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Blog about the studio, life and travels of visual artist Carly Drew.

Filtering by Tag: Martin Johnson Heade

Crystal Bridges Part IV: Curated Favorites

Carly Drew

John James Audubon,  Wild Turkey Cock, Hen and Young,  1826.

John James Audubon, Wild Turkey Cock, Hen and Young, 1826.

The last few blog posts in this series on Crystal Bridges covered my stay in Bentonville, the Picturing the Americas Exhibition and Symposium, a quasi-religious response with a Thomas Moran painting and some thoughts on the museum. While I've covered some of the work in the museum over previous posts, there were still several pieces I wanted to highlight from the permanent collection, starting with Audubon's turkeys.

Anyone that knows me understands my odd fascination with drawing turkeys. There's this grotesque yet sublime beauty mixed up in a bird that can sometimes be genuinely dumb. The northeast corner of South Carolina is one of the prime turkey hunting spots in the southeast and in the spring/fall they are everywhere. My grandparents always had a few wandering around the farm in western Pennsylvania too, so guess you can say I've grown attached to them over the years and in an odd way they symbolize home for me. Knowing this can only explain a little of the sheer excitement when I walked in the first permanent collection gallery only to have Audubon's painting of wild turkeys be the first thing I see.

Martin Johnson Heade,  The   Gems of Brazil,  1863-1864. 

Martin Johnson Heade, The Gems of Brazil, 1863-1864. 

In a similar vein I was also looking forward to seeing so many of Martin Johnson Heade's The Gems of Brazil paintings in one place. There was really something spectacular about the way they were grouped for display by the museum. It felt like they paid close attention to the scope of paintings he did in this series and his intentions to publish them in a book format. One of Heade's slightly larger paintings, Two Hummingbirds with an Orchid, was included in the Picturing the Americas exhibition. 

Alfred Thompson Bricher,  View of Mount Washington , 1864. 

Alfred Thompson Bricher, View of Mount Washington, 1864. 

A painting exhibited in close proximity to Thomas Moran's Valley of the Catawissa  in Autumn was Alfred Bricher's View of Mount Washington. One of the two things that really struck me in this work was the handling of the atmosphere along the back edge of the lake. The dusky purples and blues that faded down into the surface of the water were soft and beautifully rendered. The level of contrast is another thing that stood out for me in this work. Bricher uses a fairly high contrast in his atmospheric perspective and has a more drastic jump (especially from mid to foreground) than several of the other Hudson River School painters I've seen. This way of depicting space in the landscape makes the distant background and foreground fight for the viewer's attention in an interesting way. 

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait,  The Life of a Hunter,  1856. 

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, The Life of a Hunter, 1856. 

I was intrigued by this Arthur Tait painting because of the reversal of roles in the interaction between the hunters and hunted. There's also a very strong narrative element that is usually a bit more subtle in other hunting and game paintings from this time period. While there were several things I enjoyed about it, there are definitely some issues. I've never personally been mauled by a bear, but I highly doubt they sit down when doing so. This bothered me a bit in that you can clearly tell it was painted from observation of either a caged, stuffed animal, or possibly even a photo. Although one of these was probably the most accurate (and safe) way to study a bear at the time, it doesn't lend itself to a very plausible painting. The reference for the bear creates an awkwardness to the piece reminiscent of a V8 commercial, with the bear is about to bop him on the head for not eating enough veggies. All humor and problematics aside though, the combination of hunting, narrative and landscape in this work made it one of the most interesting pieces I saw.

I'm a sucker for a good still life of wild game and Alexander Pope's Trophies of the Hunt from 1905 (above left) was a nice surprise. It was a heavy work with a little chiaroscuro, reminding me a bit of a Caravaggio painting. Another piece with heavy historical references was John Taylor's A Wooded Classical Landscape at Evening with Figures in the Foreground from 1772 (above right). The light in this piece was quite beautiful, setting up a nice backdrop for classical ruins and Claude Lorrain inspired feathery trees.

Andrew Wyeth,  Pentecost,  1989. 

Andrew Wyeth, Pentecost, 1989. 

The Andrew Wyeth piece pictured above isn't actually in the Crystal Bridges collection, but from a book I bought in the museum shop called Wyeth: Andrew and Jaime in the Studio. There is a large of Wyeth's work locally at the Greenville Museum of Art, which interestingly enough was acquired with similar controversy to a few of the works at Crystal Bridges. His paintings were some of the first work I ever saw in person and have been fascinated with them ever since. The painting above is new to me though, which is surprising as someone that has studied a bit too much about Wyeth. Maybe in the midst of grad school I was looking for other things in his work and glanced over it, but this has to be one of my favorite Wyeth paintings so far. The linear qualities in the netting, subtle neutral tones and dramatic cast shadows all make this work come to life, in fact it almost seems to breathe right before your eyes. Hopefully one day I'll be able to see this one in person, but for now I'll enjoy it as is.

Richard Estes,  Antarctica (detail) , 2007. 

Richard Estes, Antarctica (detail), 2007. 

A few other pieces that surprised me a bit were by Richard Estes. Honestly I've never studied Estes much outside of art history class so the work above, as well as Provincetown I and Acadia Park I, took me a bit off guard. I admired the sharp clean lines and hyperrealism that bear many similarities to his more famous paintings. After seeing this body of work I'm interested in looking at Estes more depth.

Below is as artist I was already familiar with, Neil Welliver. I was introduced to by a former painting instructor to him several years back. It's a much more frantic type of landscape than those mentioned above, but that's what makes it so exciting to look at. The scale and pattern of his work were two things that stuck with me the most and they've always reminded me a bit of Abbott Thayer's camouflage paintings

Neil G. Welliver,  Snow on Alden Brook,  1983. 

Neil G. Welliver, Snow on Alden Brook, 1983. 

Maya Lin,  Silver Upper White River,  2015. 

Maya Lin, Silver Upper White River, 2015. 

The last and coincidentally most recent work is a sculpture by Maya Lin. This piece is drawn directly from the terrain around the museum. The casting is made of the Upper White River, which runs across northern Arkansas and Missouri. It's suppose to be one of the country's best trout fishing resources, which is what inspired Lin to create this work. Rivers in the Americas used to be known for "running silver" because they had so many fish, which is what inspired her to use silver as a medium. The sculpture is really fascinating to look at and I came back to it several times to watch the light change across it. It was definitely my favorite contemporary work at Crystal Bridges, but to be fair anything that has to do with topography or trout immediately gets my attention. 

Well this concludes a week of posts about my trip to Crystal Bridges and Bentonville, Arkansas. Hope you liked reading about it as much as I enjoyed being there. It's definitely a place I will be back to many times in the future and I'm excited to see the museum grow.

Check out the other posts about the trip here.

Note: Unless otherwise noted all photos were taken by me at the exhibition.

Crystal Bridges Part II: Picturing the Americas

Carly Drew

Book Cover for  Picturing the Americas.  

Book Cover for Picturing the Americas. 

In the first post I covered a few highlights of Crystal Bridges and the 21c Hotel, today I'll be talking about my experience at the Picturing the Americas International Symposium and my response to the work in the exhibition. I arrived early that morning to go through and see the work first hand before the symposium started. There is something about seeing a work in person that can never compare to a photo. Reproductions lose any concept of scale, color nuances and the surface quality of a work. Many of the paintings in this exhibition I was seeing for the first time and quite a few, especially the South American artists, were entirely new to me. In true art geek fashion my Moleskine sketchbook and blue Staedtler pencil never left my side, jotting down notes on color, atmosphere and foliage painting techniques. I went through the exhibition about 3-4 other times during my stay and each time marveled at something new, a small passage in a landscape I hadn't noticed or the glow of a pigment on a scene.

The symposium began at 10:00am and ended around 5:00, so took up most of the day. For me the most engaging panel discussion for me was "Land, Icon, Nation," where several art historians discussed the ways artists in the exhibition helped construct national and even regional identities. Edward J. Sullivan, a professor of art history at New York University, had a fascinating and lively discussion about the Carribean landscape that made several very interesting points in relation to Caribbean culture and also the language of trees. Overall I enjoyed hearing about work discussed in a historical light, outside of art school its far too ofen that my only interaction with the history of art is either in books or a static museum setting. Seeing the excitement and energy of the people studying the work in the exhibition helped breathe more life into the paintings. Below are some of my personal favorites and highlights of the Picturing the Americas Exhibition. 

Asher B. Durand,  Kindred Spirits,  1849. Photo Credit:  Ozark Echo

Asher B. Durand, Kindred Spirits, 1849. Photo Credit: Ozark Echo

One of the paintings I was most excited to see was Asher B. Durand's Kindred Spirits. Durand has always been one of my favorite Hudson River School painters, but more for his drawings and studies than anything else. Not that his paintings are bad, I just have more of an affinity for the quality of line in his drawings. I wasn't interested in Kindred Spirits for the technique as much as I was curious to learn more about the way he constructed his composition. The painting is idealized, made up of multiple places and perspectives that embodied the character of the Catskill Mountains. I work in a similar fashion by combining several images of one or more places into a single image, albeit this multiplicity of viewpoints is a bit more evident (intentionally so) in my drawings. Seeing this painting in person was one of the major highlights of my trip.

Martin Johnson Heade,  Two Hummingbirds with an Orchid , 1875.

Martin Johnson Heade, Two Hummingbirds with an Orchid, 1875.

I got to see plenty of work from Martin Johnson Heade including multiple paintings in the museum's main collection. The thing that most impresses me about his work is the ability to build up a sense of thickness in the trees and receding space. It's almost as if you can feel heaviness of the humid, tropical air when looking at his work. Speaking of atmospheric perspective above are two detail shots from paintings done in 1868. The one on the left is by Otto Reinhold Jacobi, titled Morning on the Upper Ottowa. This was a part of a painting that was just spectacular in person. The way he used subtle but effective color shifts from warm to cool, the softness in the blues, dusks and warm neutrals is simply perfection. On the right is an Albert Bierstadt painting of Yosemite Valley. Instead of softness like Jacobi, there is a bit more crispness and warmth to the way Bierstadt has rendered the landscape. Both of them achieve a nice diffused glow and unity through the use of atmosphere and painted them in similar ways, but with drastically different results. These are things that are hard to pick up on when viewing reproductions of work and I thoroughly enjoyed dissecting these nuances in person. 

Eugenio Landesio and Jose Maria Velasco,  Hacienda de Monte Blanco , 1879.

Eugenio Landesio and Jose Maria Velasco, Hacienda de Monte Blanco, 1879.

Eugenio Landesio, "El Valle de Mexico desde el cerro de Tenayo (The Vallery of Mexico Seen from the Tenayo Hill) , 1870.

Eugenio Landesio,"El Valle de Mexico desde el cerro de Tenayo (The Vallery of Mexico Seen from the Tenayo Hill), 1870.

I also discovered a new painter, Eugenio Landesio, and was immediately struck by the way he handled painting clouds. After traveling to the Carribean this fall and seeing the towering plumes of afternoon storms first hand, I was especially drawn in to these pieces. Landesio uses a blush pinks, royal blues and warm greens to full effect in both works, showcasing how these colors could creates such a stunning atmospheric effect. The last two works are based on industry, the Paul Weingartner painting is about rain forest deforestation and Charles Sheeler's is a celebration of industry. Each are powerful reminder of the ways we change the landscape and use natural resources, which is why I was drawn to them both. Overall I really enjoyed the exhibit and it linked up perfectly with the other Hudson River School landscapes the museum houses in its main collection. 

Pedro Weingartner,  A Derrubada (The Fell) , 1913.

Pedro Weingartner, A Derrubada (The Fell), 1913.

Charles Sheeler,  Classic Landscape , 1931. Photo Credit:  National Gallery of Art

Charles Sheeler, Classic Landscape, 1931. Photo Credit: National Gallery of Art

Note: Unless otherwise noted all photos were taken by me at the exhibition.