What Is Tonalism? (12 Essential Characteristics)
David Adams Cleveland
Illustrated, A History of American Tonalism, p. 374.
With his rugged paint handling and deep expressive power, Ben Foster is one of the most deceptively modern of the American Tonalists. Although his subject matter at first seems conventional, Foster’s off-kilter landscapes are compositionally complex and emotionally compelling in their melancholic embrace of the raw Connecticut hills, his home ground. James Abbott McNeill Whistler and East Asian notions of abstract design guided Foster’s hand, especially in the use of subtle patterns and graphic cropping to enhance the dramatic and symbolic power of his landscapes. With fluid and gestural paint handling, Foster laid thick masses of pigment with the virtuosity of a calligrapher, lending his repertoire of trees, boulders, stonewalls, and undulating hills a dynamic energy that speaks the language of nature itself—the world of the “unseen” as George Inness called it.
American, 1852-1926, Maine, based in New York, New York