Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Landscape Photos and a Discussion of George Bellows' Landscape Painting

This is the kind of landscape view that really makes me want to paint. I took this picture last fall in North Georgia. Actually, the view reminds me of a little landscape by George Bellows. I couldn't find that exact landscape of his on the web. I found a couple of others. He is a landscape painter that I admire, though he is better known for some boxing scenes that are so representative of the Ashcan School of painting. But it is his landscapes that touch me; and of course, the little portrait of his daughter, Jean, that so affected me when I was a child. Below are two Bellows landscapes:

The White Fence by George Bellows (Hunter Museum)

The White Fence is the first Bellows landscape I ever saw in person. It's at the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga. They have a really nice collection of 20th-century American art (and some nice colonial art, as well). I just love this little painting. The hues are jewel-like ~ the greens, like emeralds. He doesn't use the traditional chiaroscuro technique; in his landscapes, he paints with straight hues and mixes in very little white. His paintings have a "just-painted" look to them, as if they are still wet. He has a rather abstract way of layering the elements. That is the "modern" element of his painting, and it allows him to keep the background colors as bright and crisp as the foreground color.

Below is another Bellows landscape. This one captures an effect of light that I often see in the fall in North Georgia. I'm always drawn to these brilliant displays of light in the landscape, where clouds have cast shadows, and light beams have touched trees here and there. In the fall, the trees range from silvery gray, bare of leaves, to deep, rich evergreen, to brilliant touches of red and gold. When the light strikes any one of these, and sets them out in contrast to the moody, shadowy mountains... I can't come close to describing what that does to me. Of course, this little landscape wasn't painted in North Georgia, but it certainly might have been. It's incredible, how he has caught the light of that red and gold tree in the right foreground!

Bellows landscape, via

Here's my photo of a similar scene, that touched me deeply...

Photo: North Georgia Landscape in Fall

I think that my love of art, and my knowledge of various artists and their work, has only enriched my experience of seeing. I'm always translating landscapes and interiors into paintings in my own mind's eye. Sometimes, the landscapes I see take the form of some other artist's work: I'll spot a group of trees and think "Cezanne"! Or "Bellows"! It is one of my secret pleasures, that, each day as I turn onto my own road, I spot a little house on a hill, with the perspective all askew, and I think, "Bellows"! It's as if I have my own private little Bellows painting there ~ the one that he never painted. Does it matter that I haven't painted it myself? It always lingers there as a possibility...

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