O’Keeffe & Bierstadt: Different Presentations of New England Landscapes
Pink Moon Over Water is a Maine landscape painting that was created around 1923 by Georgia O’Keeffe, a pioneering American modernist painter (O’Keeffe). Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, NH, is a landscape of a lake and set of mountains, as indicated in the title, painted around 1861 by Albert Bierstadt, a German American immigrant painter renowned for his love of mountains and romanticized portrayal of Western American landscapes (Henderson). While both works prominently feature New England landscapes, there are a few key differences that result from vast differences in artistic style. O’Keeffe, staying true to her modernist roots, depicts her landscape in a simplified or abstracted form by omitting major details from her scene, and also through non-representational color choices. Contrasting this, Bierstadt gives his scene intense detailing while simultaneously idealizing the scene and presenting nature in its most romantic form, thus offering a picturesque representation of the landscape with obvious omissions of human presence or natural flaws, which serves to enhance his scene.
It is immediately clear that both landscapes, in their simplest form, depict a very similar subject: New England mountains and water. Bierstadt presents a majestic take on his landscape, which uses sunlight to emphasize a mist hovering above the lake in the foreground. This misting highlighted by the sun gives the landscape an overwhelmingly divine feeling to it. Contrasting this divine feeling, O’Keeffe’s work evokes more of a sense of calmness. With a full pink moon displayed in the background, its reflection in the water, and a series of green mountains in the foreground, the landscape moves in a more mystical yet tranquil way than the other work. Her ocean stays relatively still, with only slight movement evoked by visible brush strokes, as opposed to the active transformation from water...
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