The Charter Oak

The Charter Oak by Frederic Edwin Church, 1847

My search for peaceful landscapes led me to Church’s art, and in particular, this painting of a tree. I wish I could find this sort of bigness and clarity in my home and hang onto it, breathe it in, pour it into my heart.


A Winter’s Day in Charlottenlund

A Winter's Day in Charlottenlund by Peder Mork Monsted, 1918
A Winter’s Day in Charlottenlund by Peder Mork Monsted, 1918

If the weather had cooperated the kids and I would have gone owling this evening with some people from the Horicon Marsh. But the wind picked up and the roads drifted over. We didn’t go.

This painting captures that trick of late afternoon winter sun. Monsted is a Danish artist and worth looking at. His paintings are crisp and bright. He paints trees as he sees them – no generalizing or trying to make them pretty. I think it must be his love of nature that shows through each painting, infusing it with beauty. Art is not just a pretty picture. It’s a message, a worldview, a special interpretation. It says, “Look at me,” but it also says, “Look the way my artist looked.” The viewer brings something to the interpretation, too, some associations or memories. But I think the thing that draws us into a work of art is the invitation to look through someone else’s eyes. Even if the painting is so realistic it looks photographic, it is still a painting, still a product of an artist. The artist cannot paint something, disappear, and then everyone can pretend it was made by divine means. Look at real nature for that. A painting is a look into humanity, even if it is a landscape.

Garrowby Hill

Garrowby Hill, David Hockney, 1998
Garrowby Hill, David Hockney, 1998

I drove a rustic road today. My children cheered me on as we dipped down a somewhat steep hill. More likely we crawled, wearing out the brake as we went. They think I am now ready for Skunk Hollow Road. Imagine driving in and out of a deep bowl. It’s like that. My children believe there are skunks at the bottom. I have never seen the bottom. I am quite content to turn around and go back the way I came from.

This painting from David Hockney reminds me of our drive today. I am not a big Hockney fan, but I do like this one. It’s colorful and patternful. 🙂

Deer in a Clearing

Deer in a Clearing, Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Deer in a Clearing, Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)

Albert Bierstadt’s landscapes have just the right combination of wildness and perfection. I saw two real deer while walking on a trail in the woods this morning, and the scene was so ideal, so picture-perfect. Although Bierstadt and other Hudson River artists idealized the landscape, there is truth in that ideal. It is the true landscape minus the imperfect things, like a clumsy mom turning her ankle and hitting the ground with something snapping in her foot. Bierstadt would never have painted that. I’m pretty sure my foot isn’t broken. I hobbled back to the car. And now I hobble around the house. I’ll be okay eventually.