Looking through the paintings that I have for 1920, I’m surprised how many are landscapes, and with their rich variety and quality. It was perhaps a fortuitous year: the first after the Great War and the influenza pandemic that many artists were able to travel much, and an unusual coincidence of styles ranging from realism to modernist developments such as Cubism and its derivatives. In this article, I show a selection of my favourite landscapes in more conservative styles, and keep the more radical paintings for the final article in this series next week.
The first landscape is probably my favourite from all of these, and one of the Norwegian Nikolai Astrup’s greatest works.
In 1920, Astrup revisited an earlier painting he had made of foxglove flowers, which he had been developing in a series of prints. His second version of Foxgloves lacks the sophisticated composition of the first, but enriches its magical atmosphere.
A stream emerges from the dark and vague forests behind, to drop in a series of small waterfalls to the lower right. Two almost identical women are bent in strained arcs as they forage among the dense birch trees in the middle distance. In the centre the far waterfalls glint like the eyes of unseen trolls. In the foreground is an evocative combination of delicate foxglove flowers and lichen-encrusted rocks. The scene is rich in Nordic legend and enchantment.
March Morning is another example of how he used his prints to inform and develop his paintings. This motif originated from woodcuts which he based on his painting A Bird on a Stone (1913), in which he progressively focussed on bare willow twigs. By 1916, those were showing a human form emerging from the willow trunk, from which came this strikingly supernatural painting of an old willow pollard.
By local tradition, cut corn wasn’t left to dry in low stooks, as in much of Europe and America, but built onto poles. In a series of paintings and prints, Astrup developed these Corn Stooks into ghostly armies standing on parade in the fields, the rugged hills behind only enhancing the feeling of strangeness.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Louise Upton Brumback was painting scenes of the Massachusetts coast. She had been a pupil of William Merritt Chase, and one of the most successful of those who participated in his famous plein air summer schools in the Shinnecock Hills on Long Island.
Brumback’s view of Grey Day Gloucester shows a plain, almost primitive, take on this popular view with its boxy houses, relaxed perspective, and simple reflections.
Dogtown, Cape Ann, Massachusetts shows this historic area between Gloucester and Rockport, which was an active settlement between 1693 and 1830. Rocky and with poor soil, it now consists of woodland with a mesh of trails and old roads, which are seen in the valley on the right.
For my next selection, we move to the west coast of the USA, and an artist who is probably better-known today for playing small roles alongside his friend Charlie Chaplin, Granville Redmond.
Redmond seems to have painted a few moonlit motifs, including this of the Catalina Island Coast under a Moonlit Sky. As all good Mac users know, Catalina, or Santa Catalina, Island is about 35 km (22 miles) off the coast of California, south of Los Angeles.
Redmond’s sky is formed from innumerable short, fine brushstrokes in apparently random directions, and gives the effect of the atmospheric buzz of small insects. It appears distinctive, and contrasts with the dark mass of rock.
I’ll be showing more of his paintings next year.
Like many American painters, Redmond trained in Paris, where artists from all over the world converged to learn in its academies. My next landscape artist, the Japanese Torajirō Kojima, was unusual for spending his time in Europe as a student in the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium.
Morning Glories 朝顔 is one of a pair of paintings which Kojima made between 1916-20, most of their canvas being broken by the brilliantly-lit foliage and flowers, making them appear almost Divisionist.
Around 1920, he appears to have visited Spain, where he painted the Alhambra, and this wonderful view of a mountainous Landscape in Spain スペインの風景. Many of his paintings are exhibited in a special memorial hall at the Ōhara Museum of Art, in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, Japan, which has a fine collection of paintings by El Greco, Pissarro, Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, Picasso, Bonnard, and others. Local banker and industrialist Magosaburō Ōhara, who had been Kojima’s patron and friend, opened this to the public in 1930 in honour of Kojima’s life and work.
My final artist for this week is the now-underrated French Neo-Impressionist Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin, who found solace in his later life in the small village of Labastide-du-Vert near Toulouse.
In the years between the wars Martin painted many views of the village, including The Bridge at Labastide-du-Vert.
He also travelled to the French Mediterranean coast near the Spanish border, where he painted Boats at Collioure.