Lago Avernus, William Trost Richards
In the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Watercolor and gouache on blue paper, 4 1/2 x 9 1/9 inches (11 x 24 cm).
Lago Avernus (“Lake Avernus”) is a lake in a volcanic crater in the Campania region of southern Italy. Once believed to be the mythical entrance to the Underworld, the lake’s quiet beauty has been the subject over time of paintings by a number of artists.
Richards has chosen a vantage point from which we see a good bit of the surrounding countryside, giving the lake a beautiful setting.
Like most of the great masters of the medium of watercolor, Richards was unabashed about using gouache to add highlights when he wanted them.
Here he’s applied gouache highlights to the foreground trees with casual, wonderfully painterly strokes that look almost like drybrush oil. I also love the light textural marks he has scrubbed across the surface of the foreground foliage.
Given the richness of the surface and level of detail, it’s easy to forget that Richards is working quite small in this piece (as he often did in his location watercolors), at less than 5 inches high.