Ernest Lawson (1873–1939), Young Willows Posted on July 21st, 2014 by

Young WillowsErnest Lawson (1873–1939)
Young Willows, c. 1912
Oil on board, 8 x 10 inches
Gift of the Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom

Although Lawson was a member of The Eight, his subjects tended less toward the urban scenes often favored by that group and more toward landscapes, as in this sun-lit depiction of an open, rocky countryside. The immature willows in the center of the painting are brilliant in color, though they cast much cooler, violet shadows, in true Impressionist manner. In the foreground a stream reflects their brightness as it churns along. Lawson’s training was with established American Impressionist painters such as John Twachtman (1853–1902), and he lived in Paris from 1893 to 1898 where he was able to study the French Impressionists at close hand. The transient quality of the visual impression of a landscape was of high importance to Lawson, who sought to capture such effects in his work. The viewer recognizes that the image in this painting is momentary, that the water will continue to bubble along, that the clouds in the background beyond the horizon will scud across the sky, and that perhaps another cloud will temporarily block the sun and completely alter the impression and the colors. Lawson’s superb ability with color, so evident in this work, led one contemporary critic to aptly liken his approach as painting with a “palette of crushed jewels.” During his time in Paris, Lawson lived with author W. Somerset Maugham (1874– 1965), who based the character Frederick Lawson from his 1915 classic Of Human Bondage on the painter. This landscape was the first work by The Eight purchased by Richard Hillstrom, in 1956.

Text from the catalogue for the exhibition The Eight, The Ashcan School, and The American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection, presented in the Hillstrom Museum of Art February 25 through April 21, 2013.


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