12 November 2010

Harry Van der Weyden: American Tonalist

The first question most people ask about Harry Van der Weyden (1868-1952) is whether he was descended from the great Flemish painter Rogier Van der Weyden (c. 1399-1464).  Art historians answer with a resounding  "Maybe."
He was born in Boston, he won a scholarship to the Slade School in London at age nineteen, and studied at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1890-1891.  Until World War I, he lived near Etaples  at Montreuil-sur-Mer on the Normandy coast.  During the war Van der Weyden worked as a camouflage officer with the British Royal Engineers from 1916 to 1918 when Etaples was a major transit point and storage depot for the British.  He died in London in 1952. Most of Van der Weyden's paintings are in private collections and tonalism, although a small part of his work, showed him at his best.  
The sun was almost below the horizon on the evening in 1898 that Van der Weyden set out to paint.   In the shadow of the cliffs at left,  two men anchor a boat while another man rows toward shore and into  the shadows. Looking closely, you find a varied palette of tones has went into the making of this lavender-blue image.  The affinity with early photography is obvious in tonalism's monochromatic effects.

 You may also be interested in Ben Foster: American Tonalist, posted here March 20, 2008.
1. Harry Van der Weyden - Landscape In Normandy, 1898, Museum of Franco-American Cooperation, Blerancourt, France.


Rinkly Rimes said...

What a wonderful reminder of The White Cliffs of Dover near where I wa born. Such atmosphere!

Jane said...

R.R., I'm sure you are spot on. Same rock formations on the other side of the glacial melt. To the French it's the Pas de Calais; to the Brtis, the English Channel. I imagine that when Va der Weyden moved to England, the secenery looked like an old friend.