Anders Zorn, redux

Yesterday I went with my pal Brad Marshall to see Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter at the National Academy. Yes, I loved it. Here are a few paintings that really impressed me.
Herdsmaid (Walk), 1908. The softness of the firs is quite incredible. It appears to be wet-on-dry but I wouldn’t stake my life on that. He feels no need to be didactic about his narrative; instead, the figure of the girl and the cows disappear into the background. There is no brown in the dirtscape; it’s all shades of mauve.
Summer Vacation, 1886, watercolor. Emma Zorn posed as a tourist in this painting along the Baltic Sea. I’m blown away by the perspective in the waves; it’s perfect. So too is the soft wet (light) modeling and the dry (dark) modeling of the waves. It could be the Maine landscape with that outcrop in the background.
Lapping Waves, 1887, watercolor. Again the reflections in the water are stunningly realized, both in terms of shape and color. The houses rising on the far hillside are in perfect counterpoint.
Reflections, 1889. The foreground reed or branch screen is a problem in the intimate landscape. Painting them in can be fey; leaving them out ruins the sense of closeness. Zorn deals with this by bringing the contrast between the reeds and the background way down. The colors in the water are magical, and the light and chroma are all in the far bank, not in the figure.
Man and Boy in Algiers, 1887. JoaquĂ­n Sorolla and John Singer Sargent were renowned for their handling of white-on-white; here Zorn proves he’s just as competent at it. More than that, I feel like I know this guy; he may have been part of the late 19th century mania for Orientalism, but he’s a fully realized person.
Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter runs until May 18, 2014 at the National Academy of Art, XX Park Avenue, New York, NY.

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