This week’s edition of Art in Small Bites was lead by tour guide Nancy Silander. She introduced landscape through two paintings from the 19th century, “Boston Navy Yard” and “Low tide,” by the artists Dwight W. Tryon and Ernest Lawson respectively.
Silander made the tour incredibly interactive, keeping it centered mainly on participants’ questions and observations.
“What you see on a painting is an artist’s conversation with the viewer,” Silander said.
Every person on the tour noticed different things about the painting. With Silander providing background on the time period, artists and painting techniques, the two paintings were analyzed pretty thoroughly.
Tryon was a self-taught American painter at the time that he made this painting in 1873, who painted largely tonalist paintings. “Boston Navy Yard” was painted in mainly muted colors, which gave it the impression of an early, foggy morning. It consisted of a largely empty version of the Boston Navy Yard, with only two people in view in the entire painting. Silander pointed out that Tryon probably felt that people were unimportant in landscape, she also explained that Tryon likely sketched the painting by the water, but then returned to his home to actually paint it. This meant that the painting turned out as a more idealized landscape, in which Tryon omitted certain aspects of the Boston Navy Yard so he could focus more on technique. His largest focus in this painting was playing with light and reflection on the water. His style of painting was very smooth, with all of the colors thoroughly blended to bring about a more realistic appearance.
Lawson’s painting was very different. He had trained under post-impressionists and impressionists in Paris, so his landscape embraced the strokes of his paint brush with no attempt to blend the colors. Unlike Tryon, tubes of oil paint had been begun to be manufactured by the time of “Low Tide” in 1898, so Lawson was able to paint it on scene. This meant that the colors used in the painting were much more true to the landscape than in Tryon’s. Despite this, his use of impasto, laying out the paint thickly to give the picture a more textured appearance, as well as the way he makes the buildings in the background into simple geometric shapes, makes the painting far less realistic. Lawson’s goal in his painting was to capture nature before it became destroyed by industrialization. This is shown in “Low Tide” in how he made the marsh take up three-fourths of the painting, with the city, likely New York, just an entity creeping up in the background.
“I think I liked the more impressionist painting just because the use of colors,” Alyssa Pagan, a second-semester political science major, said. “I think it’s really interesting and to not have it be so realist kinda gives you a more abstract idea of what they were looking at.”
You don’t need to be an art major to go to the Benton, it’s open to all and willing to introduce art to anyone willing to learn.
“Learned some technical stuff,” Harry Zehner, a second-semester political science major, said. “I don’t come to the Benton that often, so it’s cool to come here and see the art that UConn has.”
Pagan agreed wholeheartedly.
“I think it’s nice to go to galleries and talk to people who give tours just because you learn more of the technical side of things and how they did the paintings and where they got their education,” Pagan said. “I think that’s really interesting.”
The Benton holds Art in Small Bites every Wednesday from 12:15 a.m. to 12:45 a.m., so make sure to check it out before summer break!
Rebecca Maher is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.