Review of the Richard Scaife Exhibit at The Brandywine River Museum of Art


Exhibit ran from March 9th to May 27th

By Ray Greenblatt

Practically all artists at least sometime in their career paint landscapes. It is as natural to do as poets writing Nature poetry. Many artists are highly skilled in this genre. However, not as a painter nor even as an Art Major, I most appreciate some element that leaps out at me from that landscape.

Two painters from the Hudson River School work magic with the element of clouds. In John Kensett’s “Hudson River View” he puts in a very low row of distinctively puffy clouds, which dominate the sky and highlight the country village below. Martin Heade in “New Jersey Salt Marsh” also uses low clouds but they are a burning red reflected by the twilight sun.

George Innes’ “Moonrise, Alexandria Bay” creates a foggy landscape and features a dominant orange moon. And there is no other way—even though it seems simplistic—to define Henry Smith’s “Landscape on Pond” than as a cozy feeling  where you just want to nestle in the cottage partially hidden by lush groves beside a languorous pond.

Two landscapes are rendered in an Impressionistic style. In Granville Redmond’s “Wildflowers, Poppies and Lupines” we observe a hazy background of sky and hills, but the foreground is accentuated by brilliant yellow flowers. Chauncey Ryder in his “Hillside Farm” employs daubs of paint, but you recognize what they represent: house or tree or even shadow. The tones of pastel green and off-whites of snow identify the cold season.

Seascapes are also a popular venue for artists. For me the reality of the sea is foremost. An anonymous painter’s canvas titled “Niagara Falls” offers the look of real water and spume, although it is not ocean but a powerful river. However, Alfred Bricher’s “View Near Point Judith” creates real waves, curls and crests. Again, Bricher in “Maine Coast” capitalizes on a sharpened waterline because of the shadow of a looming promontory cast on the sea to contrast against the brighter sky.

In addition to Nature, houses are also important to human beings. I was struck by the delicacy of Samuel Griggs’ “Stevens House” in which you seem to view its fine bones.  Abbott Graves in “New England Doorway” focuses light on the front door of the house. The light is intense, similar to late afternoon light on boats in a harbor whitening their sails and hulls. William Merritt Chase takes us inside a home in “Interior, Oak Manor” : the room is mostly dark, some shadows highlight the large open space, but at the far end appear two lighted windows in contrast.

Some paintings offer a personal if not sensual beauty. In William Chaddick’s “The Cherry Tree” the rosy blossoms are at their fullest, their ripest, filling the 2’ by 3’ frame with an explosion of color. In “The Goldfish” Charles Curran offers a sensual woman. She is feeding the fish but her diaphanous gown with light filtering through it and her gracefulness as she leans toward the bowl is the highlight of the work.

I could fault some of the paintings in this exhibit. I could say that in Julian Weir’s “Misty Landscape” too many vertical lines of trees obscure his scene. Or I could complain that in “Garden of the Girls” Edward Redfield applies paint too heavily to his objects like flowers, buildings, or trees, giving them the appearance of kohl around a houri’s eyes. However, there is so much to enjoy about this exhibit that I will stop and state that Richard Scaife has collected a remarkable array of fine art!