the early plein-airists.

The artwork that the group exhibited included sensitively-observed close views of stream rocks and mossy trees in muted colors and controlled brushwork, though there were also some rapidly-painted sunsets.

The curriculum is modeled on the methods of Asher Durand, Frederic Church, Sanford Gifford and other pre-Impressionist painters, achieving a high level of finish in pencil and oil, mostly with multiple sittings. When they get home, the artists will develop a larger composition based on the studies. Use of photography for reference is discouraged.

I believe that this group will have a significant and lasting effect on the future of American—and perhaps international—landscape painting.

My own painting of “Artists along the Schoharie Creek,” along with two other plein-air studies, are currently being exhibited and offered for sale at Windham Fine Arts Gallery in Windham, New York.

Hudson River School for Landscape home page, link.
Exhibition of last year’s class, link.
Three Gurney plein air paintings at Windham Fine Arts, link.
Jacob Collins home page, link.
Previous GJ post on painting with J. Collins, link.


jeff said...

I studied with Frank Mason many years ago. He has been taking a group of painters from his ASL class to Vermont for a month (June) of landscape painting since the mid 60's to my knowledge. He's 86 and in poor health so this might have been the last summer.

On another post you mentioned Keith Gunderson who also studied with Frank and took this class for many years to my knowledge.

His class did pretty much the same thing as I see here, only it was open to anyone the first 40 people to sign up were in but it mostly consisted of people from his ASL class.

Your painting level did not matter. Frank was the kind teacher who believed in just throwing you in the deep end of the pool so to speak. He belivied in drawing with the brush and mastering that was crucial.

Doing pencil studies was all well and good and it was a given that you worked on this. But, if you could not get the effect all the drawing in world was not going to make a good painting.

We would paint in the mornings and late afternoons and draw during the day. The concentration was on painting though and doing a lot of it.

We did crits 3 days a week. One dawn crit, starting at at about 4 or 5 AM. One Sunset crit, and on Saturdays we would bring on or two paintings from the week.

Frank emphasized the whole gambit of landscape painting from Constable, Turner, with a lot of emphasis on the Hudson River School as well.

However he was a student of DuMond's and the palette was based on the idea of using what is in the spectrum of light and the effects that are caused by this. Violet/gray was the controlling factor that we all had to learn to see and to come to grips with in relation to making a good effect.

Mr. Mason has been doing this for over 40 years. Before him you had the Old Lyme painters.

John Philip Osborne (great landscape painter) and Joseph Paquet (former student of Osborne) are also two excellent painters teaching landscape using traditional painting ideas and techniques.

Clive Aspeveg is another example of a very highly accomplished landscape painter who is has been out there for over 20 years.
I don't think he teaches though.

jeff said...

I was looking at Travis's painting which is a very good painting. The elements are so well drawn.

Something was bothering me about it which posed a question.

My question is, (this may be how the values are being presented in the photo) why is the value of the shadow under the rocks in the water the same as the values of the shadows in the distant woods?

The rocks in the water are closer to you then canopy of the trees in the background, why are they the same intensity in value, hue and chroma?

Should the value and the intensity of the hue not recede in space?

Dianne Mize said...

What an exciting curriculum! Having emerged as a youngster attending college in the 60's where NO instruction was the ideal, I am heartened to have lived long enough to see real instruction ease back into the study of visual arts.

Anonymous said...

What a interesting post
Iam looking at Artists Colinies as part of my disssertation for my fine art degree. my definition of a artist colinies would be "artist comming together for mutal support at a particular place"
The river Hudson school has always fascinated me.
The Artists colony idea seems pariculary stron in America

jeff said...

The Hudson River School, the one that Mr. Collins has named his school after was not an artist colony. The New Hudson River School is not an artist colony in the true sense of the word, it's a school.

In fact it was not a school of like minded painters.

The only connection was that they all painted landscape, lived in New York City or the vicinity and went outside painting into the wilds of New York and New England.

In fact some did very little painting outside and mostly drew. We should remember that in those days you had to grind your own paint and put them into bladders.
Paint tubes did not come into the picture into the late 19 century.

It was one hell of an ordeal to go out painting in those days. Between the bugs, weather and the hours it took to get anywhere by horse you had to really want to paint out of doors.

There is an very good book on this subject 'The Painted Sketch' from the Dallas Museum of Art. It's the catalog from the show of the same name.

Some painters such as Church, Gifford, and Bierstadt were very prolific.

Church is known to spend sometimes 12 hours or more a day sketching in outdoors.

I would say the Lyme Art Colony in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was more of what your thinking of. This was a group of painters who had studied with or were associated with Childe Hassam.

The link below is a great site that goes into the history and for me it was great as I discovered some new painters.