Green and Gold
Green and Gold
Oil on canvas
25 1/4 x 30 1/4 inches
Wichita Art Museum, John W. and Mildred L. Graves Collection
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
In Green and Gold, thick areas of impasto contrast with nearly unworked sections of canvas to echo an uneven terrain. This coarse surface treatment seems appropriate for an artist who almost exclusively painted landscapes. The scrubbing of Lawson’s brush literally imitates the scrub vegetation, spindly trees are interpreted through long threads of paint, and rocks are created through solid swipes of the palette knife.
Lawson is often considered an American Impressionist and Green and Gold exhibits Impressionistic influence in both its brushwork and its quality of light. The hills and meadows blush with the warmth of golden sun and the reflective pond glows with luminous color. The paintings hues are primarily blue-greens and yellows and shadows are given value through a deep violet rather than black. Like the Impressionists, Lawson preferred to paint outdoors, and based his landscapes on dedicated studies of nature’s changing light and seasons. Lawson stated, “Movement in nature is my creed as a landscapist and light and air are my delight.”1
Categorizing Lawson as an Impressionist, however, does not adequately describe his eclectic style, which in fact drew on numerous influences. Lawson was born in 1873 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent much of his youth with an aunt and uncle in Ontario. The Canadian landscape left a lasting impression on him and he returned to Canada many times throughout his life. In 1888 he moved to join his parents in Kansas City, Missouri, where he studied at the Kansas City Art Institute with Ella Holman, the woman he would later marry. In 1892 Lawson went to study with John Twachtman and J. Alden Weir at their school in Cos Cob, Connecticut, and through these artists he was exposed to Impressionism. These men also introduced Lawson to Tonalism, and the title of this painting, Green and Gold, reflects Tonalist sensibilities as well as an interest in the aestheticism of Whistler. In 1893, Lawson went to France to study at the Academie Julian, and it was in France that he met and was influenced by the Impressionist Alfred Sisley. Cezanne’s paintings were also important to Lawson’s development and helped to precipitate a greater solidity in his work. Many of Lawson’s landscapes, including Green and Gold, bear a compositional relationship to Cezanne’s paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire.
Lawson’s most famous association was with the group of painters known as “The Eight.” Through his friend William Glackens, Lawson came to know Robert Henri, Arthur B. Davies, Maurice Prendergast, John Sloan, George Luks, and Everett Shinn, and was included as one of The Eight in their famous 1908 exhibition. Lawson was the only pure landscapist among them, and his paintings were rather out of character with the rest of the group. For the most part, Lawson was not interested in the urban realism that preoccupied many of the group’s other members. He concerned himself less with narrative and rhetoric and more with color, mood, and the physical process of painting.
1. Quoted in Henry and Sidney Berry-Hill, Ernest Lawson: American Impressionist 1873-1939 (Leigh-On-Sea, England: F. Lewis Publishers, Limited, 1968), 22.