Albert Bierstadt, the German-American painter renowned for his landscapes of the American West, came to the White Mountains to capture its simple yet overwhelming beauty. What came to life through nearly a decade’s worth of work was The Emerald Pool, a massive oil-on-canvas monument to the natural majesty of a hidden swimming hole along the Peabody River in the Pinkham Notch. Recounting The Emerald Pool, Bierstadt said, “I never had so difficult a picture to paint, as this White Mountain subject the Emerald Pool; my artist friends think it my best picture and so do I.”
America’s relationship to nature has changed drastically since Albert Bierstadt elevated a slice of New Hampshire scenery to an icon of pristine natural beauty in his East Coast masterwork, The Emerald Pool. Christopher Volpe, the featured artist of Holderness School’s fall gallery show, wanted this series to reflect that truth. What does it mean to paint the American landscape today, with our relationship to the natural world one of global degradation, conflict, and uncertainty?
It’s a complicated question that drove Christopher to paint the very same spot along the Peabody River that Albert Bierstadt painted in 1870. “Like Bierstadt,” Christopher shared, “I went to nature to make studies at the site and completed the larger work in the studio. But whereas Bierstadt re-invented the scene to convey a sense of peace and grandeur, I focused on the unstable surface of the pool itself and its fluctuating reflections and distortions. My treatment of Bierstadt’s motif also reverences natural beauty, even as it strives to emphasize a disconnect between nature and beauty.”
Christopher’s reinterpretation of The Emerald Pool brings Bierstadt’s somewhat static, although remarkable, work to life. The colors of his work seem to ripple before your eye and are startlingly reminiscent of the local swimming holes that will soon become too cold for a playful splash. Christopher said that he “hoped to inscribe into the paintings’ surfaces a feeling of something anxious, elusive, or broken. It helped me to think of them at times like shattered stained-glass windows, with that sense of the loss of divinity, and an intuition of the darkness behind beauty.”
Christopher Volpe’s ability to capture nature with brush and paint didn’t begin with his re-creation of The Emerald Pool. An artist, writer, and teacher, Christopher has spent the better part of a decade exhibiting his paintings, which blend -- in his words -- the historical and the contemporary in treating the natural world as a site of introspection and metaphor. Christopher teaches studio and plein air painting and has previously taught at Castle Hill Center for the Arts, Concord Art, Montserrat College of Art, the New Hampshire Art Institute, Chester College of New England, and Franklin Pierce University.
The exhibit opens on Tuesday, September 17th with a reception from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM. The exhibit will run through October 22. Normal operating hours are 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 9:00 AM - Noon on Wednesday and Saturday. The exhibit is closed on Sundays as well as October 14-15.
For more information please contact the Joseph Sywenkyj, Director of the Edwards Art Gallery, at 603-779-5387 or email@example.com.
Holderness School took the first step of its Mountain Day journey at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, which sits in the shadow of the mountains and rock faces that students would climb that day. The granite and wood beam architecture of the chapel creates a deep sense of sanctity while the stained glass softens the space with radiant natural light. It’s the perfect place to gather for a brief moment of meditation before entering an equally sacred and wonderful wilderness.
We recently sat down with Director of Outdoor Programs Erik Thatcher ’08 and asked: “What should we pack for Mountain Day?” Erik, an experienced outdoor guide, told us how to prepare for a day in the White Mountains – from how much water to bring to why hiking Mount Washington is like visiting the high arctic. Here’s what he told us to bring: