Thursday, September 7, 2023

Fidelia's Backgrounds

 Fidelia Bridges (1834-1923) started her career using oil paint, but then switched over to watercolor and gouache. Her chromolithograph prints made her the most popular woman artist of her era.

What I've been looking at is how she set up her backgrounds to allow the viewer to focus on the foreground botanical detail. Here there's a very simple but subtle gradient that gets lighter and warmer toward the bottom.

Although she loved painting botanical studies, she rarely painted her subjects against a white background. Generally she used either toned paper or paper that had been pre-toned by her with a watercolor wash.

A simple blue-to-amber gradient suggests sky-to-high-grass.

Sometimes she gives a little more information in those backgrounds, suggesting here the arching forms of wheat stalks. 

According to Katherine Manthorne, author of an excellent new biography on Bridges, "She telescopes the space, painting the background in soft focus so that it appears an indeterminate distance away, while the plant forms in the foreground seem to jump off the page."

She may have gotten the idea from the influential English critic John Ruskin, who wrote: "If we look at any foreground object so as to receive a distinct impression of it, the distance and middle distance becomes all disorder and mystery. And therefore, if in any painting our foreground is anything, our distance must be nothing and vice versa."
Read more:
Ruskin quote from Modern Painters, quoted in The New Path
Wikipedia on Fidelia Bridges
Monograph Fidelia Bridges: Nature into Art by Katherine Manthorne


Lynnwood said...

Thank you ,James! I'm really enjoying this artist

Martha said...

At her exhibit in Wausau, nearly every watercolor sketch was on colored paper, often fairly dark, and then with an additional wash. She used gouache, too. But the big surprise for me was the originals were TINY! I was so glad to have seen the exhibit thanks to seeing the post about it here.

Susan Krzywicki said...

These look like pastels on toned paper and the are evocative of late summer afternoons and of Japanese works. Thanks for sharing!

MerylAnnB said...

I love these, thank you!