JOHN HENRY TWACHTMAN (1853-1902)

Late Spring, Connecticut, ca. 1889-1891

Pastel on paper

14-1/4 x 20-3/8 inches

Signed lower right: J. H. Twachtman

John Henry Twachtman began to experiment with pastels in the mid-1880s. By the last years of the decade, he had mastered the medium, developing a light and spontaneous touch and creating intimate and sparkling views of nature. In Late Spring, Connecticut Twachtman's method results in a suggestive, poetic, and refined image which exemplifies the artist's skill and sensitivity in using pastel. The work probably depicts the section of Round Hill Road in Greenwich, Connecticut, which ascends from the town into the hills where Twachtman's home was situated. (The artist resided at at his Greenwich home from approximately 1889 until his death in 1902.) In Twachtman's well-known painting, Round Hill Road, 1890-1900 (National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.), he represents the road during a mid-winter snow storm, choosing a vantage point just beyond it looking toward his house and barn. Whereas in Round Hill Road, Twachtman emphasizes the stillness and silence of a landscape enveloped in snow, in Late Spring, Connecticut he renders a rural countryside in the spring and stresses the litheness and fragility of nature, and the refreshing feeling of the atmosphere.

Late Spring, Connecticut may have been initially entitled Road to Round Hill, as a pastel of this title was shown in Twachtman's two major exhibitions of the early 1890s, his one-man show at the Wunderlich Gallery, New York held in 1891, and in the display of works by Twachtman and J. Alden Weir, held at the American Art Galleries, New York, in 1893.[1] The critics accorded Twachtman's pastels with high praise in 1891. One wrote that "the pastels of J. H. Twachtman at the Wunderlich Gallery are as poetic and tender in this medium as New York has ever seen." [2] Another noted that "thirty pastels reproduce with unequalled lightness of touch and daintiness of color every mood of the typical Eastern landscape--rolling hills, rambling stone walls, wandering brooks, wood-interiors, green and sunny." [3] The reviewer for the New York Evening Post specifically mentioned the work in a description of the pictures as "clever little drawings." [4] Writing about the 1893 exhibition, a New York Times critic echoed the reports of the 1891 press, noting that Twachtman's pastels were "delicate, charming things." [5] Twachtman assuredly had a special fondness for Late Spring, Connecticut as he gave it to the Players Club, where he and most of his closest friends were members and congregated often during the 1890s.

Late Spring, Connecticut would certainly have been worthy of inclusion in Twachtman's two important early 1890s exhibitions. The composition and arrangement of shapes is especially felicitous. Twachtman accentuates the significance of the road within the composition by rendering it with a thin layer of white chalk, thereby creating a strong contrast with the beige paper, and the soft browns and greens used for the rest of the work. The road energizes and organizes the arrangment, leading gradually up the hilly rise and then quickening its rhythm as it sinuously curves around a protruding slope and disapears out of view. The serpentine line, probably influenced by Twachtman's contact with the Art Nouveau style, entices the viewer through the landscape. Other elements echo the road's movement. A tree in the left foreground, its contours indicated with only a few sketchy notations, draws one toward another tree in the middle-distance, which is delineated with a variety of soft greens and framed by dark green hills in the background. Placed strategically just at the point where the road dips slightly inward before swinging outward again, the tree serves a pivotal role within the composition. Twachtman's ability to subtly express the inherent beauty of nature is indeed apparent in Late Spring, Connecticut. Childe Hassam was thinking of works such as Late Spring, Connecticut when he wrote: "[Twachtman's] use of line was rhythmic, and the movements always graceful. . . .The open fields with their long lines running into the landscape enticed one from the house on the hill-side to where the stream wandered through the valley."[6]

LNP

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[1]. Twachtman's and Weir's show was held concurrently at the American Art Galleries with an exhibition of the works of Claude Monet and Paul-Albert Besnard.

[2]. "Art Notes," New York Times, 9 March 1891, p. 4.

[3]. "The Fine Arts: Oil-Paintings and Pastels by Mr. Twachtman," The Critic 18 (March 1891, p. 146-147.

[4]. "Art Notes: Pictures by J. H. Twachtman at Wunderlich," New York Evening Post, 9 March 1891, p. 7.

[5]. "Some Dazzling Pictures," New York Times, 4 May 1893.

[6]. Childe Hassam, "John H. Twachtman: An Estimation," North American Review 176 (April 1903): 555-556.


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