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Thomas Wilmer Dewing, The White Birch, 1896–99. Oil on canvas. Manoogian Collection
In the 1890s connoisseurs and critics praised paintings that favored the spiritual over the material, seeing in them proof that the United States—known for its industry—possessed as well a "concern for beauty, as the highest end of work." Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851–1938) and John Henry Twachtman (1853–1902) felt this lure of the ethereal, muting their academic draftsmanship beneath softening veils of paint and patches of close-toned color. Dewing, a friend and admirer of Whistler, painted scenes of elegant women wafting across the meadows of New Hampshire to evoke an aestheticized nature, delicate as the birdsong or quivering birch of his pictures' titles. Twachtman fashioned views of his Connecticut home into puzzles of surface and depth, color and form—all while conveying the sensations of New England's changing seasons. As with Inness's landscapes, a relative lack of detail compels us to engage our imaginations to experience these works fully.
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