Medium 9780253009050

The Art of George Ames Aldrich

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A highly regarded impressionist-style artist, George Ames Aldrich drew on his years of experience living and studying in Europe to create beautiful landscape paintings. His life and work are explored in this gorgeous book. Many of the artist's finest creations, some representing French subjects and others depicting the midwestern steel industry and American landscapes, are included in this book. It features color reproductions, along with other archival and contextual images. Essays by Michael Wright and Wendy Greenhouse explore in detail Aldrich's life, influences, sources of inspiration, and art historical context. Exploiting a wide variety of sources, Wright and Greenhouse have discovered exciting new information about the artist and his times.

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A Biography

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FOR AN ARTIST WHO MADE INNUMERABLE SALES OF his artworks, won prizes, belonged to artists’ organizations, circulated socially among his potential patrons, and assiduously cultivated press attention, George Ames Aldrich remains a somewhat elusive figure. Much of what we think we know about the artist, especially regarding his training, early career, and travels, is uncertain or disputed. Ironically, Aldrich’s life is relatively well documented. Although almost none of his correspondence or sketches survive, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and other ephemera compiled by his wife Esta facilitates reconstruction of many of his professional activities at least for the years he was most active in the Midwest, between 1919 and the mid-1930s. Aldrich listed himself in several editions of the American Art Directory, occasionally wrote for publication, and actively sought venues for the exhibition and sale of his paintings. Twice married, he was by all accounts no recluse but a charming, gregarious individual. Yet research reveals numerous contradictions and apparent outright fictions in the record of his career. His typically romantic paintings, rarely dated or datable from their subject matter, provide few further clues. The account presented here greatly expands on and corrects previous ones, but it also suggests that much remains to be learned about Aldrich’s life. What does emerge is a picture of an artist drawn to self-invention and to creative fictionalizing of a piece with his characteristic romantic images.

 

From Montreuil to the Midwest: Aldrich’s Art in Context

ePub

The paintings of George Ames Aldrich reveal a romanticist…. [who] sees an idyll in a French village and a magnificent pageant in a steel foundry.

FADING DAYLIGHT ILLUMINATES THE SCENE FROM A high horizon. Rustic cottages or a tumbledown mill crowd an upper corner of the composition, perhaps with the unobtrusive figure of a woman standing by. Dominating the picture, above all else, is a swiftly flowing stream rendered with more careful attention than its surroundings. Edged by rounded banks formed by the tangled roots of bordering trees, the water’s broken surface is deftly rendered in distinct strokes of the brush. The stream nearly fills the foreground and marks a deep diagonal recession toward distant fields and woods. The scene is overlaid with softening shadow; the mood is tranquil, with a hint of mystery. The only movement is in the water, but its perpetual flow underscores the impression of an unchanging remote world of tradition and timeworn habit.

This signature landscape formula sustained the prolific career of George Ames Aldrich for nearly forty years, and it continues to draw collectors with a taste for the pleasing mode known as decorative impressionism, widely practiced in the early decades of the twentieth century among conservative Midwestern landscape painters. Particularly after World War I, many of them focused on American subjects, but Aldrich’s artistic identity remained closely tied to the French rural villages, cottages, mills, and streams that he had pictured since the beginning of his career as a landscape painter, in the first decade of the twentieth century. Known as a “wizard at painting running water and snow covered banks,” he appears to have executed variations on this theme, with or without buildings, until nearly the end of his life, when his initial European sojourn was only a distant memory.1 By then, an approach to landscape painting once regarded as modernist, emulated by Aldrich from the much-admired Norwegian painter Fritz Thaulow, had morphed into an embodiment of convention, a domesticated commodity well suited to the conservative cultural values of middle-class Midwesterners.

 

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