Friday, July 9, 2010

A 'LATE' AMERICAN IMPRESSIONIST


While the Impressionist movement had its roots in France, the once avant-garde style progressively penetrated the American artistic scene. Though initially rejected by American audiences for many of the same reasons as it was initially rejected in France – its unfinished quality, its sketch-like renderings, its rejection of historical narrative – by the 1890s, American artists had embraced the qualities of French Impressionism and translated them for their own works, imbuing their paintings with both a spirit of patriotism and optimism that French Impressionist works occasionally lacked. By the time of Johann Berthelsen’s artistic maturation in the mid 1930s, then, American Impressionism had become well-accepted as audiences were now accustomed to the Impressionist interpretation of the modern scene. By a circuitous route involving intense study of voice and theatrical performance, Berthelsen eventually emerged on the artistic scene, putting forth his own version of American Impressionism with scenes and styles reminiscent of Childe Hassam’s previous paintings. Berthelsen’s urban landscape, especially of New York blanketed in fresh snow, reflected the continuing interest in painting scenes of modern day life heralding the beauty of the often gritty, city environment.
(Rehs GALLERY, INC.)
Berthelsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on July 25, 1883 and at the age of six he immigrated to America with his parents. By 1901 he had a full scholarship to study voice at the Chicago Music College, from which he graduated in 1905. As a trained baritone, he toured the United States and Canada for approximately five years, playing various operatic characters. In 1910 he joined the faculty of the Chicago Music College, and taught voice there for three years.
Although it was not until 1932 that Berthelsen decided to devote himself fully to art, he had been painting for twenty-two years. In 1910 Berthelsen was encouraged to take up painting by a fellow Scandinavian, the Norwegian painter Svend Svendsen (1864-1934). Svendsen specialized in high quality paintings of nearly photographic snow-covered woods scenes, which were smoothly executed using a minimum of paint. He would invariably use low angle sunlight or such a device as radiance from a cabin at dusk to illuminate the snow.
(FINEOLDART.COM)
Johann Berthelsen was a "late" American Impressionist. His paintings of New York landscapes, particularly snow scenes and nocturnal park scenes, most done on quite small canvases, encapsulate a time gone by in a manner compared with Claude Monet. In the French manner, he placed impressionistically painted figures in cityscapes, often with flags and city traffic. These freely depicted canvases are usually on a thinly painted ground, with daubs of color which take form only when viewed from a distance. Berthelsen had a mastery of representing atmosphere, which many contemporary New York painters did not possess.
(mfordcreech.com)


United Nations from the East River
oil on canvas
Christie's Los Angeles
From artnet


View of the United Nations building
oil on canvas
Sale of Bonhams New York
From artnet


It was music not art, to which the artist originally aspired to be great. After Svend Svenson in Chicago and Wayman Adams in Indianapolis convinced him to paint, he decided to combine his love for music with art, he called his snowscapes “painted orchestrations” of Manhattan, in which people hurry through snowy streets dotted with buildings and American flags. He studied “the life” along the East River and often painted it showing the United Nations building.
(PIERCE GALLERIES, INC.)


Times Square
From BLUE HERON fine art


A stroll through the park in spring
New York City
oil on canvasboard
Sale of Bonhams New York
From artnet


An evening walk in New York City
Oil on Linen-board
From mfordcreech.com


An evening walk in New York City (framed)
From mfordcreech.com


Winter cityscape
Oil on canvasboard
From ELDRED”S


Fifth Avenue in winter
Oil on artistboard
From stairgalleries.com


Johann Berthelsen painted exquisitely rendered landscapes of New York City, often judged “poetic” by contemporary critics. Ironically though, it was music not art, to which Berthelsen originally aspired. Although he devoted most of his time to singing and music, Berthelsen began to paint first for his own pleasure and then, after 1932, on a full-time basis. In 1922 he moved to New York City. He initially established his artistic reputation with his work in pastels. Working with small canvases, he found inspiration in New York’s Central Park, rendering this subject most effectively in its seasonal transformations.
He painted similar scenes in and of Chicago, and they also met with critical and popular acclaim. Having achieved success as a pastelist, Berthelsen turned his attention to oils. He returned to the fundamentals of drawing in order to discover a technique appropriate to the medium. Berthelsen used a heavy impasto to almost palpably render his landscapes and his city and park snowscapes. He also painted still lifes. Unlike his landscapes, these works, also on small canvases, are clearly defined, with his color ranging from bright to low key.
(DAPHNE ALAZRAKI FINE ART)


Fifth Avenue, New York City
Oil on canvasboard
From BLUE HERON fine art


Central Park, near the mall
oil on canvas
Sale of Bonhams & Butterfields
From artnet


Grand Central Station from 42nd Street
oil on canvas
Sale of Bonhams New York
From artnet


Gramercy Park
Oil on canvasboard
From REHS GALLERIES, INC.


The Flat Iron Building
Oil on canvas
From Rehs GALLERIES, INC.


Johann Berthelsen painted New York City snow scenes again and again like he was reliving what it was like to be caught in the middle. Soaking wet. Drenched to the bone. Exhilarated and exhausted. Through daubs of color Berthelsen recreated snowy Impressionistic renderings of Washington Square, 5th Ave., the Brooklyn Bridge, Columbia University and Central Park.
Berthelsen captured the whiteout atmosphere of New York City in a way few others did. He basically painted what he saw all around him. His time-specific scenes, cityscapes, cars and trucks serve as time capsules of another era in history. Studying Berthelsen’s work is difficult at times because although he signed his paintings, he rarely, if ever, dated them. That being said, it’s hard to miss this artist’s oils with their bright colors, glistening snowfalls and massive architectural backdrops. Working with small canvases, he captured big views.
(ECOMMWIRE.COM)
Between 1943 and 1960, Berthelsen exhibited often in New York, Indianapolis, and Chicago, though less frequently in the latter city. Throughout his career, he exhibited in Chicago at the Hoosier Salon and Thurbers Gallery; in Indianapolis at the Hoosier Salon; and in New York City at the American Watercolor Society, Barbizon-Plaza Galleries, Galleries of the Municipal Art Committee, Gatterdam Gallery, and Jean Bohne Gallery. He was additionally a member of the Allied Artists of America, American Watercolor Society, and Salmagundi Club. Between 1942 and 1958, he was the recipient of several awards in Indianapolis. The date of his death is not entirely certain, though he is reported to have died in Wisconsin in 1967, though some recognize his date of death as the year 1969, while others say 1972.
(Rehs GALLERY, INC.) gritty,



1 comment:

David S Connelly said...

Berthelson's dramatic delineation of the American flag fiercely flapping in the Valley Forge-esque winter storm is simply Francis Scott Keyes set to canvas. His work evokes a nostalgia for the halcyon days of American Exceptionalism... ����