Logging in Winter, Beaupré, painting by Maurice Cullen

This landscape painting by Maurice Cullen is painted in the style of Quebec artists working at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Maurice Cullen
1896
56.56.V
Art Gallery of Hamilton, gift of the Women's Committee, 1956. All Rights Reserved.


Logging in Winter, Beaupré, depicts a snow-covered hill in a forested rural area of Quebec. The artist has clearly divided foreground, middleground and background using colour, light, and line. The foreground snow and background sky are a similar hue, while the middleground is cast brighter to show sunlight behind the trees. Each section is also demarcated by linear contours, yet all three are unified by a diagonally receding road that catches the viewer’s eye at the bottom right-hand corner of the work. The viewer naturally follows the course of the road till it meets with the figure and the animal pulling a load. Behind the figure, our mind accepts the logical path of the road and we understand that it carries us in to the distance of this countryside.

This familiar Canadian countryside is rendered simply through the parting of a handful of prominent trees, yet the artist’s application of paint brings delicate complexity to the image. The oil medium is critical to this artist’s painterly process –he has built up thick layers of abstracted brush strokes and used impasto to Read More
Logging in Winter, Beaupré, depicts a snow-covered hill in a forested rural area of Quebec. The artist has clearly divided foreground, middleground and background using colour, light, and line. The foreground snow and background sky are a similar hue, while the middleground is cast brighter to show sunlight behind the trees. Each section is also demarcated by linear contours, yet all three are unified by a diagonally receding road that catches the viewer’s eye at the bottom right-hand corner of the work. The viewer naturally follows the course of the road till it meets with the figure and the animal pulling a load. Behind the figure, our mind accepts the logical path of the road and we understand that it carries us in to the distance of this countryside.

This familiar Canadian countryside is rendered simply through the parting of a handful of prominent trees, yet the artist’s application of paint brings delicate complexity to the image. The oil medium is critical to this artist’s painterly process –he has built up thick layers of abstracted brush strokes and used impasto to capture sunlight on the furrowed snow and the leaves of the foreground trees. This gives the painting a sense of spontaneity and reflects the essence of the outdoors where light and shadow are in constant movement across forms.

In order to accomplish this, (perhaps somewhat ironically), Cullen’s loose brushstrokes were not applied spontaneously at all, but rather carefully planned to render space in a complicated way. With the exception of the road in the foreground, each section of the landscape in expressed with fairly flat broad planes of paint that work to compress the overall space. Simultaneously, the diagonal of the road works to draw the eye back into space, giving a sense of deep recession. This juxtaposition of depth and recession of space on the painting’s middle right with flattened abstraction on the painting’s far left is likely the curious result European Modernist influences. Rather than simply convey a vista as if looking through a window, as in traditional landscape paintings, Cullen constructed his landscape through a merging of historic compositional design with late-nineteenth century spatial concepts. Cullen studied and began his artistic career in France and was a leader in bringing a Modernist conceptual base to Canadian painting. Thus we can be sure that his deceptively ordinary winter landscape is invested with internationally recognized ideas about painting that were then bringing new directions in Western art.


Art Gallery of Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

A Classroom Extensions

Discussion

1. Consider the use of line, light, and colour as discussed in the visual analysis. Describe further ways that this artist unites the elements of design to make this a strong landscape.

2. Describe the visual characteristics that make this landscape distinctly Canadian.

B Student Assignments

Written Analysis:

1. Select one of the following landscapes and prepare your own visual analysis. (150 to 250 words) James Wilson Morrice, Corner of the Doge’s Palace, Oil on wood, 17.3 x 25.2 cm, c. 1901, AGH, Bequest of Miss Margaret Rousseaux, 1958. Albert Marquet, Read More

A Classroom Extensions

Discussion

1. Consider the use of line, light, and colour as discussed in the visual analysis. Describe further ways that this artist unites the elements of design to make this a strong landscape.

2. Describe the visual characteristics that make this landscape distinctly Canadian.

B Student Assignments

Written Analysis:

1. Select one of the following landscapes and prepare your own visual analysis. (150 to 250 words)

Technical Analysis:

1. Print a copy of the work to label the main visual elements and principles you have described.

2. Create a charcoal and chalk sketch of the work using each medium to demarcate light and shade.

C Teacher Notes:

You may wish to prompt students to note:

  • the use of impasto that enhances the effect of light on snow
  • the dappling of abstract brushstrokes on the tree leaves that suggest the temporality of wind and shifting patterns of light
    •  

    D Supplementary Images:

    Art Historical- general

    • Camille Pissarro, Route, effet de neige, Oil on canvas, 1879, New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester.
    • Marc-Aurele de Foy Suzor-Cote, Settlement on the Hillside, Oil on canvas, 58.4 x 73.0 cm,1909, National Gallery of Canada.

    AGH permanent collection worksEugène Boudin, Trouvill, Le port, Oil on canvas, 23.7 x 32.8 cm, 1884, AGH, Gift of Muriel Isabel Bostwick, 1966.

    • Maurice Cullen, Cape Diamond, Oil on canvas, 144.9 x 174.5 cm, 1909, AGH, Bequest of H. L. Rinn, 1955.
    • Albert Marquet, Le pont Marie vu du quai Bourbon, Oil on canvas, 65.0 x 81.0 cm, 1906-1907, AGH, Gift of Marion E. Mattice, 1958.
    • James Wilson Morrice, Corner of the Doge’s Palace, Oil on wood, 17.3 x 25.2 cm, c. 1901, AGH, Bequest of Miss Margaret Rousseaux, 1958.
    • James Wilson Morrice, By the Sea, Oil on wood, 12.4 x 15.7 cm, 1912, AGH, Bequest of Margaret Rousseaux, 1958.

    Art Gallery of Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:
    • learn to appreciate landscape art by engaging in a critical viewing strategy
    • learn to appreciate art and expand their visual literacy by reading model visual analyses 
    • learn about Canadian art in its art historical context and identify visual characteristics and themes prevalent in Canadian art 
    • learn how to differentiate artworks by period, style and method 
    • learn how to critically analyze an art work by applying the elements and principles of design 
    • explain the organization of visual content in the creation of artworks 
    • examine artistic intention and artistic expression in a variety of historical artworks

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