January 19th, 2018

A Fresh Look at a “Cool” Genre

by Kipp Normand

Snow Scene at the Shrine of Benzaiten, 1844, Utagawa Hiroshige

Hunters in the Snow, 1565, Bruegel the Elder

I love landscape paintings. Yes, I know I know, landscape paintings have a bad rep – usually considered the purview of little old ladies, and fans of “safe” art (you know what I am talking about)… BUT…I think landscapes deserve a second look. Sometimes renderings of nature scenes and weather can be among the most accessible and moving works you will ever see. (Think of everything Turner ever painted, really.) Two of my all time favorites are winter scenes: “Snow Scene at the Shrine of Benzaiten” 1844 by Utagawa Hiroshige, and Bruegel the Elder’s 1565 painting “Hunters in the Snow” happen to be winter scenes, a rarity in the landscape genre. The depiction of winter landscapes in Western Art began in the15th century. Winter landscapes were not seen in early European painting since most of the subjects were religious. Painters avoided landscapes in general for the same reason. The first depictions of snow began to occur in the 15th and 16th centuries when artists turned to renderings of the world around them rather than fantastical or religious subjects. The new show at the City Gallery offers an interesting opportunity to look at this special niche in the landscape genre: the winter scene.

Offering a particularly local view of the winter landscape, Winter in Indianapolis is currently on exhibit at the City Gallery. This marvelous little show was quickly and expertly curated by landscape painter Justin Vining – Winter in Indianapolis features many of the Harrison Center’s leading players, but there are also some new names and quite a lot of surprising work. Just look at the clever use of color in “Illinois Street Bridge” by Addie Hirschten; the perfectly dappled sunlight in “One Day Last December” by Jed Dorsey; the sublime shadows in Allen Banister’s “Hill”; Benny Sander’s surprisingly rendered snowstorms in charcoal and beeswax; and the tender feeling which saturates Kyle Ragsdale’s painting of his own backyard titled “Cindy’s Pink Ladder”.  These are all moments of perfect beauty which will warm your winter days. Winter in Indianapolis hangs at the City Gallery through January 29th. Go see it while you still can.  It will change the way you think about landscapes.