Paintings of 1920: Landscapes 3

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Boats in the Harbour, Le Cannet (c 1920), oil on canvas, 33 x 48.5 cm, Private collection. The Athenaeum.

In this final look at a selection of paintings which were completed in or around 1920, I include more landscapes in more modern styles from around the world.

My first landscape artist is something of a misfit here, as he was on his journey to Surrealism at the time.

Paul Nash (1892–1946), Cotswold Hills (c 1920), oil on canvas, 49.1 x 59.2 cm, Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth, England. The Athenaeum.

Paul Nash’s view of the Cotswold Hills shows the rolling countryside near his family home in Buckinghamshire, England. Although it breaks from the military regularity and desolation of his war paintings, the shafts of sunlight are disturbingly reminiscent of those in his war painting of the Menin Road from just a couple of years before.

More popular among the landscape artists of the day were various degrees of Impressionism and post-Impressionism.

Anna Althea Hills (1882-1930), Spell of the Sea (Laguna Beach, near Moss Point) (1920), oil on canvas, 76.2 x 101.6 cm, Private collection. The Athenaeum.

That year Anna Althea Hills, an American who painted on the West Coast, made probably her finest work, Spell of the Sea, which shows Laguna Beach, near Moss Point, California, and dazzles with its brilliant light and intense hues.

Eugen Bracht (1842–1921), Stormy Day (1920), oil on canvas, 120 x 140 cm, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

In Germany, Eugen Bracht’s late Impressionist skying in Stormy Day includes a large bird, possibly a heron, in flight over the inky grey clouds near the horizon. He must have been nearly eighty years old when he painted this.

Lesser Ury (1861–1931), Street Scene at Night, Berlin (Leipziger Straße?) (c 1920), oil on canvas, 78.5 x 60.5 cm, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Bracht’s slightly younger compatriot Lesser Ury spent much of his career working on different elements which he finally brought together in this brilliant nocturne of Street Scene at Night, Berlin. Its nighttime setting simplifies the motif, and it lacks the symmetry which had made his earlier paintings of avenues in the rain appear so formal. This seems to have been mutually influenced by contemporary movies.

In the autumn of 1919, the prominent German artist Lovis Corinth and his family had moved into their new chalet at Urfeld, on the shore of Walchensee (Lake Walchen), to the south of Munich. From then until his death, they divided their time between the bustle of Berlin and this garden of Eden by the lake and the mountains.

Lovis Corinth (1858–1925), Landscape at the Walchensee with Larch (1920), oil on canvas, 85 × 115 cm, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany. Wikimedia Commons.

Over this period Corinth must have painted more than sixty views of this area. Like many others, Landscape at the Walchensee with Larch was painted from an observation point on a hill across from their chalet. Bizarrely, this painting was classified as being ‘degenerate art’ by the Nazis in 1937.

Lovis Corinth (1858–1925), Walchensee by Moonlight (1920), oil on canvas, 78 × 106 cm, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich. Wikimedia Commons.

The local terrain produces some deceptive appearances, but many of Corinth’s late landscapes have marked tilting in their horizontals, and Walchensee by Moonlight even shows the same leftward lean in its verticals. This had been prominent in the earliest of his paintings in 1912, following his severe stroke. Here it probably reflects his shift of emphasis from form to areas of colour, particularly the impasto reflections of the moon on the lake’s still surface.

In France, another fiercely independent painter continued to pursue his art in distinctive landscapes.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Balcony at Vernonnet (c 1920), oil on canvas, 100 x 78 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Brest, Brest, France. The Athenaeum.

At this time, even Pierre Bonnard’s paintings of northern France had erupted into brilliant colour. Balcony at Vernonnet is an aerial view looking along the balcony of his house on the bank of the Seine, featuring its wild and overgrown garden.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Boats in the Harbour, Le Cannet (c 1920), oil on canvas, 33 x 48.5 cm, Private collection. The Athenaeum.

Bonnard’s Boats in the Harbor, Le Cannet shows yachts in the harbour at what I think should be referred to as Cannes, the name of the town on the Mediterranean coast, rather than Le Cannet, which is just inland of Cannes and where Bonnard later came to live.

Winds of change were blowing more strongly in North American painting too.

Emily Carr (1871–1945), Logging Camp (c 1920), oil on board, 53 x 63 cm, Private collection. The Athenaeum.

The Canadian artist Emily Carr had suffered badly when her first major solo exhibition flopped in 1913. She returned to Victoria, and opened a boarding house on Simcoe Street, only painting infrequently. But she didn’t stop painting altogether, and by the late 1920s was travelling again to indigenous villages to study and paint First Nations culture. She continued to paint in Fauvist style over this period, as shown in her Logging Camp.

Joseph Stella (1877–1946), Brooklyn Bridge (1919-20), oil on canvas, 215.3 × 194.6 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT. Wikimedia Commons.

On the opposite coast, in New York, Joseph Stella painted his best-known landscape, this Cubist geometric analysis of Brooklyn Bridge, New York City. It proved a harbinger of the more difficult future for landscape painting in the rest of the twentieth century.