Recorders of History

Boulder Creek II, Acrylic, 24" x 36"

Boulder Creek II, Acrylic, 24″ x 36″   

September 23, 2013

Some years ago I walked beside that creek in Boulder, Colorado, on a warm autumn day with husband, daughter and her family.  I painted the above scene from a photo I took that day.  After hearing the recent reports of flood damage in Boulder, I wonder what that scene looks like now.  It may never look quite like that again.

Last week I was painting on a Kansas farm and began a painting of a red barn.  I’ve painted a number of barns before.   Later I often learn they no longer exist.  Many farmers don’t use barns any more and so they fall into disrepair and are destroyed by wind and weather.  I’ve also occasionally painted silos, but they too are now becoming a thing of the past.

We who paint realistically may not realize it, but we are recording history.  If some of our paintings survive they will show what life was like in our little corner of the world in our time when the future may look very different.  Artists have been doing this for some time.  When we look at paintings from the past in museums or in our art books we can see how people dressed, what their homes and other buildings looked liked as well as the surrounding landscape of those bygone ages.

Impressionist paintings are favorites of mine and they show an interesting historical record.  While painters of the past had painted the nobility (they knew where the money was), in the late 1800s there was a rising middle class with the time and funds to go out and enjoy themselves and the painters of the time recorded that.  They painted people having lunch on a pleasure boat, men, women and children enjoying an afternoon in the park, couples dancing.  Something else that was new in the time of the Impressionists was the railroad.  Several years ago the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, did an exhibit of impressionist paintings having something to do with the railroads.  I was surprised at how many paintings there were.

Next time you go out to paint think about the transitory nature of the things you see.  Your record of that building or scene may last longer than it will.


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