Oil on canvas
18 x 22 inches
Wichita Art Museum, John W. and Mildred L. Graves Collection
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
In 1927 Lawson accepted a position as a painting instructor at the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During his three-year tenure in the state, the Colorado landscape served as the subject of many of his canvases. The rugged terrain dominated by the Rocky Mountains influenced Lawson and compelled him to change his palette and technique to suit his subject. His colors became darker in response to the deep browns and blues of the mountains, and he applied his paint with greater bravura and thickness in order to capture their density and bulk. Pike’s Peak, Royal Gorge, the Garden of the Gods, and the gold mining of Cripple Creek were just some of the well-known Colorado subjects that Lawson depicted. The present example does not feature a well-known landmark but nevertheless represents an indigenous scene with rocky bluffs, winding rivers, and evergreens. While in Colorado, Lawson helped plan an exhibition of his Colorado subjects at the Ferargil Galleries in New York with his friend and dealer Newlin Price. It was Price s idea to promote the works as “Intimate Notes of Colorado.”1
The tenebrous terrain of the Rockies may not have been the only impetus behind the darkening of Lawson’s palette, for Lawson’s somber colors would seem to reflect a despondency of mood that increasingly plagued him. In 1926 Lawson’s youngest daughter died, and shortly afterwards his wife and surviving daughter moved to France; they would remain apart from Lawson for the rest of his life. The artist was also plagued by constant financial woes and tried to escape his problems through alcohol. His letters reveal a discouragement that might also be read in his paintings. Lawson himself stated, “Color with me has always been a matter of emotion and of late years, I have let myself go and painted things as I have felt them.”2
A bright note for Lawson at this time was that his Colorado canvases met with critical success. One painting, Gold Mining, Cripple Creek, was even awarded the Saltus Gold Medal by the National Academy in 1930. Critics in both the United States and Canada praised his mountain landscapes, approving of Lawson’s darker palette and thicker surface impasto. Critic James Gibbons Huneker was one of the most eloquent. “Lawson s palette of crushed jewels had become richer and truer,” he said, “and his paintings had much of the fabric of dreams.”3
1. Henry and Sidney Berry-Hill, Ernest Lawson: American Impressionist 1873-1939 (Leigh-On-Sea, England: F. Lewis Publishers, Limited, 1968), 43.
2. Ibid., 33.
3. Ibid., 44.