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Landscape painting in 19th and 20th centuries

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  1. Introduction.
  2. A typical Luminism work according to Matthew Baigell.
  3. Thomas Cole.
  4. Nineteenth Century themes.
  5. Winslow Homer.
  6. The Twentieth Century.
  7. John Marin.
  8. Georgia O'Keeffe.
  9. The Quality of Georgia O'Keeffe's Landscapes.
  10. What does "Luminism" tell us?

Landscape painting in the American context emerged in the 19th century along with the philosophical works of Emerson and Thoreau. The literary arts also began to turn toward an examination of the natural world at about this time. American painters, whom had previously been preoccupied with portrait painting ? though it is likely fair to say that their clients were rather obsessed with portraits of themselves and their riches ? were inspired by the singularly American philosophy of transcendentalism and turned to the painting of landscapes. As art critic Barbara Novak explains: To the transcendental mind, object and idea were one, and all matter was an extension of God. Thus, the landscape artists, and especially the luminists after Copley, could value the smallest fact in nature--the leaf, the pebble in the foreground of a Heade landscape ? and embrace also the larger equivalence of God with nature through the infinite space of a Kensett distance or the other-worldly light of a Bierstadt sky.

[...] The remainder of this essay will argue that, in fact, luminism is not a useful descriptor of American landscape painting in the nineteenth century. The term "luminism" was not even in use in the nineteenth century and only emerged about halfway through the twentieth century. Twentieth century American landscape painters were reacting to an entirely different set of social conditions, and that essential quality of exploring the light m called luminism was informed by nineteenth century philosophy, politics, and aesthetics. [...]


[...] He always brought home such sketches and from them composed his pictures, as can be seen in his drawings like Flume in the White Mountains. The beginning of Cole's career coincided with the Boston publication of Wordsworth's poetical works in 1824. After Cole had painted his early mountain scenes, some of them definitely associated with American history, he in 1827 painted his St. John Preaching in the Wilderness. Although the mountain background of the picture is based on studies of natural scenes, the impact of the picture lies in the figure of St. [...]


[...] Presumably, we will see some reaction to luminism in American landscape painting that is also reflective of reactions against transcendentalism, Whitman's peculiar school of poetry, and other parts of the nineteenth century worldview that informed Cole and the rest of the Hudson River School/luminists. But none of that really appears. The Twentieth Century Novak, in her epilogue, attempts to sum up the transition from the nineteenth century and into the twentieth: To this wealth of native diversity the twentieth century added the impact of an age of mechanized speed and power, in which the Newtonian world was, as we are so frequently reminded, replaced by Einsteinian relativity, and the world of the picture fundamentally changed by new attitudes to form. [...]

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