The American Landscape (more from the Whitney)
In looking through the photos I took at the Whitney, I saw I focused on landscapes by iconic (at least to me) American painters of the 20th century. The painting above is by Ralston Crawford. Born in Canada, he grew up in Buffalo, NY, and is known for his urban and industrial landscapes, which became more abstract with time, although he always began with observed reality. He was also a photographer.
As was Charles Sheeler, a favorite of mine. In fact, Sheeler may be more well known for his photography than his paintings. His viewpoints often abstract machines and landscapes into patterns of light and shadow. You can see how his photography influenced his painting in the industrial scene above.
Charles Demuth grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and often painted the buildings in his home town. Above is a grain elevator. He was friends with many poets and painters, and may be most well known for “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold” which was based on a poem by William Carlos Williams. He often used watercolor, and produced a vast and varied body of work, including many wonderful still lifes.
Stuart Davis is well known for his bright and jazz-influenced work. His paintings add color to the urban landscape, although he also produced many black and white linear abstractions as well.
Davis, and the artists above, are all considered to be Precisionists: they took the urban and industrial world of the early 20th century and abstracted it, often sharpening its edges. Georgia O’Keeffe’s early cityscapes are also considered to be part of this group.
The one non-Precisionist landscape I photographed at the Whitney on my visit is also by one artist I did not know. Chiura Obata was represented by a wall of beautiful woodcuts of California. Like so many Japanese-Americans, he was interned in World War II, and organized art classes, with help from friends in California, in the camps. He was also a wonderful painter.