Wednesday, April 28, 2010

4-27-10 Mountains and Art

The White Mountains have had a glorious role in American art. They've played host to historical greats like Albert Bierstadt who is best known, perhaps, for his large, romantic canvases of the American West as it opened up in the early 1800s with paintings of the Rockies and the Sierras. Bierstadt sojourned in the Whites Mountains and completed several paintings of familiar mountains. My favorite is his painting of Moat Mt. with White Horse and Cathedral ledges in the foreground (you can google it by searching for Albert Bierstadt Moat Mt.). The view is from across the Intervale and is stunning. Benjamin Champney of the Hudson River School was another painter who visited the White Mountains often and, although he focused on Mt. Washington, left spectacular paintings of the Franconias. I once owned a really small Champney painting of Mt. Lafayette but traded it for another painting I liked better . When I was a kid in North Conway I was often hired to mow the lawn of Dick Packer in exchange for a large bowl of tapioca pudding and the opportunity to hang around with Dick in his studio. The painting above, of Mt. Chocorua, was and still is my favorite. It was painted in the mid-1950s. The colors, the way he got the colors, are lovely. Gale Packer, his daughter and one of my classmates at the North Conway elementary school and a dear friend, graciously gave me permission to show the Chocorua painting, and the three that follow, in the blog.

Dick was industrious and painted a lot of canvases for his roadside art studio in North Conway. He was always painting! Pictures of Mt. Washington were extremely popular including this one which is a view from the top of the Wildcat ski trail. He painted the same scenes time and time again and was famous for being able to paint the Mt. Chocorua motif upside down. But being an excellent artist he also painted one-of-a-kind things that he loved. The painting below is one of those and another favorite of mine.

This affects me as much as the Chocorua painting above for the light and colors. When I whine about not being able to a paint the lovely patterns of late afternoon sunlight and shadows on February snow this painting is what I am thinking of. Dick helped me, over the years, to "see" and he validated my "eye" for things like color and texture. It's a nice legacy. He was a very important person in my life. North Conway was blessed with several painters when I was there. Mim and Lew Hodgkins, and Dave Baker along with Dick, were the ones I knew best and sometimes took lessons from and who offered me parts of themselves, their kindness and generosity, and particularly their love of beauty.

This painting of the upper Dundee Road in Intervale (Bartlett) is a bit schmaltzy, perhaps, a quick study, but I love the colors in it, like the Chocorua painting, that are so evocative of New Hampshire and the White Mountains and it reminds me of Dick and his ease and expertise with light and how he was able to 'get" it like on the birches to the right. I'd love to be able to do that.

13 comments:

逸汝 said...

nice to know you ~........................................

Andrew Riely said...

interesting post. I always wanted to do a naturalist talk on the art of the white mountains but didn't get around to it, unfortunately.

Alex MacPhail said...

Hi Andrew, It is interesting. Old Appalachias paid a lot of attention to art and natural history so there's an accessible backlog of information. I was at a North Conway elementary school reunion last Friday and a few of the sons and daughters of prominent artists were there like Skip Hodgkins and long conversations with them convinced me, too, that it would be interesting to do more with the art and natural history of the Whites. Good to hear from you. Ari's coming up in a few weeks to work at Madison but you probably already know that. Best, Alex

Erika said...

This post was really interesting for me. Not just because of the subject matter, but also for the mentions of my grandparents, Lewis and Miriam Hodgkins, and my uncle Skip. My mom is Lewis and Miriam's daughter, Debbie, and when she read this, she was very excited to hear about her family and hometown. She remembers Dick Packer and Dave Baker as well.

I'm only 16 years old and my grandparents had died long before I was born, so it was really cool for me to be able to see that someone had mentioned them in their blog. Thank you for making my mom so happy, and making my grandparents feel much more real to me.

Alex MacPhail said...

Hi Erika, I just noticed your comment three weeks after you wrote it so I hope you revisit my blog and find this. Your grandparents and uncle were really important to me but also to many other people living in North Conway at that time. I remember Friday and Saturday nights when people would meet at Mim and Lew's house and listen to the boxing matches from Madison Square Garden in NY. It was a regular event. I would head over there after the movies (what the kids all did on Weekend nights) and gradually fall asleep on a bed that was covered with all the coats the guests had worn. My mom would wake me up and carry me to her car and everyone would say goodnight to me and rough up my hair. They're really nice memories. I have paintings done by both Mim and Lew that I love. Best, Alex

peter said...

Nice to see mention of Lew Hodgkins. Lew's nephew, David Newcomb, was my close friend and I admired Lew's watercolors at Dave's house many times. Dave
spent his high school years in North Conway, where his mother had a guesthouse. Dave always spoke proudly of his uncle and obviously felt quite close to him.

Peter Tuttle

Jackson said...

Hello Andy, I was searching for information on Benjamin Champney and came across your blog. My parents were given a Champney like painting by Mary Lancaster for their wedding in 1927 and I am trying to find out more about it. When I read that you knew Gale I thought "what a small world". I used to tag along with she and Terry (MacAllister) when he played in a band ( I think they may have been called the Scavengers). OMG it brings back such fond memories and Gale was so good to this silly teenager. Please give her my regards. Helen Haynes

Ron Martin said...

Alex, Great post. I have professional photographs of an artist painting Mt. Chocorua at the exact same spot as Bierstadt! At first I thought it might be his, but the trees are a bit more to the right. I've been trying to find out who the artist is. How can I sent you some pics? THANKS! Ron

Alex MacPhail said...

A quick note to Helen Haynes and Ron Martin. Ron I've spoken to you via email and answered your question. Helen, sorry I missed your comment until a few minutes ago (7-20-11) and I will tell Gale that you wrote and knew Terry. It's a small, wonderful world (sometimes). I think, Ron, that your having those photos is an amazing coincidence, too. Take care and come up to the Mountains again.

Cindy Spencer said...

I am attempting to find information regarding Lewis Hodgkins. My mentor, Nan White, studied with him. Nan recently passed. I have one of Lew's paintings. I am aware that he studied with Eliot O'Hara at Goose Rocks Beach. He also painted briefly with Edgar Whitney. How long did Lew paint in the valley? Did he continue when he left he valley? Did he ever sign his work with an H with a circle around it? The Conway Historical Society is interested also, as is the Conway Library (History Room). We would love to have a picture of him. Even DOB and date of death. Any information would be helpful. Hope someone can help.

Abby Sullivan said...

I found this post most interesting. I came across it while looking for info on Lewis Hodgkins. 2 of his paintings are coming up at auction tomorrow night in Wilmington MA. I love White Mountain art and found all the comments very enlightening. Thanks.

Christine Laudon said...

I have two of Lewis Hodgkins' paintings, and I believe my sister does as well. He was my grandmother Helen Hodgkins Newcomb's brother. I remember visiting her in North Conway when I was a child, and Uncle Lew and Mim lived downstairs in the same house. I remember Skip and Debbie from family parties when the earlier generation was still alive.
My mother, Natalie Newcomb Davidson, told me that Lew once attended the Boston Architectural Center, probably in the 1920's.

Lauren M. said...

Hello, I own a 1952 Lewis Hodgkins' painting of Tuckerman's Ravine. Does anyone have an idea of the value for insurance purposes? Excellent condition.