A New England Landscape Painter Captures Emotional Experiences of the Seaside

Painter Anne Packard makes lush, hazy landscapes, exploring and documenting traditional seaside life along the Atlantic coast. Her works are not only realist depictions of quotidian experience and environments, but also emotional records of encounters with the sublime, manifested in nearly abstract landscapes.

“My paintings have nothing to do with nature,” Packard has said. “It’s something to do with forever going...the space behind the sky.... It’s an inner world of emotion and yearning. I yearn to express solitude. I want to create in my... paintings that privileged isolation. And awe. I am in awe out there.” Her paintings of the horizon embody that almost mystical declaration. In works such as Summer Sky (2013) and Summer Squall (2013) the landscape is reduced to an almost duo-toned simplicity: sky above and earth below. They recall the work of J.M.W. Turner, both in Packard’s interest in light and atmosphere, and in her use of accumulated expressive brushstrokes to create a naturalistic image of the world seen at the water’s edge.

Cloud Layers (2014) is a further expansion of this study in expressive naturalism and is reminiscent of a similar series of cloud paintings by the romantic painter John Constable. However, here Packard expands on Constable’s work to examine not only the sky above, but also its material interaction with the world below. This is part of where Packard’s interests lie: the experiences of people on earth and their interior perceptions of the world around them.

Packard explores that subject more explicitly in works such as Red Dory (ca. 2013), Inlet Pass (2013), and Latent Horizon (ca. 2014). Each make small allusions to the world of people, such as the presence of a lingering boat. With a spare simplicity that resembles the work of Edward Hopper and other painters of the American realist school, Packard celebrates rural life in the United States. She draws from her own personal experience and family tradition, having spent summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where her grandfather, Max Bohm, a preeminent American impressionist painter, earlier settled with the family. Packard would go on to find inspiration in the seascape there, in the sensation of the ocean, which comes richly to life on her canvases.

Stephen Dillon

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