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Tonalism

102 artworks, 12 artists
Tonalism is a trend in American landscape painting of the late 19th — early 20th centuries, which is characterized by the dominance of one colour or shade. The paintings of this genre resemble impressionist artworks and create a bewitching emotional atmosphere, like paintings of the romantic era. Tonalism artists convey not the nature, but the inner state, mood. A sketch of the picture is created from nature, but a painter completes the work in his workshop, from his/her memory. So the dominant shade appears on the canvas as a reflection of the artist’s impressions, thoughts, mood, and the attitude to a certain experience.

The style originated in the USA in the 1880s, when the Hudson River School of Painting leaded with its bright colours, fine details and a realistic painting style. Artists of the new movement softened the image, refused clear lines and saturated colours, and in this way, they created a soft intimate atmosphere. Tonalists connected the mood of nature and the inner spiritual state of man, they forgot about the pathos of the majestic landscapes and became thev“painting philosophers”. In the 1920s, the style lost its popularity and gave way to impressionism and modernism. Some elements of tonal painting are still found in modern art.

Tonalism avoids bright colours and shades: grey, brown, navy blue or black colours dominate in creating the mood. The landscape paintings force a viewer to peer into the canvas and immerse him/her in a hypnotic state. Through expressive brushstrokes, an artist conveys the mood and neglects the detail. The nature of the tonal landscape lives in a predawn state, a haze of fog or a cloudy sky. To create portraits, a tonalism painter arranges the sitting model against a bare wall or makes the background blurry and infinitely distant. The artist and the subject of a painting demonstrate loneliness, emphasize the contemplative state and estrangement from the world.

Famous examples of tonalist paintings:
Nocturne in Grey and Gold: Chelsea Snow” 1876, “Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder” 1876, “Violet and Silver — The Deep Sea” 1893 by James Whistler; “Along The River, Winter” 1888, “Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone” 1895 by John Henry Twachtman; “The Lute” 1904 by Thomas Wilmer Dewing.

Famous tonalism artists:
James Abbot McNeill Whistler, George Inness, Willis Seaver Adams, Joseph Allworthy, Leon Dabo, Mikhail Nesterov.
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