Luminism

DEFINITION

A style made popular 19th Century American Hudson River School landscape painters, it "dealt with phenomena seen through a saturating light that united compositional elements into a spatial whole."(Goodyear, 133) Major characteristic are glowing light and atmospherics, the playing with the effects of light on natural forms to convey allegorical themes, especially the suggestion that God is revealed in nature. However, the descriptive name, Luminism, did not appear until the 1950s when art historian John I.H. Baur used it in an article titled 'American Luminism' in "Perspectives U.S.A." Luminist painters have never been united under a 'school' of painting, but in 1980, a large exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. titled 'American Light: The Luminist Movement 1850-1875" brought together works in one venue of many artists employing the style. Hudson River School luminist artists include Albert Bierstadt, Sanford Gifford, George Inness, and Martin Johnson Heade. By the end of the 19th Century, the Barbizon style of painting, focused on misty, poetic qualities away from natural landscape, replaced the popularity of Luminism. Source: Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., 'American Landscape Painting, 1795-1875', "In this Academy"; Andrew Wilton and John Wilmerding, "American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880".

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