Eye Candy for Today: Frederic Edwin Church oil sketch

Drawing, in the New England woods, 1855-65; Frederic Edwin Church, oil on paper
Drawing, in the New England woods, 1855-65; Frederic Edwin Church

Oil on paperboard, roughly 13 x 9 inches ( 33 x 23 cm); in the Cooper Hewitt Collection of the Smithsonian Design Museum.

Interestingly, the museum has posted two images of this work, the one above, top, which I’ll call the “cool” version, and the one above, bottom, which I’ll call the “warm” version.

The museum mentions that there are two versions of the image, and provides an essentially identical collection description page for each. Both are also nicely provided with a high-res version of the image.

Here is the cool version (also linked above), with a link to the high-res image for that version.

Here is the warm version, with its corresponding high-res image (actually higher in resolution than the large version of the cool image).

Neither gives an indication of which image is more true to the original painting. The museum used the cooler version in their online listing for a show from 2006 that included the painting.

Though the difference seems striking, this is an example of how easily images of an artwork — even those posted by museums of work in their own collections — can vary from the original. I was able to take each version of the image into Photoshop and quickly reproduce the appearance of the other image with some adjustments to hue and lightness.

It’s interesting to see the details brought out by the color adjustments, the oranges and reds that you see in the “warm” version are actually there in the cooler image, just not as noticeable; I suspect they are partly from an underpainting.

 
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