307. Winter Landscape by Birge Harrison

L. Birge Harrison
American, 1854-1929
Winter Landscape, circa 1905
City of Davenport Collection
Gift of C.A. Ficke, 1925.130

This painting vibrates, so you must stand back! Go a little farther, about 8 feet back. In the foreground the rough grassy shrub outcroppings do not distract from the pristine, freshly fallen snow. The shrubbery attracts the black crows, searching for life in this cold winter landscape. The glimmer of a small stream catches the eye. In the middle ground, there is a balance of broken fence, bent wiry tree, and thatched haystacks giving a sense of tranquility in the open field. Then there is the glow! First it is whispered in the window of the farmhouse, and then it is spread along the horizon and fades into sky, sky, sky - a sky that dominates the painting. The heavens are alive with light and yet the artist has used a very limited range of hues. Birge Harrison mastered and taught the process of creating the effect of vibrant light in painting. Now go up and have a closer look at the globs of paint that bring light to our eye when we stand back! Notice the brushwork and subtle changes of color in the sky. Harrison was a prominent teacher in his later years in Woodstock, NY where he wrote a textbook on painting. He said, “The most splendid achievement of the 19th century in painting was the discovery of the technical means by which the scintillating effect of living light could be transferred to the dead and rigid surface of canvas. Written by: Figge Art Museum Docents Read by: Carmen Darland