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: Steele’s Ohio River

In addition to painting, T. C. Steele contributed writings, public lectures, and hours of community service on art juries. He was also involved in organizing pioneering art associations, such as the Society of Western Artists.

This is a beautiful painting of the Ohio river viewed from Logan’s Point in Hanover, IN, where the Ohio forms the border between Indiana on the northern bank and Kentucky on the southern.  Featured is a photo of the spot.

The Ohio river (1892)

Theodore Clement Steele (11 September 1847 – 24 July 1926) was an American Impressionist painter known for his Indiana landscapes, one of the most famous of Indiana’s Hoosier Group painters.

From a genealogical standpoint, Steele’s family tree has an interesting twist in it that would mess up all the automated relationship-identifiers on online trees:  After his first wife Libby had died in 1899, Steele married again in 1907.  His new wife Selma was the older sister of his son-in-law Gustave, who had married Steele’s daughter Daisy two years prior.  Good luck with that on because his daughter thus became also his sister(-in-law), and to Daisy, Steele became both father and brother(-in-law).

Regardless, T.C. Steele, whom art experts consider the state’s best-known landscape artist, surely did a lot during his life to further the arts in Indiana, and we find his painting of the Ohio river simply delightful.  Makes you want to go and visit Logan’s Point, doesn’t it?

Cultured Wednesday: Alfred Jacob Miller

Miller painted what he saw, and his firsthand works provide a window into a life and time long gone but essential to the very nature of what it is to be American.

Alfred Jacob Miller (January 2, 1810 – June 26, 1874), American-born, was best known for his paintings of trappers and Native Americans in the fur trade of the western United States, and the paintings we chose all revolve around this theme.  He also painted portraits and genre paintings in and around his native Baltimore.

The featured image shows Miller’s painting titled “Breaking up Camp at Sunrise”, painted between 1858 and 1860.

Here is another one we find quite noteworthy:

The Trapper’s Bride, 1845

What a very interesting depiction of such a situation.  Just look at who is looking where, and at the expressions on the faces!

We also like this one a lot, more scenery than people this time, and obvious connections to the Hudson River School here:

The Lake Her Lone Bosom Expands to the Sky, ca. 1850

Miller was originally from Baltimore, and that is also where he died, but in between he lived in Europe for a while, and upon his return to America established himself as a painter only after he had moved to New Orleans in 1837.

There, he met a Scottish aristocrat and adventurer by name of Sir William Drummond Stewart, who hired Miller to travel with him and record his hunting journey to the Rocky Mountains.  That same year, along with representatives of the American Fur Company, they ventured as far as Fort William and Green River.  It is quite obvious where Miller got his ideas for his painting from, then, and also noteworthy that he had actually seen what he painted later on.  His scenes and incidents of the hunting journey were the foundation of a series of paintings documenting Native Americans of the United States.  After exhibiting his paintings in New Orleans, Miller traveled to Scotland in October 1840, accompanied by all his paintings, and took them to Stewart’s Murthly Castle, where a collection of his commissioned work was ultimately hung.

Here is one last painting: “Our Camp”, painted between 1858 and 1860:

Our Camp, 1858–1860

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.

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