Cultured Wednesday: Cropsey’s Greenwood Lake

Frank Cropsey believed that nature was a direct manifestation of God, or so they say.

Jasper Francis Cropsey (18 February 1823 to 22 June 1900), apparently called ‘Frank’, was an American landscape artist and first-generation member of the Hudson River School, so you can expect amazing paintings of great detail.  But first and foremost, he was an architect, and if you take the time to study his paintings you will find that his landscapes speak of his love for well ordered, clear forms.

We chose his 1870 painting ‘Greenwood Lake‘ as our focus of attention for this post, an interstate lake straddling the border of New York and New Jersey and the place where Cropsey met his wife Maria Cooley some time after 1843.  Today, the painting as seen below is displayed at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in the Spanish capital of Madrid.  Incidentally, this one is by no means his only painting of Greenwood Lake, and not all are exhibited overseas: One of them can be admired at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., for example.  For a larger rendering, please click on the picture.

Jasper_Francis_Cropsey_-_Greenwood_Lake 1870
Greenwood Lake, 1870

In a way, it would have been nice to see the landscape around Greenwood Lake in the spring, but for someone famous for his lavish use of colors, fall surely is most attractive.  So enjoy this somewhat untimely scenery (unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere – for you it should be quite timely!), the beautiful view across Greenwood Lake, and the moment of quiet contentment the contemplation of a painting can afford.  Or imagine living in the fisherman’s hut along the lake shore as depicted below, and sitting on a bench next to your front door of an evening, enjoying a quiet sunset.

Fisherman’s House, Greenwood Lake (New Jersey), 1877

Here’s one little detail about Frank Cropsey’s life that caught our girls’ eye: He lies buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  I guess the fall landscape fits after all.

800px-Jasper_Francis_Cropsey_Monument_2010 sleepy hollow cemetery

The featured image shows a self-portrait Cropsey included in his ‘The Narrows from Staten Island‘ painting from 1868.


Cultured Wednesday: Carus’ Vollmond bei Pillnitz

Atmosphere. It bypasses cerebral knowledge and speaks instead to different levels within Man.

I remember this painting from way back when.  There is nothing more moody or enchanting than predominantly blue paintings with a little yellow…

Vollmond bei Pillnitz

Carl Gustav Carus (3 January 1789 – 28 July 1869), German painter of the Romantic era from Leipzig, Germany, was a friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s and, much like Goethe, a many-sided man: a doctor, a naturalist, a scientist, a psychologist, and a landscape painter who studied under Caspar David Friedrich.  In the latter capacity, we meet him today.  Many of his works are well worth attention, so the ones presented here are just meant as examples and incentives to look at Carus further.  I’ll add another one that I particularly like for its atmosphere.  It speaks of the Cistercians and reminds me of a place close to where I grew up, the Kloster Hude:


According to the Wiki, Uncle Carl credited Carus with pointing to the unconscious as the essential basis of the psyche.  It reflects in his paintings, I dare say.

Although various philosophers, among them Leibniz, Kant, and Schelling, had already pointed very clearly to the problem of the dark side of the psyche, it was a physician who felt impelled, from his scientific and medical experience, to point to the unconscious as the essential basis of the psyche. This was C. G. Carus, the authority whom Eduard von Hartmann followed.

~ C.G. Jung


Featured:  Crop of Carus’ painting of a Stone Age Mound.

Cultured Wednesday: Aagaard’s Forests

Aagaard’s work is especially notable for his inclusion of historical architecture and ruins, which he often located in epic and romantic milieu.

Carl Frederik Peder Aagaard (born 29 January 1833 in Odense on the Danish island of Funen, died 2 November 1895 in Copenhagen) was an incredible Danish painter.  His paintings focus on Northern European forests and waterways, and they often include  historical buildings, even like the water mill or farm house in the example below.

spring forest

Tree-and-water lovers know this kind of light, and what it is like to sit by the brook or lake under the trees in spring, when the light falls through them just like this…  It was no big surprise to learn that Carl Frederik Aagaard had lived some time with his brother, who was a woodcutter, in order to improve his painting (and observation) skills.

Spring, and with it the kind of light depicted in the painting, is not quite here yet, but January is about over and soon we shall know if spring will come early the year, or if winter will linger for another six weeks.


Cultured Wednesday: Hacker’s Smithy in Winter

A native of Saxony, Hacker appears to have lived in Munich, Bavaria from 1862 onward.

Horst Hacker - Schmiede im Winter
Horst Hacker Schmiede im Winter, 1897

Not much can be found online about the German painter and art collector Horst Bernhard Hacker safe that he was born on 8 April 1842 in Plaußig near Leipzig, Saxony, and that he passed away on 18 December 1906 in Munich, Bavaria.  He saw the turn of the last century, a time since dubbed fin de siècle in the world of politics, art and culture, a period of degeneration as well as of hope for a new beginning, and also a period much discussed at the turn of the 20th century, as can be imagined.

How much or in what way Hacker was influenced by the ‘turn-of-the-century’ mood we do not know; his Schmiede im Winter (Smithy in Winter), which he painted in the late 19th century and which exists in at least two versions, can be viewed as representing the largely pre-technological world, an idyllic setting of the lonely homestead outside the village by the frozen stream.

Wikimedia has a few more of Hacker’s paintings listed, as well as his portrait as it appeared in the catalog of the Jahrhundertausstellung that took place in 1906.  Maybe his face can tell you something more about him, or you can choose to just enjoy his painting.  Clicking the painting above will take you to a much larger image that shows brush strokes and technicalities of the painting very well, if you are interested in such things.

Horst Bernhard Hacker

Cultured Wednesday: Böhmer’s Autumn Woodland

Heinrich Böhmer liked his woods, especially in the fall, it seems.

heinrich-boehmer - Edited.jpg

Heinrich Böhmer, born in Düsseldorf in 1852, was a German landscape painter, “best known for his immaculately rendered and realistic landscape paintings of the dense woods of Germany”, they say on artnet.  He was a prolific artist, producing dozens of small oil works.  In a typical Germanic manner, he focused on the emotional quality of the forest: He didn’t see board feet when he looked at trees.  Böhmer died in Germany in 1930.

Remember Tolkien vs. Ayn Rand.

Cultured Wednesday: Wex’ Königsee

The grand beauty of the German Alps were this German painter’s favorite subject.

Willibald Wex was a 19th century Bavarian landscape painter.  He was born in Karlstein am Main in 1831, educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, and died in Munich in 1892.  Most of his paintings portray the awe-inspiring beauty of the German Alps.  We chose one that pictures the Königsee, painted around 1873.

Wex Koenigsee
Willibald Wex: Königsee, c. 1873

The contrast between the lake and the mountains struck us as particularly beautiful.  Besides, the people in their smallness are yet not insignificant enough to not deserve a careful reflection in the deep blue water of the lake.

Willibald Wex started out as a forester before he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich to become a painter.  He taught his son Adalbert his craft, and in time Adalbert Wex became a well-known painter himself who focused on alpine landscapes much like his father, but in a more melancholy manner, painting sunsets and evening moods instead of the clear grandeur of the day as portrayed above.

Cultured Wednesday: Constable’s Hay Wain

Constable never imagined how famous his work would become. He wrote “My art will never be popular” and “My art is far too modern”.

John Constable (1778 – 1837) is now England’s most famous landscape artist, but he sold fewer than twenty paintings in his home country in his own lifetime.  He painted the Suffolk countryside of his childhood throughout his life, so the scene shown in The Hay Wain, probably his most well-known painting, would have been one he used to witness every year as a boy: Constable’s father owned Flatford Mill, and the view shown in The Hay Wain is what Young John saw standing in front of his father’s mill looking out over the fort and toward neighbor Willie Lott’s house.  The empty hay cart shall be needed soon!

Note also the dramatic sky over the rural scene.

John Constable’s Landscape: Noon, better known as The Hay Wain, 1821

The Hay Wain is one of a series of paintings by Constable called the “six-footers”, since they all are large-scale canvasses which he painted for the annual summer exhibitions at the Royal Academy.

Cultured Wednesday: Mønsted’s Sunset Over a Forest Lake

Most of Peder Mørk Mønsted’s landscapes were devoted to Scandinavia.

Peder Mørk Mønsted (10 December 1859 – 20 June 1941) was a Danish realist painter who is best known for his landscape paintings, and a 1995 exhibition of his work bore the very fitting title “Light of the North”.  His Sunset Over a Forest Lake beautifully illustrates how someone can come up with such a title.

Mønsted Forest Lake

For us, his art shows how, and why, painting is superior to photography.  There is a depth in these realistic scenes that might have something to do with the time spent painting, something photography is lacking.  And while there surely is artistic photography even in this digital age where very little skill is required to create a “stunning” picture, it does not compare to the artistic expression in paint on canvas.

Let us invite you to sit quietly by the above forest lake for a spell, or, if you don’t feel like sitting, accompany the young lady and her cow below to the river.   Take your time.

Peder Mørk Mønsted
Peder Mørk Mønsted: By the Rriver 1908

Cultured Wednesday: Gifford’s Lake Nemi

“On the northern shore of the lake, right under the precipitous cliffs on which the modern city of Nemi is perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana of the Woods.”

Turner’s picture of the Golden Bough (…) is a dream-like vision of the little woodland lake of Nemi – “Diana’s Mirror,” as it was called by the ancients.  No one who has seen that calm water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban hills, can ever forget it.  (…)  Diana herself might still linger by this lonely shore, still haunt these woodlands wild.”

Thus begins Frazer’s Golden Bough, but instead of wondering about the mortal King of the Woods, the tree he guards with his life, and his leading lady, the immortal woodland Diana, we shall halt here and contemplate the scene, the little woodland lake, and how wonderfully Sanford Robinson Gifford managed to illustrate the principle “as above, so below” in this, one of his chief paintings.

Lake Nemi Diannas Mirror
Sanford Robinson Gifford: Lake Nemi (1856–57), Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio

Sanford Robinson Gifford, born on 10 July 1823 in New York State, died on 29 August 1880 in New York City, was an American landscape painter and one of the leading members of the Hudson River School.  His landscapes are known for their emphasis on light, hence he is regarded as a practitioner of Luminism.

None of this, however, says anything about the atmosphere of Gifford’s paintings, an atmosphere to get lost in, much like Frazer’s book.

Cultured Wednesday: Inness’ June

Poetic quality is not obtained by eschewing any truths of fact or of Nature…  Poetry is the vision of reality.

Before June is all over, we would like to introduce you to George Inness and his painting titled June.

June George Inness
June by George Inness, created around 1882

George Inness is an interesting 19th century landscape painter, influenced by all the people whose paintings we like anyway (like the Hudson River School), who ended up developing an original and uniquely American style in his 40 years of painting.  He was born in Newburgh, NY in 1825 and died in Scotland in 1894, and in between, he painted 1,000 paintings and made quite the name for himself.

In an interview published in 1878, he said: “The true use of art is, first, to cultivate the artist’s own spiritual nature.”  His abiding interest in spiritual and emotional considerations (it continues in his Wiki entry) did not preclude Inness from undertaking a scientific study of color, nor a mathematical, structural approach to composition: “The poetic quality is not obtained by eschewing any truths of fact or of Nature…  Poetry is the vision of reality.”

Let me invite you to study the painting presented above with a statement like this in mind.  Poetry, and by extension all creative art in its best form, demonstrates the “reality of the unseen” and connects the “visible upon the invisible.”

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