Westmoreland Museum of American Art
Point Judith, Narragansett, Rhode Island, c. 1885, oil on canvas
Considered one ofthe best maritime painters of the late nineteenth century, Alfred Thompson Bricher was a member of the last generation of artists known as the Hudson River School. He was working at the same time as Frederic Edwin Church, Sanford Gifford and John Kensett who were also considered masters ofthe idiom. His career spanned more than fifty years during which he was highly recognized by the public and the art world alike. As with many artists active in the late nineteenth century, he lived to see the style of work he practiced be overshadowed by the advent of modernism.
Born in 1837 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Bricher concentrated on images of the sea. He worked all along the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts, and, as in this painting, Rhode Island. As a luminist painter, he was predominately interested in the pictorial effects of light and translucency. It is always possible to ascertain such specifics as the time of day, weather conditions, and geography in his work, yet his paintings manifest a spiritual quality that was an important component of Hudson River School painting.
In this piece, there is no sign of man -- just Nature in all Her glory. The dispersing clouds of sunset are reflected in the pattern of the waves of the sea and all is bathed in a sublime light that reveals the tranquil power of the sea shore. Oddly, Bricher continued painting these peaceful scenes of nature even at the height of the horrors of the Civil War, a war in which he younger brother was killed. His perseverence in this style underscores his belief in the eternal forgiveness of Nature and the truism that whatever the acts of man, Nature is the more powerful force.
Acquiring this work of art by a Hudson River School painter fills an existing gap in the Westmoreland Museum of American Art permanent collection (the Kensett painting currently on view is on extended loan to the Museum). This new acquisition is hanging in the Woods-Marchand Gallery.
- published 4/7/98
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