JOHN HENRY TWACHTMAN (1853-1902)

Pond in Spring, ca. early 1890s

Oil on wood board

15-1/4 x 18-1/2 inches

In Pond in Spring, Twachtman depicts an intimate and unassuming landscape glimpsed in passing. Although the site of the painting cannot be exactly identified, the Impressionist treatment and the palette of soft blues and greens suggests that it was rendered in the early 1890s during the artist's early years in Greenwich, Connecticut. The work is similar in composition to many of the paintings that Twachtman created of the pool surrounded by hemlock trees on his Greenwich property such as Icebound (Art Institute of Chicago) and Winter Harmony (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.). However, the site shown in Pond in Spring appears to be another body of water, perhaps elsewhere on the seventeen-acre tract of land that Twachtman purchased in the Greenwich countryside.

Twachtman expresses the freshness and animation of the landscape during the spring season in Pond in Spring. His varied and vigorous brushwork suggests that the work was created en plein air and the painting reveals the artist's immediate experience of the scene. He renders the shimmering silvery surface of the pond with intermingled blue and white paint; shadowed reflections in the water are handled with tighter strokes of green pigment that become freer where the water is more active. The trees on the hillside, portrayed with sketchy strokes, seem to shift and vibrate in the wind as we look at them. Twachtman conveys the steep rise of ground at the left of the pond with forceful vertical strokes. Throughout the work, the reddish tint of the underlying wood board is apparent, showing through beneath areas of overlaid loose strokes. The red tone interacts with the soft blue sheen of the water and adds a lavender tint to the sky, contributing to the overall harmony of the scene.

As in his hemlock pool views, the composition that Twachtman used in Pond in Spring is unconventional. Rather than setting out the landscape in clear planar divisions which draw the viewer into the distant space, he creates a sense of immediacy through the foreground positioning of the pond and the low vantage point. As Thomas Dewing wrote, Twachtman "never composed or arranged in the conventional sense, to fill a space." [1] Pond in Spring exhibits Twachtman's ability to express the beauty and vitality in an ordinary landscape, to convey the "spirit of the place and the delight with which his work was done." [2] The artist's approach was summed up by his pupil Eliot Clark who wrote that the artist "avoided the pictorial commonplace; but he made the commonplace pictorial." [3]

LNP

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[1] Thomas Dewing, "John H. Twachtman: An Estimation," North American Review 176 (April 1903): 554.

[2] J. Alden Weir, "John H. Twachtman: An Estimation," North American Review 176 (April 1903): 562.

[3] Eliot Clark, "The Art of John Twachtman," International Studio 72 (January 1921): 86.


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