Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Julian Alden Weir, The Bridge: Nocturne or Nocturne: Queensboro Bridge

Julian Alden Weir, The Bridge: Nocturne or Nocturne: Queensboro Bridge, 1910
29 x 39.5 in.

Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919) was an American painter who worked in Impressionism and was a founding member of "The Ten," a group of anti-establishment artists who exhibited their works independently, rather than within the structures of professional art organizations.  In this way they were perhaps American equivalents to the original Impressionists.  Weir was born in West Point, New York where his father taught drawing at the Military Academy.  Robert Weir had been an instructor to James McNeil Whistler.  Julian Weir studied at the National Academy of Design and then at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  There he studied under Jean-Léon Gérôme.  When he first encountered Impressionism in Paris, he was horrified by their lack of draughtsmanship and the subjectivity of their depictions of nature.  At this point in his career Weir was well-regarded in Europe for his academicism.  However, due in part to a friendship with Whistler and an affinity for Manet, Weir's attitude toward Impressionism softened and he eventually adopted the style himself.  Finding success in landscapestill-life, and portraiture, Weir became one of the leading American painters and a standard bearer of American Impressionism.  This nocturne of the Queensboro Bridge, which opened only the previous year in 1909, is one of Weir's most stunning pieces.  With its palette of greys, greens, and golds, the piece recalls the work of Whistler, but Weir also communicates a sense of scale and majesty.  The bridge, barely discernible in the distance, looms over the city and dwarfs the minuscule cars.  The intense atmosphere of this painting is created by the use of fog and the loose brushstrokes that make the whole painting awash in the color of night air.

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