Wednesday, March 11, 2009

OPINION: Is there a Vermont style or styles?

This is in response to a question submitted by Sam Thurston and posted on February 12, 2009. Further responses will be posted as they are received.

By Theodore A. Hoppe

When one considers the notion of a Vermont style perhaps the question should be, "Does Vermont Art represent a 'school' of painting and art in general?” "School" in this sense, refers to a group of people whose outlook, inspiration, output, or style demonstrates a common thread, rather than a learning institution.

In Europe, the Barbizon School (circa 1830–1870) of painters was named after the village of Barbizon near Fountainbleau Forest, France, where the artists gathered. The Barbizon painters were part of a movement towards realism in art which arose in the context of the dominant Romantic movement of the time.

Wikipedia tells us the term "Hudson River School" is thought to have originated with the New York Tribune art critic Clarence Cook. "The Hudson River school was a mid-19th century American art movement by a group of Landscape painters, whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism. Their paintings depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, as well as the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York and White Mountains of New Hampshire. Hudson River School paintings reflect three themes of America in the 19th century: discovery, exploration, and settlement. The paintings also depict the American landscape as a pastoral setting, where human beings and nature coexist peacefully."

The Pennsylvania Impressionists were also a turn of the century school of painting. Taking their easels out-of-doors to paint on the spot rather than working in their studios from sketches, this core group of impressionist artists painted the natural beauty at sites along or near the Delaware River and around Bucks County at the turn of the century. Bucks County, with its proximity to New York and Philadelphia, and the binding educational traditions of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design, created an artistic atmosphere conducive to a unique, yet purely American interpretation of Impressionism.

Vermont is a special place where imposing mountain peaks tower over prosperous valley farms. "How many hay fields, barns, gravel roads and village general stores (might) vanish before we would be living somewhere that is no longer recognizable as the rural state we love?" asks the local artist. Mountains, forests, fields, rivers and roads, the heart and soul of Vermont, are captured in the eye and by the hand of the artists that experience the Vermont that has come to stand for the ideal of unspoiled rural life. There is a vibrant and unique community of artists whose outlook, inspiration, output and style demonstrates a common thread. There is more than just a Vermont School of Painting here. In addition to an abundance of paintings, in oil and watercolors, there are pastels, photographs, prints, sculptures, pottery, and other media.

Above: Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Norhampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow), 1836, oil on canvas, at the Metropolitcan Museum of Art, New York.