“A conservative brand of Impressionism”

Julian Alden Weir, The Red Bridge (1895)

The description of Weir’s painting by the Metropolitan Museum of Art states:

“After seeing the 1877 French Impressionist exhibition in Paris, Weir grumbled that it was ‘worse than the Chamber of Horrors.’ Much later, working in the Connecticut countryside under the influence of friends such as Theodore Robinson and inspired by Japanese woodblock prints, he converted to Impressionism. In this canvas, he captured the severe industrial form of a new iron truss bridge, covered with red priming paint, over the Shetucket River in Windham. The fundamentally solid forms and restrained veneer of broken brushwork epitomize Weir’s conservative brand of Impressionism.”

To my mind, this painting is exquisite. The bridge and its reflections in the water are beautifully balanced, with the central image of a trestle and its reflection anchoring the whole. The choice of colors sets off the bridge against the subtle shades that surround it, offering an elegant mingling of Japonica and Impressionism. Why does the Met feel it necessary to knock it down?

One might say, however, that I knock the painting down further by trying to make a collage out of it, borrowing from O’Keeffe (a complete failure, that was), Cezanne, and Trevelyan.

Nonetheless, here is my homage, such as it is.

2 thoughts on ““A conservative brand of Impressionism”

  1. shoreacres

    It’s odd. When I look at the original painting, the vibrant orange of the bridge is so dominant it looks as though it’s been prematurely truncated. That leads to even more amusement with your collage interpretation. The various pieces look as though they came to the end of the bridge and then tumbled into the gap!

    Is that a bit of O’Keeffe in the center? I have a photo of the Ranchos church in my kitchen, and it looks as though that structure might have found a place in your collage.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      I love your description of the collage as pieces tumbling into the gap. I’d say that about sums it up. The bit at the center is actually from a Cezanne. Here’s a link to a reproduction of the painting: https://www.wikiart.org/en/paul-cezanne/houses-at-the-l-estaque-1880 My initial plan had been to use the shapes in an O’Keeffe painting of the Ranchos church, but “technical limitations” foiled me in that attempt (though I may try again). I must say, spending time at the Met Museum without an agenda other than heading toward a chosen painting or two has led to a lot of wonderful discoveries. I hadn’t seen either the Weir here or any of O’Keeffe’s of the Ranchos Church, and there they were, tucked in among paintings that had brought me to the museum.

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