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Title

: Purchase of Lawson Landscape

Author

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Date

1940

Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The View of Segovia by Ernest Lawson, recently purchased for the permanent collection of American paintings, brings to the Institute a characteristic work by an artist who is noted for his sensitive interpretations of nature. Living at a time when painters were prone to misrepresent nature if it served them best to do so, he achieved recognition through the honesty of his work. Lawson was not intrigued by the more superficial aspects of a view. His was a gift for seeing beneath the surface of nature, and for portraying it faithfully.In the Institute’s view of Segovia he has captured the warm and dreaming, the romantic character of Spain. The cathedral rises from a small plateau, dominating the composition. It is bathed in an opalescent light that turns domes and spires to green, to pink, to purple. The trees beneath are a vibrant green with darker shadows, and even the rocks in the foreground reflect the mingled pinks and greens diffused by the sky.The painting shows Lawson to have been pre-eminently a colorist, but a colorist who was conscious of form. He borrowed the palette of the Impressionists, yet it never triumphed over his own personality. His paintings, particularly after his early association with Weir and Twachtman, were executed with a vigor and individuality seldom encountered in the work of other borrowers from the Impressionist school. It was his outlook, combined with a highly personal technique, that made his work stand out. Behind the poetry of his color was substance and meaning, derived from his method of weighting color with thick layers of paint that gave plastic form to his conception.The view of Segovia is one of a series of pictures painted by Lawson during the World War. He went to Spain in 1916 and established himself in Segovia, where he rented an old palace for a few dollars a month. The warmth and color of the country delighted him, and he worked happily at transferring to canvas the vibrant, sun-soaked landscape of Spain. In the works of this period one is conscious of an aspect of Spain more or less obscured in many pictorial—and literary—records of the Spanish scene. Because, as one critic put it, Spain is superficially a man’s country and officially a bull’s, its fundamental, poetic quality is frequently lost sight of. Such as accusation cannot be made against Lawson’s landscapes. They are among the most satisfying things he ever did.Lawson was born in San Francisco in 1873. He decided on art as a career while he was working in an engineer’s office in Mexico, and in 1890 began his studies at The Art Students’ League. He later worked with Twachtman and Weir, whose prestige was then great. In 1893 he went to Paris and studied at the Académie Julian, and in the following year exhibited his work for the first time.When Lawson returned to America he became associated with the Group of Eight, which then held the radical position in American art. Among them, Lawson was the only pure landscapist, and it is as a landscapist that his work is most important in the development of native painting. His recent death in Florida deprives America of one of its great figures in this field.Referenced Work of Art
  1. View of Segovia by Ernest Lawson, American, 1873-1940. This painting dates from about 1917. John R. Van Derlip Fund
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Source: "Purchase of Lawson Landscape," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 29, no. 14 (April, 1940): 68-70.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009