Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Out in the Fields

Spending the day with Metcalf

Tomorrow being Wednesday, we plein air vagabonds will be assembling, as usual, to attempt to do justice to Mother Nature, this time in her early spring raiment.

But, rather than follow Heade back into the marshes (which haven't yet begun to green up), we're looking to Willard Metcalf, who was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1858, and who died, in New York, in 1925.

At the height of his fame, Metcalf was called the Poet Laureate of the New England Hills, and it was justly deserved. Among his many paintings, his Spring work particularly stands out. He manages to portray beautifully the rock-strewn, shallow-soil hillsides of New England clothed in the first yellow-green blush of the re-emergent season. This fine balance between the no-nonsense aspect of this stern landscape and its brief fling with vernal tenderness, is almost always a tour-de-force.

Tomorrow we'll hope that Metty can spare the time to come help us deal with all the complexities of our location. We'll be at a site in West Newbury, Massachusetts, and will be painting a hillside and a rising road, with a high horizon. This site is but a short crow's flight from Maudslay where the May workshop will take place.


We also hope to get to some of Metcalf's actual painting sites in the near future. The Vermont Workshop will be painting in Metcalf Country, in and around Perkinsville, Vermont. Here's a signboard from Cornish, New Hampshire, another haunt of Willard.

In fact, once you've become a fan of Metcalf, it's hard not to find his sensibilities all over New England, whether he ever painted in a given place or not. It's a particular way of looking, an appreciation for the certain slant of a hill, or the gurgle of a heard, yet-unseen brook.

I don't know what Bruce and his fellow French pleinairistes are up to tomorrow. But we wish them well. As for us, let's hope we can catch some fish.

Happy Painting!


  1. Got my rod n reel ready and dreaming of Metcalf. Can't wait.

  2. Ah, sunny France. Where did it go? We are rained out again!But the vines have now budded and are lined with a beautiful light, bright green (which green do I grab Donald?). And Todd I think its pochade box and brushes that Donald had in mind.

    1. Bruce...Todd caught a fish! Honest.

    2. Maybe cadmium green light (Old Holland)....but, if it's yallery, maybe cinnabar green light.

    3. Today I received my package of 'Jurney Essential'
      paints, so I am off to the studio to play with brownish madder, naples yellow deep and Prussian green.

    4. Perhaps you didn't see my comment, below, since I didn't hit "reply". In any event, let us know how you like 'em. The workshop folks seemed to adopt them without reservation. Check out the two Scotsmen at facebook.com/donaldjurneystudio
      One's never too old to be juvenile.

  3. Hope they're a great addition. Remember that their strength lies in their transparency,less so in their mass tone. I use them in combination, but rarely in mixtures with opaque colors. Please report back, Monsieur.