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Ben Foster (1852-1926)

The Winding Stream

Oil on canvas; 18 x 22 in


Born in Maine in 1852, Ben Foster specialized in painting poetic scenes of the New England countryside. He attended the attended the Art Students League in New York City, then went to Paris from 1886 to 1887 but was inconsolably homesick for the woods, hills and fields of New England. Most of his work done after returning to America centered around his home in Cornwall Hollow, Connecticut.

Foster's painting specialty was bucolic scenes of the New England countryside. His style was predominantly Tonalist with subdued colors and limited tones---almost exclusively autumn colors, muted browns, grays and rusts. In Tonalist tradition, he completed most of his paintings, both oil and watercolor, in his studio and not on location, "en plein air."

Tonalism was an artistic style that emerged in the 1880s when American artists began to paint landscape forms with an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist. Between 1880 and 1920, dark, neutral hues such as gray, brown or blue, often dominated compositions by artists associated with the style. Though not clearly defined, its main exponents were George Inness, James McNeill Whistler, Dwight W. Tryon, Alexander Helwig Wyant. In an essay in a catalogue for an exhibition of American painters held in Berlin in 1910. Brinton named artists J. Francis Murphy, Bruce Crane (1857-1937), Ben Foster (1852-1926) and Henry Ward Ranger (1858-1916) as exponents of the style and as leaders of contemporary art in the USA. The style is characterized by soft, diffused light, muted tones and hazily outlined objects, all of which imbue the works with a strong sense of mood. The term was applied especially to landscape painting in which nature is presented as serene or mysterious, never disquieting or dramatic.

 Blue Hill Bay Gallery   11 Tenney Hill, Blue Hill, Maine 04614