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Winter harmony

John Henry Twachtman • Painting, 1890-th , 65.4×81.1 cm
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About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Landscape
Style of art: Impressionism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1890-th
Size: 65.4×81.1 cm
Artwork in collection: American Impressionists Yana Sasina
Artwork in selections: 13 selections
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Description of the artwork «Winter harmony»

In the early nineties of the 19th century, artist John Henry Twachman acquired a farm near the town of Greenwich in Connecticut. This allowed him to combine life in the quiet countryside, which he had long dreamed of, with teaching in New York, which was literally a stone’s throw from his domain.

Soon after his move, Twachtman wrote in his letter to his close comrade and colleague Weir that he was most inspired by the change of seasons, and especially winter: “I can see how necessary it is to live always in the country — at all seasons of the year. Never is nature more lovely than when it is snowing. Everything is so quiet and the whole earth seems wrapped in a mantle... All nature is hushed to silence.”
Along with the farmland, Twachtman got a quiet pond surrounded by trees. The artist was so fond of the stony Horsneck stream, which flew into this reservoir, that it became a frequent hero of the paintings by John Henry. Capturing the same landscape at different times of the year, and sometimes on different days of the same season (1, 2, 3), he honed his skill in conveying subtle changes in nature, lighting, and weather.

Unlike the works by his French contemporaries, Twachtman’s winter landscapes are often monochrome, with a priority of white and only occasional splashes of colour. Especially in comparison with the much more lavishly coloured winter views of orthodox European Impressionists like Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro and Claude Monet.

Twachtman’s painting is also limited within the subject matter. He preferred close-ups to panoramic landscapes. He rarely painted sun-drenched landscapes, as infrequently (or simply never) as he was fancied by the evening twilight. The artist’s hobbyhorse was winter in all its manifestations: from endless distances almost  completely covered with snow  to depicting all possible stages of its melting. Autumn riot of colours barely fit into his aesthetics.

The Winter Harmony is one of the most famous “portraits” of the view of his pond Twachtman loved so much. Among others, it stands out for its colour variety, uncharacteristic for his snowy landscapes. For once, almost the entire palette is used: the shades of blue and purple alone are innumerable. Moreover, the yellowness of dead grass, revealing through the snow, and the rusty remnants of leaves on the trees, and green hints in the needle branches.

But that’s where the resemblance to the French Impressionists ends. Unlike them, Twachtman did not work with separate strokes densely covering the canvas without any gaps, but used the good old glaze, applying almost dry paints over the primary base. His brush flied freely across the canvas, so that the main shades and strokes showed through the discontinuous, uneven texture of the top layer. This brings his style closer to tonalism, creating a sense of intimacy and comfort inherent in the paintings of the artist Weir and the later works of the landscape painter George Inness.

Author: Natalia Azarenko
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