Minnesota artist Jeffrey Larson studied at the Atelier Lack, now simply called The Atelier, an academic studio program founded by Richard F. Lack (who will be the subject of a future post if I can ever find enough examples of his work online). Lack was a student of R.H. Ives Gammell and one of the pioneers of returning the now-thriving European atelier style system of art instruction to viability here in the U.S.
Larson’s atelier training is most evident in his still life paintings, which have the refined clarity and precision of academic realism, but keep a painterly edge.
His figures, in contrast, are much looser, usually painted out of doors, and often posed in water or amid washlines full of sunlit sheets, bringing to mind the posed in water figures of Anders Zorn and the sun-drenced paintings of beach-goers by Joaquin Sorolla.
My favorites of Larson’s paintings, though, are his landscapes (bearing in mind that most of his figurative paintings are also landscapes in effect). These force me to resort to those overused terms “fresh” and “immediate” because nothing else sums them up quite as succinctly.
His landscapes evoke the dappled sunlight on an intimate creek or the cool haze of a winter sky with beautifully efficient brush strokes and a subtle handling of color variation. He’s chosen a position on the spectrum of tight to loose rendering that I find particularly appealing.
Something I found of special interest in Larson’s work is they way he constructs the image with the direction and shape of his brushstrokes. He isn’t just dabbing color in, filling in shapes with slapdash blots of paint, he’s drawing with his brushstrokes, defining the shapes of objects in same way lines and textures applied in a drawing can follow and define the form. (This is a characteristic I particularly associate with painters like Sargent or Cecilia Beaux.)
I’m also fascinated by the apparent difference in approach between Larson’s loose landscape and figurative work and his more tightly rendered still life paintings. There is no indication of dates for the work on his site, so perhaps the still life paintings are earlier; or perhaps Larson just enjoys applying the range of his considerable abilities in a different manner for those subjects.
Larson was featured in articles in Classical Realism Journal in 2001 and American Artist in 2004 (the latter as a cover story).
Addendum: Reader A.W.C. (see this post’s comments) was kind enough to write and let us know that there is currently a solo exhibition of Jeffrey Larson’s work at Tree’s Place Gallery in Orleans, Massashusetts. In addition to an online catalog, which features several images of his work, there is a multi-page gallery of images that can be enlarged by clicking on the thumbnails.