Thursday, February 4, 2016

City Snow

From Under the Gables:
Taking a welcome break not from winter but from the Wyeths, here are paintings of snow in New York City, by George Luks (1867-1933), a painter of the Ashcan School. I don't think anyone captures as well the contrasting qualities of snow in the city and the moods it engenders. 
Luks hailed from Pennsylvania coal country, studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and had a personality brimming with vitality and orneriness. Although he exhibited beginning in 1908 as a member of The Eight--the Robert Henri Ashcan School--he rejected any school label and said he had no mentors, including Henri.  
His painting--fresh and direct--bespeaks his view on life. Take it head on, without hemming and hawing; he reportedly died from injuries suffered in a barroom brawl. 
In his scenes of New Yorkers in the snow, he manages to capture the beauty of snowfall but also its devolution on the city streets to piles of wet grime surviving only because the air is harshly cold. To me, his paintings exhibit great economy--every brushstroke counts and is filled with energy. So vibrant is his painting of people, that we know exactly the mood of his subjects and can easily imagine being right there with them. Watch for his miniature cityscapes in the far left corner of some of these paintings. (Read more.)

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