I have known the name of the painter John Francis Murphy since I began to study American paintings. He was associated with the American Barbizon and Tonalism schools without geographically joining the Old Lyme Colony.
Thus when a painting of Murphy offered by John Moran Auction’s showed up, it immediately caught my eye.
It is not a surprise that Murphy’s most admired writer was Thoreau. It was the intimate nature, or habitable wildness that dominated his canvases. Interestingly, by the time Murphy was elected to become a full academician, the Hudson River School style gradually became obsolete and Americans grew to favor paintings that appealed to feelings first instead of the intellect or moral sense.
In this painting, I see neither eternity nor serenity. The wind blows, the clouds fleet, the tree whistle. Somber mood comes through the low land bushes that are combed by brooks. Nothing is decisive, or final. But the transient moment has a sheer beauty that can hold eyes long enough as if the beauty lies within the uncertainty. Isn’t it true that sometimes the best sceneries happen at the most unexpected places or moments? Murphy knew it and registered the transient beauty into something lasting ever.
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