Every artist see the world and the seasons through different eyes, with different thoughts. For an artist like Jasper Francis Cropsey, America was as much a state of mind as a place, and painting her landscapes was a way of declaring his love for and of his country.
It shows in paintings like this one. It’s in the light that draws your eye, and the way it radiates and draws you into different corners of the scene. It’s in the deep, rich colours that create a feeling of tranquility, in the way the reds of Fall are mixed with the greens that linger from summer. It’s in the way the light picks out roots and limbs and rocks and rests light and bright on the blue of the water.
It’s a case of art expressing the thoughts and beliefs of the artist. Jasper Francis Cropsey believed deeply that nature was a direct manifestation of God, which meant that painting landscapes such as these were the highest form of art. And he felt that since America’s natural beauty defined her, it was an act of patriotism to paint her natural beauty.
And yet he did not confine his study or his work to the America he loved. After he married in 1847 he traveled with his young bride to Europe to study the work of artists there, to learn, to sketch and to paint, not returning to America until 1849.
Returned, he spent time traveling around the U.S., and worked again on American landscapes – though he also spent time working up some scenes from his European journey. And he began to explore other avenues and to create paintings with literary and allegorical themes.
Then in 1855 he auctioned all his works to finance a trip to England. He stayed there for seven years. He enjoyed a certain amount of recognition for his earlier work, and sketched and painted English landscapes. When he was ready to return he once again auctioned his works and all he owned to pay for the journey back to the America he loved.
There, ironically, he found himself less well-off, and turned to teaching painting and to the profession he had first trained in, architecture, to supplement his income. Fashions in art changed and interest in his work faded, his life and work changed, and by the time he died few knew who he was. At least until interest in the Hudson School returned, and people once again recognized the beauty of a painting such as this.
A painting that still speaks for the vision he had and the skill, talent and love with which he shared it.
Autumn in America seen through loving eyes…