Art Moment: An American Impressionist

Lowell Birge Harrison, ‘Fifth Avenue at Twilight’, ca 1910, oil on canvas, 76 x 58 cm.
Detroit Institute of Art, Michigan.

The American Impressionist Lowell Birge Harrison (1824 – 1929) trained with some of the best artists of his time and became an influential teacher and co-founder of the Art Students League Summer School in Woodstock, New York. He was an inspirational teacher and influential writer and was also a dedicated landscape artist in his own right. Birge Harrison admired the work of the French Impressionists but expressed reservations about their use of intense colors, choosing instead to work with soft lighting and muted colors for a quieter, evocative style which he applied to great atmospheric effect in his many paintings of New York in early 20th century.

Lowell Birge Harrison, ‘Bryant Park at Evening, New York’, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in, Private Collection. In this painting, Birge Harrison captures a rare moment of tranquility in the city, synthesizing his understanding of tonalism and impressionism. The beautifully painted sky, with flashes of orange, hints at the coming sun after the storm.

Lowell Birge Harrison, ‘Fifth Avenue in Winter’, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 45.72 cm, Private collection.

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