Monday, April 7, 2014

40 Days of Paintings - In the Wild North (Ivan Shishkin)

As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to 19th century landscape painters, it doesn't get much better than Ivan Shishkin.  Again, a Russian realist painter and acquaintance among the Itinerants like Repin and Kramskoi, Shishkin's main focus in painting was exclusively rural Russian landscapes.
One of the things I love about Shishkin's landscapes is the way he handles the depiction of snow in his paintings, and this is one of my favorites, called "In the Wild North."  Another painting of his, simply called "Winter" is another example of how ridiculously amazing he was at capturing the image of snow in natural light and local color.  It is one of the most difficult things to do in landscape painting because you are still dealing with color even though you are painting a material that is pure white in nature.  But there are still subtle yellows as the sunlight hits it, and blue-grays in the shadows.  So often I see painters use pure, unnatural-looking blues and purples in the shadows of snow.  And while it works for the overall color palette of the painting, it still does not look like what the eye sees in nature.  Very seldom do we actually see such vibrant blues even in the coolest of shadows of the snow.  They will still be more on the gray side.  Ivan Shishkin depicts those natural shadow colors wonderfully in "Winter," and here with "In the Wild North" we see a more appropriate use of blue in the shadows, as the snow-covered tree is lit by the moonlight, which also gives the sky its deep blue color to reflect into the shadows.  But even here, he doesn't use pure blue, and particularly in the cast shadow of the tree, we can still see how he has toned it down to a more natural-looking blue-gray.
This is just one example of how excellent Shishkin was as a naturalist with color in his paintings.  This is one of the things that makes his paintings so beautiful and accurate representations of what we truly see in nature.  Of course, he wasn't the only landscape painter of his day to capture such beautiful depictions of nature, but I have to say he is my favorite.  He is an inspiration for my own work because the chief inspiration for all the work I do is to worship and honor God by emphasizing and imitating the beauty of His creation, both in nature and humanity.  Shishkin excels at the nature part of that as we can see in this and many other of his paintings. 

In the Wild North
oil on canvas

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