Monday, February 03, 2003

A Step Up from Bob Ross
Vicki and I visited Boston's Museum of Fine Arts this past Sunday to view their current "Impressions of Light" exhibit. The collection was designed to show the progression of French landscape painting in the mid to late 19th Century from the Barbizon School to the more acknowledged school of Impressionism. Essentially, the Barbizon school considered it important for the artist to paint landscape while actually situated outdoors (rather than back in the studio). Attention to natural details and the interplay of light and shadow were the most important considerations. Landscape did not have to portray dramatic or idealized themes (such as famous estates, cityscapes, or scenes from antiquity) but rather more mundane and muted perspectives (farmlands, river meanderings, woods and hunting grounds). As the movement progressed, the natural effects of light and shadow began to play a more important role in the crafting of the landscape. Artists paid particular attention to time of day, changes in weather, and the shifting character qualities of light in their quest to frame the landscape. It soon became more important for artists to pay attention to the details of light rather than the details of the landscapes, and it was these "impressions" that began to characterize the particular artists that charted this new ground in landscape painting. Soon, landscape detail became less important and was instead replaced with a rigorous attention to the details of light, weather, and time of day and the shifting qualities that each played a role in. There is no better example of this to be found than in the works of Claude Monet who in his famous study of water lilies portrayed them in different lights, different weather patterns, and different times of day. It didn't matter so much that a natural feature be presented with detail since what the artist was trying to capture was the impression of light and shadow on the natural feature itself. Overall, an interesting exhibit.


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