What Is Tonalism? (12 Essential Characteristics)
David Adams Cleveland
Illustrated and discussed, A History of American Tonalism, p. 338.
Tonalist painter and prizewinning watercolorist Charles Harry Eaton was largely self-taught and developed a sultry, low-toned style that spoke to George Inness’s notion of the “human landscape”—intimate out-of-the-way places where the presence of man is only detected in old stone walls and worn cart tracks. Eaton’s charming compositions impart, upon closer examination, surprising and captivating passages of expressive gestural paint handling, in which subtle patterns impart detail and both focus and please the eye. Towards 1900—he died in 1901—Eaton’s paint handling became freer and more sensuous, his brushstrokes energized with subjective feeling, more gestural than chromatic, and often blended on the canvas surface to create ambiguous blurry forms. This late work moved beyond the simple portrayal of the seasons to the approximation of them in the very texture of his pigments.