William James Stillman

By the 1840’s – especially with the publication of John Ruskin’s seminal work Modern Painters in 1843 – many painters were drawn to representing the natural landscape. Ruskin (b: 1819, d: 1900) was the most influential art critic of his day and exhorted his readers to “…rejecting nothing, and scorning nothing, believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing in the truth.” Ruskin, also an artist, made detailed sketches and paintings nature and man-made objects and argued that “truth to nature” was the principle role of the artists. He championed the Pre-Raphaelites who in turn were influenced by his writing.

One of the painters that was influenced by Ruskin’s writings was William James Stillman. Born in 1828, Stillman was given an artistic education graduating from Union College in his home town of Schenectady, New York.  He studied art under the Fredrick Edwin Church an American landscape painter who put emphasis on light and held a Romantic respect for natural detail and was a leading figure in the Hudson River School of painting and had apprenticed under Thomas Cole the founder of the School.

The Oxbow, View From Mount Holyoke, North Hampton, Massachusetts, After a Thunderstorm (1836), Thomas Cole.
Niagara Falls, Fredrick Edwin Church 1857.
Heart of the Andes, Fredrick Edwin Church 1858.
Tamaca Palms, Fredrick Edwin Church, 1854.

To be continued…

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

I went to my favorite spot along the San Francisco Bay shoreline in the mid-afternoon to read, listen to good jazz, and “practice” using the 120 soft focus lens on the Pentax 645NII. Last week I used the Pentax 67II but after thinking about it afterwards came to the conclusion that the 645 would be a better fit. The working hypothesis is that sailing on the open water would make for a fine color print in the impressionists style. The 645NII is smaller and more compact than the 67NII and will work off the smaller and lighter series 0 tripod while the 67 requires the series 3. This makes the 645 faster to remove from the backseat and set-up and the 120mm lens has a further reach on the 645 than on the 67 and fills more of the viewfinder with the sailboat. Additionally, the damper on the 645’s mirror is far softer than on the 67 but with a shutter speed around the 750 mark mirror lock-up is unnecessary. The weather was perfect and the fog was absent from the moderate onshore flow and lowering the windows allowed for a refreshing breeze to flow through.  It was also perfect for sitting on one of the benches lining the shoreline without having to wear a parka but I also wanted to read while listening to good jazz and have the camera ready to go and the car fit that bill nicely.

To be continued…