Many native born American artists and artists who immigrated to this country recognized a unique quality of light illuminating the American landscape. A number of these artists responded within the aesthetic boundaries associated with the Hudson River School. But there is an offshoot of the HRS which has come to be known as the Luminists. John Wilmerding, an art historian scholar who was intrigued by the Luminist painters and wrote extensively about their work and collected many of their paintings and drawings for his own personal collection. In a catalogue essay on American Luminism, Professor Wilmerding wrote: “Fitz Henry Lane, known as a marine painter, based this painting on drawings he made from the center of his hometown Gloucester’s harbor. The western shore was believed to be the place where the French explorer Samuel de Champlain landed early in the seventeenth century. In a letter Lane noted that he had been given “an order for a picture from this point of view, to be treated as a sunset. I shall try to make something out of it, but it will require some management, as there is no foreground but water and vessels.” Lane “managed” the painting beautifully, animating the foreground expanse of water with various large and small vessels arranged in a zigzag pattern that is mirrored by the contours of the shore.” What are your thoughts on Lane’s interpretation of the “peculiar American light”?
Fitz Hugh Lane, Stage Rocks and Western Shore of Gloucester Outer Harbor, 1857