“In the early 1880s many of the older Hudson River School painters – Jervis McEntee and Worthington Whittridge … were probably the most successful – did try to adjust their styles to the more progressive, broadly painted, and expressive mode, then the rage…” A History of American Tonalism: 1880-1920 (pg 168)
Last week I started a new copy at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), it’s a landscape by Worthington Whittridge, Second Beach, Newport. Worthington Whittridge was of the Hudson River School of artists, led by Thomas Cole. However this painting was created around 1878-1880, and incorporates more qualities common with the Tonalists painters that had begun to be more popular and appreciated for their sense of style.
I chose this painting because I believe it has positive qualities of both schools of thought, and it would be fun to learn how to create a painting that has so much atmosphere along with the fine attention to detail that those of the Hudson River School are renown for.
The last time I was at the NGA copying I was VERY pregnant with Naomi. I stopped going when I was around 30-32 weeks along, so this time back felt like a whole new experience… and the first day back was a bit of a learning curve to get back into the groove.
I started with the drawing already blocked in with vine charcoal, (I did this at home) and brought it in to lay in the drawing with turp. thinned burnt umber. The reason I did not make the drawing permanent with the burnt umber at home was because sometimes photos do not accurately record important features of a painting, and I wanted to be there in person to make adjustments as would be required. After having the drawing reinforced with thinned oil paint, I wiped the grid away.
After that I began to block in the painting, going a little darker for the ocean area of the composition. This portion went pretty fast, now comes the challenging phase, figuring out how to proceed so I too can create an equally sensitive painting that includes the variety of texture and dynamic brush work.
In the afternoon, I began to analyze how this painting was created, and what struck me, was how much texture and the multitude of layers that had been applied. The way some passages are on the canvas informed me that Whittridge would work fast, with medium mixed into his paint, and that all areas seem to have a minimum of 3-4 layers of paint, if not more. There are some very subtle passages of cools being floated or scumbled above warm colors.
In the water area it looks like he used a palette knife to lay paint in, building up texture to resemble the ripples of water. So for my next session, I am going to bring some different mediums, including stand oil, wax medium, and maybe a mixed medium of linseed oil and dammar varnish, also I will plan on bringing a few different palette knives to build up the texture in the water area.
Here are some detail images of the original painting.
In this photo I tried to capture the texture of the painting, see how the clouds and sea have quite a bit of texture
The green was scumbled on a creamy underpainting...I am going to have to change that in my painting during the next session...
The different texture of the sand versus the sea, and how the figure is full of thick impasto paint, making is pop out and be more visible even though it is such a tiny feature of the painting.