Monday, November 30, 2015

VFFT Week 17 - Harlem River by Ernest Lawson


I find that paintings of New York City feel like old friends to me. Its almost as if I had found a picture of my sister in someone's scrapbook or Facebook page. Even though I wouldn't have taken the picture, I would know it was her the instant I saw it.

Harlem River, 1913, oil on canvas, Ernest Lawson (pic taken by me as seen at the MET)


To be frank, "Harlem River" by Ernest Lawson is more like a picture of my mother's childhood friend than of my sister. Either way, Lawson's rendering of (the way he paints) the river caught my eye immediately. I knew those dark green waters, the reflection of the bridge overhead, and the straggling trees on the riverbank. I've passed it hundreds of times on the express bus.

I think Jean Francois Millet had it right when he said, "It is the treating of the commonplace with the feelings of the sublime that gives to art its true power." Lawson takes the commonplace subject matter of an urban river landscape, making it beautiful with his attentive brush work and devoted use of lifelike color. It makes me sentimental for my city.

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