Sunday, October 16, 2016

Small Landscapes at the Morgan

This alpine landscape by Calame is one of the early plein-air studies currently on exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

Alexandre Calame ( Swiss, 1810–1864)
oil on paper/ canvas, 17 3/4 x 12 in. (45.1 x 30.5 cm)
Calame's painting has a lot of depth and variety of paint handling, from generous impastos on the tips of the rocks in the foreground, to thin, delicate vapors of paint in the far atmosphere.

Carl Morgenstern (1811–1893), Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger
This little study by German artist Carl Morgenstern is just 10 x 14 inches, painted on paper and later laid down on cardboard. Early on-location painters often pinned the prepared paper into the lid of their paint boxes, and conservators later mounted the paper onto canvas or board.

Gilles-François-Joseph Closson (1796–1853) View in the Dolomites
Closson's painting is even smaller, just 4 1/4 x 9 5/8 inches, painted over a careful line drawing in pencil The pencil drawing is still visible in the lower right.

The landscape show is very small, just 12 paintings. So on its own, it's not worth a trip to the Morgan—except that there are a couple of other fascinating shows going on.

One of the major exhibits is Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will, which includes examples of her elegantly handwritten manuscripts. I was also impressed with her early artwork, which was accomplished and diligent.

Charlotte Brontë's watercolor painting kit.
The curators explain how Brontë would have used her watercolor kit. She would have taken one of the cakes of pigment and rubbed it in water in the porcelain saucer. The brush is made from squirrel hair glued into the end of a goose quill.

As an added bonus, there's a portrait of Mrs. J.P. Morgan, Jr., by Sargent.

Also at the Morgan:
Word and Image: Martin Luther's Reformation
Dubuffet Drawings, 1935–1962
Hans Memling: Portraiture, Piety, and a Reunited Altarpiece
Morgan Library and Museum is at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street.
The best book on early outdoor painting practice is The Painted Sketch: American Impressions From Nature, 1830-1880
There's also an exhibition catalog called Alpine Views: Alexandre Calame and the Swiss Landscape (Clark Art Institute) about Calame and his contemporaries, based on a show at the Clark Art Institute.
Just a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station


A Colonel of Truth said...

Nice post! That Sargent, what a hack (envious sarcasm, of course). 🎨😎

Matthieu B. said...

As a Swiss myself, I'm happy to see some attention for Calame, among others. Early 19th century Swiss landscape painters usually worked in watercolors and in very small scales. They were often called the 'small masters' ('les petits maîtres' in French), and their artwork were aimed at tourists, seeking a small souvenir of the Swiss landscape. In many ways these artworks functioned like today's postcards, albeit (arguably) less kitsch.

Belinda said...

I think seeing just what you posted here would very much make a trip there worthwhile! Lovely!!! Thank you for sharing.