If I had to be trapped on a desert island with only one painting and no internet. It’d probably be this one. I fell in love with this painting in college from a little crappy black and white art history book halftone… sorta like one of those poster ads for say, Raquel Welch, with the little tiny photos in the back of the mags. It wasn’t until years later that I saw the color version in a book somewhere, furthering my recognition of this piece as a brilliant chunk of art. It was created by John Henry Twatchman in the late 19th century while he was still studying at one of the academies in France. And it wasn’t until this november that I finally got to see it in person at the Metropolitan Museum of art. It was love all over again. It’s sizable at around 70×60 and a masterful example of restraint, edge, line and shape. The only real detail is in the foreground reeds, the rest is implied. While it appears to be thinly painted, I still have no clue how he arrived at the final layer of paint.. his surfaces are usually a bit of mystery to me. I suspect a lot of glazing, some wiping out, some opaque layers. There’s a Twatchman at the Orlando Museum of Art and it’s worth close inspection.. if you live around here. Surface is sort the 4th dimension in the realm of painting. It needs to work from a distance but once it sucks you in it should also work up close on almost a submarine level. And it does. By the way here’s the study he painted this big beauty from, painted a year before the final.
You can see how he modified all of the elements; value, color, shape to arrive at this atmospheric symphony. One of the things that really attracts me to this piece is the juxtaposition of the subdued but strong horizontals of the hill and water against the lyrical, vertical lines of the foreground reeds. Nothing was done without careful consideration. Wonderin why I posted this today? I dreamed about it last night… only Raquel Welch was in it.