Inspired by American Impressionism and a 1916 Photo

by | Jun 11, 2022


This is a quick lay-in for a painting I am starting. It is based on a photo taken in 1916 by my great-grandfather, Albert Roberts, on the family property, “Dixie Villa”, in Kent Cliffs, NY. Pictured is my grandmother, Mohena Belle, and Franklin, likely just shortly before they were married on June 23, 1916.

On the back, written in my great-grandfather’s hand: “Franklin helping Mohena up the stone wall.” Ha, that makes me laugh! Poor Franklin wasn’t helping her do anything–not that anyone could — he was doing his best to keep up–I don’t believe that pattern ever changed with them!

This underpainting to mass in the basic shapes is done in acrylic, I plan to paint over it in oil. I like to cover the canvas quickly so that the expanse of white staring back at me doesn’t interfere with accurate interpretation of the values, and this is a fast way to make sure my overall concept of colors and values is going to work. Then I can take my time with the oil painting.

I used the Rule of Thirds to adjust the composition and also shifted Franklin’s position slightly. I also made a value study and a color sketch before beginning this underpainting.  I’ll explain more about those in another post.

This project was inspired by seeing American Impressionist Frank Weston Benson‘s amazing paintings currently on display at the “Whistler to Cassatt” exhibit at the VMFA Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. (through July 31, 2022.)