Archive for July 21st, 2010

Henry Cheever Pratt- View From Maricopa Mountain...

I saw this painting the other night on a television show on PBS, History Detectives.  The show basically takes an object submitted by a viewer and digs into the real history behind it. On this particular episode the object was a small field sketchbook that contained thumbnail sketches from the American southwest.  It ended up being the sketchbook of Henry Cheever Pratt, a painter who accompanied the expeditions that surveyed and set boundaries that area in the mid-1800’s.  Photography was still in its infancy so it was customary to have an artist in tow to document the landscape and landmarks.

Pratt was a very accomplished artist and this is one of his finest.   Titled View From Maricopa Mountain Near the Rio Gila, it was shown at the end of a segment as a print to illustrate his prowess and I was immediately taken in by its vibrancy and striking composition.  Painted in 1855, the painting has real impact and feels fresh and new, contemporary, even now.

Interestingly, Pratt was trained as a painter by Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph.  Oversahdowed by his revolutionary invention was the fact that Morse was a very fine professional painter.  Trained at the Royal Academy in England, Morse was a renowned portraitist, having done sittings with John Adams and the Marquis de Lafayette among many other prominent figures of the time. 

I don’t know why I bring this up today.  This image just hit me and I’ve been coming back to it in my head over the past few days, trying to figure out what it is in the painting that draws me in.  Trying to figure out how I can use whatever I see in it in my own work. 

Or maybe I should just enjoy it for what it is- a beautiful piece.

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