Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Painting the Light

Luminist maritime artist Ray Crane will hold his first ever Open House, May 17, 2-5
at his studio in Pigeon Cove. See his web site for details.


In the mid to late nineteenth century, influenced by the popularity of the Hudson River painters, group of artists developed a uniquely American style of painting that employed techniques that made their paintings shimmer with light. Artists of the nineteenth century were enchanted by the American landscape --- its wildness and its variety. From the harbors of New England to the mountains of the west, thousands of artists recorded this country in a dreamy, light-infused romantic style. They were later dubbed the Luminists and prominent among them was Gloucester's Fitz Henry (Hugh) Lane.
Towing Out of Gloucester by Ray Crane

Looking at Lane's paintings today it is easy to get lost in the nostalgia for the great Age of Sail that he recorded over and over. One wonders what it must have been like to be here then. Imaginations can run wild. But there are still Luminist painters at work in this area and prominent among them is Rockport's Ray Crane. He paints in the style of the Luminists using similar techniques --- thin layers of paint built up to allow light to enter the surface of the paintings without a brush stroke in sight.

When I was in college in 1975 I had an oil painting class with an instructor who, though he did not call his technique luminism, taught us such a way of painting. I still remember his formula of mixing a medium that was equal parts turpentine, stand oil and damar varnish. Then we thinned out oil paints and worked layer after layer working in subtle shadings and contours that subsequent layers would alter until the image was finished and the play of daylight over the surface gave an almost hallucinogenic effect. I remember trying to paint a drapery made of sky blue satin and nearly going crazy. I never mastered the technique.
Friendship Off Halfway Rock by Ray Crane

But Ray Crane has. He paints the ships and schooners that come and go from out harbors, and those all along the coast, filling his paintings with landmarks we all recognize, lighthouses, buildings, islands, rocks, wharves. The paintings are beautiful and add an aura of romance to our contemporary maritime vistas.

Ray is updating his web site right now, getting ready for the summer. For the first time ever he is holding an open house in his studio in Pigeon Cove. The open house will be on Sunday, May 17 from 2-5. See his web site for details. I'm looking forward to going, to seeing the new work he has done. I've known Ray for several years now and it seems his paintings grow more majestic and more light-infused each year. And I am glad he carries on this tradition which found its origins here in Gloucester. It's romantic. I love it.

Thanks for reading.

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