Eight Pounds of Tonalism Hits the Sidewalk

A History of American Tonalism,1880-1920, David Cleveland
A History of American Tonalism,1880-1920, David Cleveland

Once again the doorbell rang after dark. The lack of sunlight and the time of year made it seem appropriate that it was the UPS delivery person bringing a copy of David Cleveland’s new book A History of American Tonalism,1880-1920. After-all, it’s never morning in a tonalist painting, and never Spring.

I could hear it make a thump when the box hit the concrete just before the doorbell rang. It’s a monumental work, almost 600 pages, that has been almost ready for the printer for more than a year. We met up with Cleveland last year at the American Art Fair in New York. My pre-order already placed, the book was not yet ready, he said.

The History of American Tonalism is the first definitive account of the tonalist movement that galvanized America’s artistic life in the decades around 1900. The book presents the works of sixty of America’s finest artists, in concert with the voices of Emerson, Thoreau, John Burroughs, William James and the finest critics of the period.

In addition to Inness, Whistler, La Farge, Wyant, J. Francis Murphy and the better-known tonalists, the book takes a look at sixty lesser known but highly talented artists. The book even reaches forward to the “post-modern” tonalists like Wolf Kahn.

Of course, there hasn’t been time to read it yet, but by perusing the pages, it appears many, and we can probably safely say most of the images are from private collections or galleries.

David A. Cleveland is an art historian, independent curator, critic, and novelist.

I took the book to the bathroom scale; it seems to weigh about eight pounds, more than several of our cats.

2 thoughts on “Eight Pounds of Tonalism Hits the Sidewalk

  1. I have the book, too, but I don’t know how to read it. It’s too heavy to page through while seated. The author’s premise is that close to fifty of America’s best artists have “fallen into near total obscurity.” They may remain in the dark unless the book becomes available on an easy-to-handle e-reader.


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