A Mine of Beauty: Landscapes by William Trost Richards

A Mine of Beauty: Landscapes by William Trost Richards
William Trost Richards, one of America’s foremost landscape and marine painters (and father of American Impressionist Anna Richards Brewster), had a patron named George Whitney, who lived near him in Philadelphia and supported him not only by purchasing his works on a regular basis, but by helping to finance Richards’ travels.

While traveling and painting, Richards would send back to Whitney small watercolors, most roughly 3 x 5 inches (7.6 x 12.7cm), which he called “coupons”, partly as a thank you and partly as examples of compositions from which Whitney would choose selections for Richards to later develop into larger oils.

Most of Whitney’s collection of Richard’s work was split up after his death, but the majority of the “coupon” watercolors were kept together and were recently donated to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The collection is on display there in a special exhibition curated in collaboration with the Newport Art Museum, Rhode Island titled A Mine of Beauty: Landscapes by William Trost Richards. The exhibition runs until this Sunday, December 30, 2012.

The small watercolors are accompanied by larger watercolors and oils both from the Academy’s permanent collection and loans from other Philadelphia collections.

Though there is no special gallery for the exhibition on the Academy’s website, a search of their collection for Richards and watercolors online will include all of the “coupon” watercolors as well as larger watercolors.

The beautiful small watercolors, I’m happy to say, are actually shown in images that are a bit larger than life size.


The Adoration of the Shepherds, Andrea Mantegna

The Adoration of the Shepherds, Andrea Mantegna
The Adoration of the Shepherds, Andrea Mantegna.

In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Click “Fullscreen” under the image and use zoom controls or download arrow.

Painted in the mid 15th century, this astonishingly sculptural Nativity scene is a marvel of details and textures, from the craggy face of a weary Joseph and the grotesque face of the foreground shepherd, to the wonderfully geometrical rocks, banks and cliffs that form the setting.

The deep and richly detailed background is filled with marvelous landscape elements; multiple scenes unfold on the roads, hills, waterway and cliffside.

Even the multitude of pebbles throughout the image are rendered with loving detail.



Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith

Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith
On December 23, 1823 a poem titled A Visit from St Nicholas was printed anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel.

Popularly known by its opening line “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, the poem was widely reprinted and authorship eventually assigned to Clement Clarke Moore.

It became one of the most familiar verses in American literature and had a great influence on the popular image of St Nicholas, AKA Santa Claus (see my post on Illustrators’ visions of Santa Claus and related posts below).

The poem has become an iconic bit of Americana and has been redone and referenced in many ways by various writers and artists, including a wonderfully loopy version by comics genius Walt Kelly.

In 1912, a book version of the poem was published with illustrations by the prominent American illustrator Jessie Willcox Smith.

The book is in the public domain and a full version is available on Project Gutenberg.

The Project Gutenberg reproductions of Smith’s illustrations are a bit on the dark side; I’ve taken the liberty of brightening them somewhat in the versions above.

The book is still in print in a recent version from Loki’s Publishing under the title Twas the Night Before Christmas, though the original title made reference to the original poem: Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas.

I love Smith’s interpretation of the Jolly One as quite small (“…a right jolly old elf”) and dressed in a rough dark suit and cap — more practical for driving a reindeer-pulled sleigh in the far northern reaches (grin).

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”


Eye Candy for Today: Edward Redfield winter scene

Woodland Stream, Edward Willis Redfield.
Woodland Stream, Edward Willis Redfield.

Redfield, a Pennsylvania Impressionist devoted to painting winter scenes in particular, painted these canvasses with huge, thick gobs of paint, piled on like… well, like snow.

From this Russian blog whose name Google Translate makes out as “Postcards with Reproductions”.


Dorian Vallejo

Dorian Vallejo
Dorian Vallejo is a portrait painter based in New Jersey. Though he sometimes sets his portraits in the more traditional toned or textured plain background, he often creates a kind of portrait that I particularly enjoy, with the subjects in background settings that are in some way relevant to the their personality.

In particular, his portraits in landscape settings are nicely evocative of time and place, giving the portrait a context that would be otherwise missing from a plain background.

His website includes a range of his portrait approaches, as well as a variety of subjects, from children to families to more formal professional settings.

There is also a selection of Sketches. These range from sketches in pencil and charcoal to more finished drawings to oil sketches. The oil sketches are much more free and informal than the finished paintings, and have a very different appeal.

There is also a selection he titles “Intimate Portraits“. These, as well as related life drawings, are done in very loose, gestural applications of mixed media (images above, bottom four).

A number of the life drawings have been collected in a book: Drawings: Inspired by Life, and there is a separate website devoted to them. This site has a more extensive selection, and though they are displayed somewhat small, they are in a zoomable interface.

Vallejo is the son of renowned fantasy artist and illustrator Boris Vallejo. He studied illustration at Parsons and the School of Visual Arts in New York and traveled and studied in Europe before devoting his attention to portraiture.

[Suggestion courtesy of Kelly Houghton]

[Note: some of the drawings on the “Drawings from Life” site could be considered NSFW.]


Eye Candy for Today: Pieter de Hooch elegant interior

Leisure Time in an Elegant Setting, Pieter de Hooch
Leisure Time in an Elegant Setting, Pieter de Hooch.

I love the subtle play of light in the areas outside the main focus.

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Today is Pieter de Hooch’s birthday. I took the suggestion from the Met’s mention of that fact, and this painting, on Twitter.

See my previous post on Pieter de Hooch.