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Luminism Collage

Luminism

Started: 1850

Ended: 1875

Luminism Timeline

Quotes

"A painter's studio should be everywhere."
William Sidney Mount
"To the beautiful belongs an endless variety. It is seen not only in symmetry and elegance of form, in youth and health, but is often quite as fully apparent in decrepit old age. It is found in the cottage of the peasant as well as the palace of kings."
George Caleb Bingham
"Having once enjoyed the absolute freedom of the landscape artist's life, I was unable to return to portrait painting. From this time my direction in art was determined."
Sanford Robinson Gifford
"A painter should lose sight of himself when painting nature"
William Sidney Mount
"Paint atmosphere in all its effects. Paint from recollection of what you have seen."
William Sidney Mount
"We seem to be reading not the poetry of a poet about things but the poetry of the things themselves."
John I. H. Baur

Synopsis

Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, a handful of landscape painters, instead of painting monumental, dramatic scenes of American wilderness, began painting on a smaller, quieter scale. The Luminist style had much in common with the Transcendentalist writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, which advocated that one immerse oneself in nature in order to know oneself and the divine. While the artists did not cohere as a unified movement, they did share stylistic tendencies. Marked by a certain rendering of light as a uniform glow that infuses the entire scene, Luminist paintings reveal no brushstrokes of the artist, thus maintaining a silent, almost impersonal, surface. The particularly American style has continued to influence contemporary landscape painting.

Key Ideas

While partly influenced by Romanticism, Luminist paintings do not tend to depict nature as grand and imposing, nor do they strive to convey a sense of spectacular, awe-inspiring sublimity. Instead, Luminist paintings with their smaller size evoke a quiet spirituality based on closely observed natural phenomena, especially the quality of light.
Luminist light is particularly distinct. It is often cool and hard, almost palpable. The painters use slight tonal modulations, and not brushstrokes, to create the effect of radiant light.
Luminist compositions are very ordered, emphasizing the horizontal expanse with a deep spatial recession. The surfaces are precisely rendered, leaving no hint of brushstrokes. This clarity of the picture plane facilitates the viewer's communion with the natural scene presented and lends the scene a certain silence.

The Definition of Luminism

Luminism Image

Luminism refers to a type of American landscape painting that became most prominent in the 1850s and lasted into the 1870s practiced among artists associated with the Hudson River School. The artists did not identify themselves as Luminists, as the term wasn't coined until 1954 when the art historian and director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, John I. H. Baur, used it to describe these naturalistic landscapes, often seascapes or river views, emphasizing the treatment of light to create a contemplative and luminous effect. Baur defined Luminist work as, "a polished and meticulous realism in which there is no sign of brushwork and no trace of impressionism, the atmospheric effects being achieved by infinitely careful gradations of tone, by the most exact study of the relative clarity of near and far objects and by a precise rendering of the variations in texture and color produced by direct or reflected rays."

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Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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