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John Henry Twachtman


American Impressionist / Tonalist Painter and founding member of the Ten American Painters

Stylistically influenced by the following painters and movements -   Japanese prints, Claude Monet, George Inness, John La FargeJulian Alden Weir and James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Education -  he studied under Frank Duveneck at the Cincinnati School of Design, and later under Ludwig von Loefftz at the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany and lastly attended classes at the Academie Julian in Paris

Cause of Death -  Brain aneurysm

John Henry Twachtman Quote more quotes

'I feel more and more contented with the isolation of country life. To be isolated is a fine thing and we are all then nearer to nature. 1 can see how necessary it is to live always in the country-at all seasons of the year." -- John Henry Twachtman

John Henry Biography Information

 Like most creative geniuses, Twachtman was never truly valued or recognized while he was alive.  Self-assurance and intensity characterize Twachtmans bold style.  His paintings, full of atmosphere, harmony, and  lyrical color, had a contemplative quality that was never really understood. Twachtman craved financial and critical recognition and grew increasingly bitter by the art worlds  failure to acknowledge his greatness. In the end, like most artists, he died embittered, surrounded by unsold masterpieces. His brilliant talent would not be appreciated until decades after his death.

Distinguished art critic and historian observed, Mardzen Hartley "John H. Twachtman as artist is difficult to know even by artists; for his work is made difficult to see either by its scarcity as determined for himself or by the exclusiveness of the owners of his pictures. It requires, however, but two or three of them to convince one that Twachtman has a something "plus" to contribute to his excursions into impressionism. One feels that after a Duesseldorf blackness which permeates his earlier work his conversion to impressionism was as fortunate as it was sincere. Twachtman knew, as is evidenced everywhere in his work, what he wished to essay and he proceeded with poetic reticence to give it forth. With a lyricism that is as convincing as it is authentic, you feel that there is a certain underlying spirit of resignation. He surely knew that a love of sunlight would save any man from pondering on the inflated importance of world issues.

Having seen Twachtman but once my memory of his face recalls this admixture of emotion. He cared too much for the essential beauties to involve them with analyses extraneous to the meaning of beauty. That the Japanese did more for him than any other Orientals of whom he might have been thinking, is evident. For all that, his own personal lyricism surmounts his interest in outer interpretations of light and movement, and he leaves you with his own notion of a private and distinguished appreciation of nature. In this sense he leads one to Renoir's way of considering nature which was the pleasure in nature for itself. It was all too fine an adventure to quibble about."

Hartley further points out "Twachtman's natural reticence and, I could also believe, natural skepticism kept him from swinging wildly over to the then new theories, a gesture typical of less intelligent natures. He had the good sense to feel out for himself just where the new theories related to himself and set about producing flat simplicity of planes of color to produce a very distinguished notion of light. He dispensed with the photographic attitude toward objectivity and yet at the same time held to the pleasing rhythmical shapes in nature. He did not resort to divisionalism or to ultra-violence of relationship. The pictures that I[76] have seen such as "February", for instance, in the Boston Museum, present for me the sensation of a man of great private spiritual and intellectual means, having the wish to express tactfully and convincingly his personal conclusions and reactions, leaning always toward the side of iridescent illusiveness rather than emotional blatancy and irrelevant extravagance."


Description of the Tonalist Painting Style and Technique

 Tonalism is rooted in the French Barbizon movement, which emphasized atmosphere and shadow. The unifying factor is that all the colors in the tonalist palette are nearly the same value,  resulting in an understated and harmonious impression. The tonalist subject matter is never entirely apparent; their is no effort to communicate a message or narrate a story.  Instead of relating a story, each sensitively chosen color, composition, and line is arranged to create an intriguing visual poem.

The interiors of tonalist paintings are generally elegant and sparsely decorated, tonally uniform, simplified and indistinct; the figures are usually presented alone in silent contemplation.  Landscapes are typically luscious and luminous with evocative atmospheric effects featuring misty backgrounds illuminated by moonlight. Tonalists painters were drawn to both the natural and spiritual realms. They sought to awaken the viewers consciousness by shrouding the subject in a misty indistinct veil of emotionalism. The palette is minimal, characterized by warm hues of brown, soft greens, gauzy yellows and muted grays. Preferred themes were evocative moonlight nights and poetic, vaporous landscapes. Tonalist painters seemed to favored unconscious states and psychological experiences over reality.

Principle Painters of Tonalism Movement

Ralph Albert Blakelock American, 1847-1919
Thomas Wilmer Dewing  American, 1851-1938]
Robert Swain Gifford American, 1840-1905
Alexander Thomas Harrison American, 1854 -1929
Lowell Birge Harrison American, 1854-1929
George Inness American, 1825-1894
John La Farge American, 1835-1910
Arthur Frank Mathews American, 1860-1945
John Francis Murphy American, 1853-1921
Albert Pinkham Ryder American, 1847-1917
John Henry Twachtman
Julian Alden Weir American,1852-1919
James Abbott McNeill Whistler American, 1843-1903

Key terms and phrase associated with the tonalist movement -  obscured details, single-figure themes, the natural and spiritual domain, waking, unconscious states, sleep, dreams, death, aura, religious significance, emotionalism, emotionalists, pictorial space, compositional space, diffused light, incandescent glow, organic forms, artistic inspiration, illusionist representation, luminous, transcendentalist, glowing, metaphysical, emotional expression, poetic, evocative If you like this page and wish to share it, you are welcome to link to it, with our thanks.

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