Monday, June 22, 2015

Moving the Eye - A Study in Sargent

Though known for his masterful paint handling and virtuosity in rendering light and texture, John Singer Sargent created striking, original compositions that did not rely on previous models or inherited rules of thumb. In fact, all of the "bravura brushwork" for which he is justly celebrated would be for naught -- if not for the unsung abstractions beneath those gorgeous surfaces.

John Singer Sargent, Venice boats, a watercolor

For me this painting by Sargent suggests the state of feeling very much alive, as when visiting a new place on vacation, where one's transported out of the everyday dullness of ordinary life. It's a moment of mild astonishment at the sparkling visual spectacle of life fully lived and fully seen.

The motif matters little (he has invested Venice's harbor with no metaphorical or symbolic value). Yet Sargent firmly places the moment's lively, semi-chaotic (physical!) properties fully at the service of the overall feeling expressed: the jostling boats, with their counterpoised rigging, prows, and sails, the gondolas' sweeping shapes, the marching masts' verticals vs. the rounded ropes and gondolas'  horizontality, and the arabesques of light and shadow on the water together convey visual excitement and beautifully "capture the moment" (a phrase I abhor, as it pretty much glosses over the whole astonishing reality that is painting).

Rather than teach my students the stock of familiar compositions, I try to encourage spontaneity within certain limits. By "stock" compositions, I'm thinking of the type illustrated in the pages of Edgar Payne's overpriced and out of print Composition of Outdoor Painting, the diagrammatic heart of which I've posted here for your downloading pleasure (it's a PDF of four pages of illustrated compositional strategies and if you don't know it, you should - it's definitely worth internalizing).

Creativity loves limits. The limits I impose on myself and my students are pretty simple, and come down to 1. fit the form to the content, but move the eye through the painting (and not out of it) and 2. create variety within unity (vary everything - size, shape, color, placement, temperature, tonality, marks/strokes, etc). I try to resist known compositional strategies, but I'm not often as successful as I'd like to be. Let's look at how Sargent accomplishes these things in the watercolor above.

Sargent's composition is original; he isn't repeating the successes of others. He always seems to bring out and cunningly arrange intriguing tensions and rhythms within his motif.

Sargent has set the gondola in the middle of the painting apart by contrasting its light with the more shadowy forms surrounding it. He has placed the greatest point of contrast here as well. And while there's no "rule of thirds" here and no obvious "point of interest" these help create a subtle one, as we'll see. Instead, there's a virtual choreography of the surface that I've tried to indicate with arrows and numbers.

At 1 or 2, the bottom of the canvas, the eye enters the painting and jumps toward the center cluster of connected shapes via the strongly directional prow of the boat on the lower left.  Much of the painting's immediacy and excitement come from the way "our" boat's prow is jutting up from the viewer's space into the picture plane - a hallmark of Italian Baroque painting.

at 2, a directional line (perspective is used to create its directional thrust INTO the picture) along the rope swoops in from the right like a roller coaster with enough propulsion to carry us up to the far left corner and then, at 3., down again and to the right.

At 4, we might end up leaving the painting if not for the masterful use of the gondola's graceful curving shape to scoop us up and cary us to the top right until gently returning us back to the center and starting point, which we now realize happens to be...

5. one of two figures, not at all visible at once. It's true the painting's lightest lights and darkest darks are here, in one of the "power quadrants" of the picture. And yet, the figures are only suggested (the female, to the right, though dead center in the painting, is so enveloped in light that I only noticed her after doing this analysis). In fact, it's so subtle a "point of interest" that it becomes only a brief resting place for the eyes which immediately continue circulating in and around the picture, creating that lively feeling of interest and dazzle we identified at the beginning.

It's a good idea to do studies like this of great painters' compositions once in a while, I think. I think it's preferable to memorizing lists of basic "design principles" said to inform good composition, especially as no one can seem to agree once and for all what those principles are anyway. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wonders, A Prose Poem

I have a special affection for the giant salt piles in Portsmouth Harbor. 

Carl Austin Hyatt, from the Portsmouth Harbor Salt Piles series

The first time I saw them I was struck by the spectacle, the oddness of these large white pyramids perched at the edge of the Piscataqua River. I now know the salt is shipped and piled here to be loaded into trucks for de-icing wintry roads in New Hampshire and southern Maine. But that doesn't quell my fascination.

Carl Austin Hyatt, from the Portsmouth Harbor Salt Piles series

Photographer Carl Austin Hyatt is currently exhibiting large-scale prints culled from an ongoing series of photographs that he's been making on the site over the last several years. 

Carl Austin Hyatt, from the Portsmouth Harbor Salt Piles series

The show opened at Portsmouth's Banks Gallery yesterday, June 18th and will run for a month. You can read a mini-essay I wrote about the series here.

Carl Austin Hyatt, from the Portsmouth Harbor Salt Piles series

Hyatt’s salt piles magnificently transcend the actual. His lens documents a striking spiritual geometry. Removed from their everyday context, their scale rendered ambiguous, the images in Hyatt’s Portsmouth Harbor Salt Pile Series have an epic quality, a sense not just of grandeur, but of the cosmic and the impersonal. 

Seeing Hyatt's images reminded me of a poem I wrote about the same salt piles in the mid-1990s called "Wonders."


Among the heaps of scrap metal and salt, pyramids of a neglected Giza, the Bently 799MW caterpillar boom-crane is a motionless sphinx. The pale blue columns of the suspension bridge are the new monuments of kings. Ships depart. Boxcars rumble off on their tracks. The tracks disappear. But which gods are theirs? O slag heaps, crushed Plymouths and cranes! One expected to find a last dark exotic queen dressed for ceremony falling on her sword in your shadows.

Carl Austin Hyatt, from the Portsmouth Harbor Salt Piles series

I highly recommend you see Hyatt's monumental prints in person if you can.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hats Off to Picasso (and Noguchi)

It's easy to mistake the intensions of certain "edgy" artists for obnoxiousness. But keep looking and thinking, and what at first seems like a childish flip-off to aesthetic conventions gradually reveals itself as deeper than that - so deep in some cases as to approach the universal.

To the casual eye much modern and contemporary work looks like a cheap shot - apparently unskilled, unnecessarily cryptic, or smugly inexpressive. But once you wrap your head around the idea at its heart,  it becomes perfectly clear that such works simply dispense with the comforts of traditional representation in search of something more authentic, more pared down: The "shocking" and ungainly modes of expression that arose with 20th century modernism were and continue to be about the search for authenticity.

Some of the best artists of our time are trying to go beyond convention to somewhere prior to the slickness and sophistication of post-Renaissance Western art.

Don't get them wrong - mostly they aren't flouting convention just to be shocking or different - their works are meant to be visceral, profoundly "human," as universal as paleolithic sculpture and cave paintings - full of the rarely encountered, raw, hand-hewn sense of something real, carved from the bedrock of human reality.

Pablo Picasso, Blue Nude, 1902

Pablo Picasso painted "Blue Nude" in 1902 after close friend's suicide, which is pointed to as the psychological motivation for what's known as the painter's "blue period." Mortality literally colored all of Picasso's painting at the time; his blue period paintings view a basic, common humanity through an essentialist lens of deepest emotion expressed through gesture and mood, an emphatic and pointedly bare and unpretentious line, and of course that stony, cool, melancholy and nearly monochrome color. Although these are among his most popular works today, at the time nobody wanted to buy the pictures, and Picasso became as nearly poor as the "street people" he was painting. 

In "Blue Nude," everything is stripped to essentials - the isolated figure, the dispensing with conventions of Western representation such as modeling, realistic color, and figure and ground. This masterpiece has the splendidly rude (in the word's original sense of uncultivated - in Anglo-Saxon, rudus literally meant "broken stone"), elemental character of a universal summary of humanness scratched into a rock wall with a charred stone tool. What could be more "real?"

Isamu Noguchi, Gray Sun, marble, 1967

Speaking of rocks and stone, Japanese American Isamu Noguchi is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, American abstract sculptor of the 20th century.

In "Grey Sun," the large gray marble minimalist work above, Noguchi "made visible the basic forms and forces of nature, using natural materials and fundamental shapes," as critic Miranda McClintic aptly writes. "Noguchi frequently used the circle as a timeless, universal symbol, related to the sun, origin of life, and basis of numerical systems." "Gray Sun" engages sculpture in a very primal, foundational sort of way - this to me looks like something an isolated, primitive tribe might craft in honor of some god or goddess responsible for the cyclical nature of the universe. 

Isamu Noguchi, Mother and Child, onyx, 1944-1947
Human emotion radiates from the smaller yet beautiful "Mother and Child." A mother tenderly presses her child against her forehead, elevating the child to her care-worn gaze; in counterpoint, the simple circle denoting the child's face suggests its blank-slate innocence and openness to existence. This tender object has a simple, yet mysterious elegance, much like the neolithic pre-Greek "Cycladic" figurines or the paleolithic figures of archaeology. It seems at once ancient and modern, abstract and timeless. Both works "read" like haiku - lyrical and subtle meditations on universal humanness.

Moving into the present, engagement with basic humanness lies at the heart of the best contemporary sculpture and painting, for example in the work of Richard Serra and Cecily Brown.

There's a great short summary of Cecily Brown on this blog.Here's most of it: 

"Cecily Brown  (b. 1969, London) holds a place of honour among contemporary artists who work with painting, contributing to its continuous rebirth and experimentation.... Brown is an extremely expressive painter whose work is characterised by an intense chromatic language, mid-way between abstraction and figuration. Dialoguing with the history of painting, the English artist creates tangled compositions where distinctly identifiable and loosely outlined human figures sink and emerge from a chaotic, physical background."

Painting by Cecily Brown
"The distorted naked bodies with their fleeting nature and the overall structures reveal the influence of several artistic experiences, from Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon to Willem de KooningEl Greco or the Impressionists, giving life to a piercing, gestural and layered painting. Brown’s wild, animal-like dimension is both suffering and joyful, there is no space for romanticism, while sexuality and eroticism prevail in most of her works. Sex and death are connected in acts of orgiastic pleasure, carnivals where rude and sharp emotions seem to carry on and enhance the “de Kooningesque” rule of paint as flesh." (de Kooning famously said flesh was the reason oil paint was invented.)

Cecily Brown, The Fugitive Kind
"The Fugitive Kind," the painting above, represents a pretty tame yet brilliantly abstract example, and here's what Saatchi Online has to say about it: "Taking its title from Tennessee Williams’s play, Cecily Brown’s The Fugitive Kind is as seductive as southern gossip. Brown uses the painterliness of Abstract Expressionism to convey not only raw emotion, but a corporeal sense of connection between painting, idea and viewer. Cecily Brown capitalizes on the fleshiness of her medium: paint’s ability to replicate physical sensation: and the dramatic illusion of motion. Within her voluptuous surfaces, epic fantasies spontaneously unfold, as if each brush stroke contains a dark secret: opulent, gritty and tainted with sin."

The title also refers to how oblique the sexual references are - many of her other works riff on pornography explicitly ("radically pornographic images put through an Osterizer of pink and red flesh tones, a transgression that is deliciously, stridently vulgar," one critic enthused)

Cecily Brown, The Quarrel, 2004
More recently, she's dialogued with the grandfathers of English painting, Poussin, Rubens, and other Old Masters. Her best work is summarized by another critic who connects the dots and succinctly hits it spot on: "turbulent brushwork fusing naked flesh with fecund nature."

de Kooning had reunited abstraction with Western figural painting in his "Woman" series of the 1950s. These paintings mirror the human soul's "wild, animal-like dimension," where sex and death (yeah, the Big Themes!) merge and emerge through expressive gestural painting.  

For his part, de Kooning wanted an art that would "comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." Why? Because, as he said (in 1950 in a lecture at Studio 35 on Eighth Street in New York City): "Insofar as we understand the universe - if it can be understood - our doings must have some desire for order in them; but from the point of view of the universe, they must be very grotesque." Search your heart - you know it's true!

Cecily Brown, The Girl Who Had Everything, 1988. I know, how rude!

Brown managed to push even further than de Kooning or Bacon into the Heart of Darkness. As a female painter mindful of the uncomfortable truths of Bacon and de Kooning, where do you go? Viewing Brown's work will tell you. In Thomas Hess's words about de Kooning in 1959, "There is no place where you could say, 'this is in between.' . . . Backgrounds and foregrounds still exist, but they are consistently interchangeable. There is a Gordian fugue of ambiguities." It's pretty obvious to me which of the two painters has taken up the theme of the encounter of humanity with the world and composed a more complex, inextricable "Gordian fugue." It's not pretty - but it's real. In fact, it's raw, unflinching, uncomfortably close to the bedrock of human reality.

So, do you have to engage the "grotesque" to be great? Apparently a lot of contemporary painters think so (just do a Google image search for contemporary figurative painting). For relief, let us turn to the massive steel sculptures of Richard Serra. 

Exploiting the three-dimensional nature of the medium, Richard Serra sculpts interactive space. He began as a Minimalist artist during the 1960s who explored unconventional, industrial materials and accentuated the physical properties of their art. Since then he has pushed further than any sculptor in history into the mediation of human beings and lived space; the work is about the engagement between viewer, site, and work

Richard Serra, Sequence, 2006
This is art that engages being directly, from the inside. His sculptures always imply interactive human space, even when, as in the work below, they deny it.

Richard Serra, East-West/West-East (2014)
In his latest work, “East-West/West-East” (2014), he has assembled four steel plates that will oxidize in the salty, wind-blown, sandy air of Qatar and go from gray to orange to brown, until they turn a dark amber. I think Serra is commenting brilliantly on humanity's habitation of the earth. From the killingly arid and empty desert rise massive steel monoliths arranged in a mysterious procession across the void. The raw, closed, Euclidian, slabs appear industrial, obviously and monumentally manmade; they stand, like homo erectus, in vertical opposition to nature's horizontality. At the same time, as they rapidly weather, they seem somehow vulnerable, almost desperate even. To interface with this work is to contemplate the "nature" of human existence in a completely experiential, visceral way. This is epic minimalism and wholly new territory for sculpture. 

Richard Serra, East-West/West-East (2014)
Thankfully, Serra evidently couldn't care less about the political or sociological situation in the Middle East. When asked by a critic writing for the New Yorker, he just said, "You know, I come here and work. That’s what I do." Obviously the work goes to a much deeper, more universal, more mysterious place - the place where great art goes.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Painting & Place (an American tradition)

Marsden Hartley, Snow, 1908

"Place is not a static mental or perceptual construct converted to paint and canvas. Place is the vehicle by which the artist moves out from his own creative center to discern the universal truths of man and his environment." - Marsden Hartley scholar Gail R. Scott

George Inness, c. 1885

Albert Pinkham Ryder, Moonlit Cove, c. 1880s (Armory Show 1913)

Walt Kuhn, Morning in Nova Scotia, 1912 (Armory Show, 1913)
Arthur Dove, Sunrise III, 1937
Marsden Hartley, from the Dogtown series, 1937

Richard Diebenkorn, Berkeley #59, 1955
John Laurent, Three Rocks, 1960s

Willem de Kooning, Rosy-Fingered Dawn at Louse Point, 1963

Eric Aho, Beach, c. 2012

John O'Reilly, Dogtown - Hartley series, 2008

Stuart Shils, Rain Passed, the Bay with a Touch of Sun, 2007

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Great Book of Kids' Art Projects (Freebie Alert!)

I wanted to take a minute to pass on a kind offer from a friend of mine, N.H. artist and gallery-owner Susan Schwake. Susan has offered to send a free signed copy of her new book, Art for All Seasons: 40 Creative Mixed Media Adventures for Children, to the first blog reader who sends me an email and asks for one.

Susan has for years run an array of amazing programs for children of all makes and models: kids in private and public schools, community organizations, programs for medically fragile children, special needs agencies, summer camps, intergenerational facilities, libraries, and her own gallery art school - we're talking about thousands of people whose lives she's enriched with art and art-making. 

Susan was an early supporter of my painting endeavor, showing my work in her former Rochester, NH gallery space. She's now making a name for herself in new digs in Dover. 

Organized around the four seasons, this is a great source: 140 pages packed with 400 color photos, simple directions, and easy-to-inspire examples. Susan pairs each project with a local artist whose work helped inspire it. I am proud to say that I'm included in the section on "Painting Outside."

"My" page in Susan's book!

If you're looking for fun art projects you can do with kids all year round this is a great source. There are good old-fashioned projects (potato-print snowflakes), fun new ideas (make a mandala out of an old LP record), as well as contemporary twists on the traditional (cut-paper quilts and scrap-collage flowers). Best of all, a good number of the projects will work for a wide range of abilities, accommodating beginning artists as well as more sophisticated ones, the limits being only that of imagination and inclination (feather paintings, accordion books, drawing nature, relief printed cards, plein-air painting....). It's impossible not to find at least a few inspired kids' art activities here that will work for you. Check the book out on Amazon here.

Don't believe me? Shoot me an email and see for yourself.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Luminous Point: Corot

Among the many charms of Camille Corot's (French, 1796-1875) work is the way tone (what we would call dark-light value) balances so harmoniously (even across its wide range of dark to light). At the same time, his colors, like his soft, painterly touch, remain mild and delicate. I love how he combines feathery edges with a few big lights, a few very dark darks, and an infinity of mid-tones.

Recently I stumbled on the following (collected in Painters on Painting, one of my new favorite books):

The Luminous Point

"In a painting there is always a luminous point; but this point must be unique. You may place it where you wish; in a cloud, in the reflection of the water, on in a bonnet. However, there must only be a single tone of this value."

This sent me back to the paintings and, sure enough, I saw it. In this painting, it's the bending man's shirt:

Here, I think it's the light reflected off the woman's hair ribbons (although this is not the brightest, highest-key value, which is probably the woman's white sleeve, the "point" of light on the ribbons glows up against the darker tones he places around it, in this case the young woman's hair):

I thought about titling this post "Corot's Secret." The tabloid headline style would be in keeping with my last post on the man, Corot's Palette Revealed (also posted in spring, not incidentally).

But if Corot had a "secret" it was simply this: he knew and painted from himself. He was so intimately in touch with his own genuine love of nature, that it was said that when he posed his models he instinctively "made them equal, but not superior to, the trees and water he loved so well, an equation of man and nature." (Joseph C. Sloane)

In the painting below, though it's hard to see, there's a spot in the yellow clouds near the overhanging branch in the middle of the picture that is slightly brighter than the surrounding tones:

And in this next one, the "luminous point" is the little rectangular patch of light nestled in the grass in front of the cow:

Detail of above painting showing "the luminous point" .

Knowing himself also helped Corot know what "effect" he was going for when he painted. Like Cezanne, he covered his whole canvas as soon as possible and worked on all parts of the painting at once, "improving it very gently until I find that the effect is complete."

If there's any other "secret" to how he worked, it's that he saw and painted primarily in values rather than in colors. "That which I look for while I paint is the form, the harmony, the value of the tones," he wrote. "Color comes afterwards for me because above all I like the harmony in the tones."

All of this helps to lend Corot's paintings their marvelous unity of effect - what many have called their "poetry" - the way, wordlessly and all at once, they convey such feeling.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tracking Abbott Thayer's Monadnock

I had the words of poet Donald Hall in my head:

"Great blue mountain! Ghost."

I was driving to Dublin, New Hampshire in late March, about an hour from where I live, chasing a different mountain from Hall's in "Mount Kearsarge." I wanted to see and to paint Mount Monadnock, the name of which means "mountain that stands alone." Native Americans are said to have called it "Mountain of the Great Spirit." 

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Monadnock in Winter at the Currier Museum, Manchester, NH.
High res!- click to see it close.

I've been interested in Monadnock since seeing the painting above by Abbott Handerson Thayer. Today Thayer is known, when he is known at all, for painting angels and calling the world's attention to protective animal coloration, which quickly led to the invention of military camouflage in W.W. I. 

Not as widely known is that Thayer obsessed over Mount Monadnock, which towered above his Dublin studio, painting it many times in his later years. A total transcendentalist, he was a manic depressive who believed God was within nature and was dictating his imagery to him. William James, Henry's philosopher brother, sent his son to be tutored by Thayer, who was then among the most famous painters in the country (Thayer joined but quickly quit The Ten American Painters.) Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Frank W. Benson, and Edmund C. Tarbell all came to paint with him in Dublin.  

As both an American art history geek and an American literature geek, I was fascinated to learn that Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote one of his most famous poems about the mountain. "Monadnoc" turns out to be a sort of rhyming instruction manual for applying transcendentalist ideals to everyday life (I like Emerson, but I find the poem unreadable). 

Among his circle at Concord, Emerson started a virtual cult of Monadnock. It became Henry David Thoreau's favorite mountain. He hiked it in 1844, 1852, 1858, and 1860 and studied its botany and geology extensively. It can take between four and nine hours to the summit and back, depending on the route one takes.

A. H. Thayer, Monadnock in Winter, owned by the Metropolitan Museum, NYC

I do prefer Thoreau's Monadnock poem to Ralph's. 

"With frontier strength ye stand your guard,
With grand content ye circle round,
Tumultuous silence for all sound..."

He imagines it as some vast, proud ship, "Sailing through rain and sleet,/Through winter's cold and summer's heat;/Still holding on upon your high emprise,/Until ye find a shore amid the skies..."

A. H. Thayer's Monadnock

The sight of the mountain, distinct because of its snow-collecting, denuded peak ("—its sublime gray mass," wrote Thoreau "—that antique, brownish-gray, Ararat color. Probably these crests of the earth are for the most part of one color in all lands, that gray color of antiquity, which nature loves.") certainly held a profoundly earthy yet mystical significance for him. Indeed, Thoreau seems to recommend seeing Monadnock over climbing it: 

"Those who climb to the peak of Monadnock have seen but little of the mountain. I came not to look off from it, but to look at it. The view of the pinnacle itself from the plateau below surpasses any view which you get from the summit. It is indispensable to see the top itself and the sierra of its outline from one side.... It is remarkable what haste the visitors make to get to the top of the mountain and then look away from it."

Surprise! Another of Thayer's depictions of Monadnock in winter.
At the turn of the 20th century, a wealthy admirer (related to the Boston Copleys I believe) offered to build the Thayer family a house and artist's studio in Dublin. Between the literary fuss and Thayer's relocation, Dublin became a magnet for wealthy socialites and the writers and artists who love them. 

Yup, another Monadnock in winter by Thayer

After studying a few of Thayer's Monadnock paintings, I realized that although the compositions vary, they're all painted from the same location and the same time of year - they all show the same wintry view of Monadnock as it rises from behind a smaller slope that's offset to the left. The time of year - March - was right. I became obsessed with finding that spot. 

"O pilgrim, wandering not amiss!" (Thoreau)

Monadnock about a 3/4 mile from the state park trailhead.

Leaving Monadnock State Park (there's little point going unless you're going to climb it) and checking the paintings, I realized Thayer had to be painting it from the other side. Of course - Dublin, NH, and the Dublin art colony. I drove along the skirt of the mountain to the Historical Society of Cheshire County Archive Library and Museum in Keene, NH.

Here I pored over histories of Dublin and its art colony as well as the one at nearby Cornish, NH. I learned that the land procured for Thayer's use was "above Dublin Pond," in other words, between the pond and the mountain.  

Of the many luminaries who came and went here during the "American Renaissance" the most famous today are Mark Twain, Tarbell, Benson, Birge Harrison, Rockwell Kent, who was actually a student of Thayer's, the Rev. Higginson who first published Emily Dickinson, Imagist poet Amy Lowell, scores of transcendentalists, and many other painters and writers, amid sojourners such as Amelia Earhart, Ethel Barrymor, and William Howard Taft. 

I learned that some of the artists (Thayer?) resided in an enclave called Lone Tree. I left Keene and headed over to the "town" of Dublin. 

If there's really a town here it's well hidden. Although there stands a town hall, a library, and a few other quaint, quasi-official looking buildings, I didn't see any evidence that anyone ever went in or out of them; I think Dublin's still around so it can support the headquarters of Yankee Magazine.

There's a Dublin historical society and a library too, but neither was open, so I kept on scouting about.  

Abbott H. Thayer, Dublin Pond, New Hampshire, c. 1896

Dublin Pond in winter

It didn't take long to find Dublin Pond (I passed it on my way into town), and sure enough, but for the ice and snow cover, it looked just like they'd painted it (sort of). During the colony's heyday, the road above the pond was dotted with mansions, many of which are still there. Between the mystical aura, the genuine natural beauty of the place, and the ready market of well-heeled sophisticates, the Dublin Art Colony, as it's known today, was born beneath the mountain - just exactly where, I didn't know. 

Rockwell Kent, Dublin Pond (1903)

Rockwell Kent, Winter, Monhegan, Island (1907) has been called the 20th century's first American masterpiece. But why not the 1903 "Pond" above?

I could see from the road above the pond that the mountains here could align the way they look in Thayer's painting.

This is the view from directly across the pond.

But Thayer's view was closer than I could get just by driving back and forth looking for a way up into the hills.

Remnants of faded 19th century opulence were everywhere.
There was nothing but private roads. I did find one called "Lone Tree Road," and I even ventured up it. There was an old rambling manse at the top of the hill but absolutely no view of Monadnock. It did occur to me that maybe the waves of pine trees had grown up and obscured the peak. A Real Estate listing for the place told of "two art studios on the property," so I assume this was in the "Latin Quarter" and certainly not far from Thayer's studio.

This looked very promising based on the alignment of the two mountains in Thayers' paintings, but I decided it wasn't worth being automatically arrested. 

Eventually I had to drive on without locating Thayer's vantage point. However, I did find a good spot to paint out of the wind in a cemetery across the pond. 

Here's the sketch I came away with. It's not much next to Thayers' but I hope to expand on it as he was wont to do, in the studio.

Monadnock Sketch, 6" x 8" oil on paper
I of course will go back to paint Monadnock. And I do still want to find out where Thayer's studio was. 

Monadnock from Wachusett

I would I were a painter, for the sake
   Of a sweet picture, and of her who led,
   A fitting guide, with reverential tread,
Into that mountain mystery. First a lake
   Tinted with sunset; next the wavy lines
   Of far receding hills; and yet more far,
Monadnock lifting from his night of pines
   His rosy forehead to the evening star.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1862)

Monadnick as rendered by Rockwell Kent