L B Harrison

Lovell Birge Harrison

Armand Cabrera

Lovell Birge Harrison was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 28, 1854. “Birge”, as he called himself, received his initial training as an artist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1876, Birge studied in France for four years under Carolus Duran, Jules Joseph Lefebver and Gustave Boulanger.

In the summer of 1880, Birge and his brother, Alexander, journeyed to Pont Aven and Concarneau on the Brittany Coast. In Concarneau, Birge became acquainted with Bastien Lepage. Lepage was a strong proponent of painting directly from nature and had a following among the academic art students of the time. Lepage painted in a way that was a marriage of academic fundamentals and Impressionist motifs. Birge became friends with Lepage and was influenced by his philosophy on painting and his working methods of painting from life.

In 1889, Birge received a Silver Medal for his painting, November, at the Universal Exposition in Paris. Birge became the first director of the Art Students League Summer School in Woodstock, New York. From 1905 to 1911, he taught painting classes there. Birge wrote articles on painting for Scribner’s Magazine, North American Review, International Studio and Palette and Brush Magazines. In 1909, he published his landmark book, Landscape Painting, which is still a major influence today. In 1910, he was voted into the prestigious National Academy of Fine Arts.

Birge is best known for his ethereal, Tonalist winter and moonlit scenes. His work is characterized by soft edges and strong design and beautifully subtle color harmonies. Birge remained a strong proponent of the Tonalist aesthetic his entire life. His teaching and writings influenced many generations of painters in America. Harrison died in Woodstock on May 11, 1929.


The Good Simple Life Artist Colonies in Europe and America
Michael Jacobs
Phaidon Press 1985

New Hope For American Art
James M Alterman
Published by Jim’s of Lambertville 2005

The Lure of Paris
Nineteenth Century American Painters and Their French Teachers
H. Barbara Weinberg
Abbeville Press 1991

QuoteWe devote ourselves to out-of –door pursuits; we have learned to love out-of –door nature and beauty. It is our best achievement as a nation; and our artists in this are therefore simply keeping step with the march of modern civilization.
~Birge (Lovell) Harrison.

Yoshida Hiroshi

Armand Cabrera

Yoshida Hiroshi was born Ueda Hiroshi in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan on September 19, 1876. His father was Ueda Tsukane. As a child his artistic talent was recognized by one of his teachers, Yoshida Kasaburo who adopted the boy and saw that Hiroshi had formal art education with Tamura Soryu in Kyoto, Japan. There he met Miyake Katsumi, a watercolorist who recommended the now eighteen year old Hiroshi study in Tokyo, at Fudosha, the private school of Western Style painter Koyama Shotaro. Hiroshi’s interest in Western painting inspired him and his friend and fellow student, Nakagawa Hachiro, to travel to America to sell their art.

While in America, the two friends had successful shows in Boston, Washington, D.C. and Providence, Rhode Island. The two young men made enough money to tour Europe before returning home. On his return in 1902, Hiroshi helped formed a new painting society called Taiheiyo Gakai. In the society’s first exhibition, Hiroshi showed 13 oil paintings and 10 watercolors. In 1903, at the society’s second exhibition, Hiroshi had 21 entries. The success from these shows led to another trip to the United States with his step-sister Fujio, also an artist. The two held twelve exhibitions and also traveled to Europe. They returned to Japan in 1907 and married that same year. The couple had two sons, Toshi and Hodaka.
In Japan Hiroshi’s success as a Western Style painter grew rapidly. He won many awards for his watercolors and oils. His work was reproduced in magazines and newspapers increasing his recognition to the public.

Hiroshi became interested in woodblock print making around 1920 and in 1925 he established the Yoshida Studio. His inspiration for his woodblock prints was to combine traditional woodblock printing techniques with western style images. Hiroshi learned the skills of a carver and printer and often carved his own blocks. He personally supervised every stage of his prints. The characters “JIZURI” (self-printed) are in the margin of the prints made during his lifetime under his supervision. He produced some of the largest prints ever made and his quality control over the prints in his lifetime is unsurpassed.

Images of his travels to exotic places found a waiting market for him in America, Europe and Japan. Hiroshi’s subtle sense of color, complex compositions and powerful designs proved his mastery of the medium. Although Hiroshi continued to paint in oils and watercolors the rest of his life, he would be remembered for the fine quality wood block prints he produced. Yoshida Hiroshi died in 1950. His sons Toshi and Hodaka and their wives carried on his tradition of excellence in the arts. Toshi’s son, Tsukasa Yoshida is now director of the Yoshida Studio, producing modern woodblock prints.

The Complete Woodblock Prints of Yoshida HiroshiABE Publishing Limited 1987

QuoteI have never met any artist who is painting work similar to mine. This realization made me persevere and develop my own style of painting.
~Yoshida Hiroshi

Peder Monsted

by Armand Cabrera

Peder Mork Monsted was born in 1859 in Denmark. At 16 he enrolled in the Academy at Copenhagen where he studied under Andries Fritz and Julius Exner . After Monsted left the academy at the age of twenty he studied with Peder Severin Kroyer in his studio and later Adolphe Bouguereau in Paris. He travelled extensively through Europe and North Africa. Although Monsted worked in an academic style, his paintings have a keen sense of light, most likely helped by his outdoor sketches. He died in 1941 at the age of 82.

One look at his work and you can see why he was considered the best landscape painter of his day in Denmark. While some of his genre paintings with figures fall into sugary clichés, the quality of his landscapes are untouchable. He was especially adept at depicting water and forest interiors.

I have little information on him beyond these few scraps from galleries and auction catalogs with his work. As far as I know there is no monograph on him.

I became aware of his work in the early 90’s though gallery ads in magazines and was lucky enough to have a local gallery that carried his work in Marin county where I lived at the time. What is missed in these reproductions is the scale of the paintings. The ones I saw were large- five or six feet across in most cases and they just glowed with that ambient light that anyone who has taken a walk through a forest is familiar with. The paint handling is controlled but the details are still suggested. He was a master at composing the complexities of a forest interior into an organized and believable design. His control of color and value is exquisite. I hope a museum will mount a show and produce a color catalog on this fine artist soon; he deserves it.

A Sense of Scale

by Armand Cabrera

Scale can be a tricky thing in a painting. It is not important to paint large paintings to have a sense of grandeur on your art. What is important is making yourself aware of the principles and using those to your advantage so you don’t have to resort to clichés of constantly adding tiny people or other recognizable objects to make the illusion work. While these are one way of creating a sense of scale their use should never be a substitution for good design and a thoughtful approach to the subject at hand.

I think the first thing you need to create a sense of scale is correct aerial perspective. All your vanishing points must be accurate and your horizon line must be established. This is true for landscapes without manmade structures as well as paintings with them. Perspective will create overlapping forms and the proper arrangement of these will help the illusion of space and distance.
A secondary effect of scale is atmosphere; painting things with the proper lessening of chroma and value as they recede into the distance. There is no formula for this and you must be a keen observer of the subtle shifts that take place and act as visual clues for scale and distance.
Another effect is the loss of detail as you take in larger areas of view. It seems counter intuitive at first but the bigger something is the less detail you can see on it. If you can see a complete eight story building in your view, the inclusion of individual panes of glass on the windows only shrinks the idea of scale for the viewer.
It is the same with natural things in the landscape a distant hillside looks smaller if you paint every tree on it as opposed to getting its overall form and color and value. People often do this with large bodies of water. They focus on the waves and when they paint them the waves height to width ratio is enormously exaggerated reducing the scale of the ocean in the process.
Lighting is also important for a sense of scale. Outdoors light falls in parallel rays and you have to make sure you paint it that way or you will give the illusion of indoor point source lighting and shrink the sense of scale.
Many times the emotional response we feel to a subject is based in large part on a sweeping sense of scale. Making yourself aware of the effect scale has on what you are observing will help you capture that sense of scale in even small paintings


Creating a Mural Step-by-Step

Armand Cabrera

I was awarded this commission through a design company I work with from time to time. The client initially liked a barn painting I had done. The image for the original painting was 20 x 24. For the mural the client wanted the painting to be 119×19 almost five times the original length. I mocked up the new version in Photoshop for approval and once the okay was given I started the project.


The first thing I needed to do was build a frame work for the linen. I decided to just tack the linen to the framework and after it was completed roll it up and ship it to the clients where it would be stretched and framed for the hotel. The framework consisted of three pieces of 2 x 4 foot birch panel held together with 1 x 3 pine. This would allow me to sit it on my easel and secure it. The easel is counter balanced and slides side to side making it easy to paint awkward sizes like this.
I figured on a week for the painting process; one day for the drawing, one day for the block in/ wash, and three days to finish.
For the drawing I divided the image space into twelve horizontal and two vertical sections to make it easier when placing the elements. The drawing took me 9 hours.
I mixed some test colors for the foliage before I made up the large piles of paint and I blocked in the dark cedar trees and some other key elements as guides over my initial drawing.

For the block in I worked on the background and then the foreground saving the middle areas for last.

This way I would get the two extremes in hue and saturation shifts established making the middle section easier. The block in took me 10 hours.
The last few days were spent refining and adding details where appropriate. I changed the middle of the painting, moving and shrinking a tree between the barn and pond that I thought looked good in the initial digital mockup but was distracting at full size. The total time for the painting was a little more than sixty hours.
This is the first mural I have done in many years. There were three done for businesses back in the seventies and eighties, a store in Hawaii (6×15 feet) and a restaurant (9×12 feet) and store in California (12 x24 feet).Those are long gone, they were painted directly onto the walls and did not survive the remodeling process and in one case the store was demolished for a newer store.
I’m hoping because it will be mounted and framed it might make it through the inevitable remodeling ten or twenty years down the road. The Mural will be in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel which reopens on November 15th 2010 in Nashville TN