George Inness: A Master of Atmosphere

Inness Landscape

With a similar style to, but a lot more recognition than Thomas Aquinas Daly, George Inness falls under my category of Favourite Painters. Why? Because it’s all about atmosphere. Now, those of you who read my post about Thomas Aquinas Daly should be experts on atmosphere and composition, and the paintings that you see here on Inness should be screaming with similar technique.

Inness was a 19th Century painter, born in New York State and died in Scotland. He painted vast portraits of the beauty of the American landscape and his more mature works helped to define the Tonalist movement. Tonalism was a late 19th century artistic (American) movement that was part of the big Impressionist Scheme, where artists used fog, either grey or with a colour, to give a feeling or emotion, or even tone to a painting.
Inness Painting
So as we look at Inness’ works, we can keep in mind this Tonalist movement and how he influenced it (and how Tonalism plays into greater Impressionism, which favours the feeling of an experience that the painting is trying to describe over the photographic realism and detail traditionally preferred). Inness often heavily exaggerated colours, or skewed colour schemes to portray idyllic landscapes. This was a large factor in why he was so popular with expansionists.

Inness Painting
If you look at the painting I’ve placed right above this text, then you can see this portrayed perfectly. The sky is an unnatural grapefruit red, the greens of the ground masked by umber browns, and what greens are shown are deeply red. The trees are vague, nebulous suggestions of dark trees with backlighting. But we, as observers, perceive it as a sunset. A soft, warm sunset. Inness  manipulates our perception of the landscape. In a good way.

Inness Painting

-A.

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Thomas Aquinas Daly

I don’t know if the Internet knows this yet, but I adore art.  Today, I’d to introduce you to one of my favourite artists, one that not that many people know: Thomas Aquinas Daly.
Thomas Aquinas DalyHe does watercolour and oil painting and plays with neutral tones to create an expressionistic atmosphere that brings about images of fog and cold water.  Born 2 years before the second world war, he was educated as a graphic artist at the University of Buffalo and has produced two books. I have (in my personal opinion) the best of the two, called Painting Nature’s Quiet Places.

Thomas Aquinas Daly

While I can’t find my personal favourites of his on the internet, I hope that these pictures give you an idea of what he paints, how he paints, and how you can alter your painting or artistic reviewing in order to accommodate some of his best elements.

He paints nature, elements of nature, and the atmosphere of the countryside in a way that makes us all feel those cold wet socks without having to go fox hunting without the light of the sun. And that, in my opinion, is true mastery; somehow, he also manages to make it beautiful. That damp fishing boat seems romantic, glorious, in a quiet, subtle way, and if anyone can make a dead fish look appealing, then he deserves my full attention and respect.

Thomas Aquinas Daly

Oh, and, then there’s the dead animals pinned to grey walls. That’s a little less glorious. But, hey, this is a blog with a central element of taxidermy, so I tilt my hat to you, C, and give everyone a little bit they can know about dead fish.

I want to turn back to his colour combinations and compositions, though. You may notice that I’ve selected a few images in which he truly offsets the centres of focus, and a few where they are almost in the centre of the page.

He balances muted tones with small pieces of rich colour. If you look to the wall-pinned-fish-painting to the right, you can see what I’m describing; the slate blue-grey of the wall has echoes of the brilliant cobalt and vermilion in the fish. This is how Daly gives us the foggy feeling of his paintings, by echoing the focus in the fog of the background.

Even though it’s subtler in the image below, we have the same theme; the soft olive and forest greens of the trees can be found in the shadow of the fisherman’s hat and in his trousers. The river is not a silly blue, but, instead, a murky, realistic green. The house, therefore, is what truly leaps out at us, but because it is balanced with the stripe of open sky and its reflection, it isn’t an obnoxious focal point.

Thomas Aquinas Daly

For those of you who want to pursue art but find it too mysterious and selective of a field, I’m here to tell you that it’s just as much architecture as it is talent. A huge hunk of talent comes from being able to learn the rules and play them to your advantage. Once you understand composition on a near-esoteric level and have a good grasp of art history, suddenly, modern art makes sense. Perhaps I’ll write a post like that: why modern art actually makes sense.

Thomas Aquinas Daly

I urge you to consider pursuing art and art history hand-in-hand rather than try to tackle one individually. You can never understand what you’re drawing until you see how others have struggled through it before you (it’s like reading novels before getting on the New York Times’ Best Selling list), and you can never look at art without having felt it.

It’s like what my own glorious art professor once told me: You can always tell who has ridden a horse and who hasn’t by the way that they draw it. Those who have ridden horses draw the rhythm of their bones behind the muscles of a gentle beast. Those who have not draw shadows of lifeless vehicles.

-A.

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Information from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Aquinas_Daly

http://www.thomasaquinasdaly.com/index.html