What Is Tonalism? (12 Essential Characteristics)
David Adams Cleveland
Illustrated and discussed, A History of American Tonalism, p. 219.
Although J. Francis Murphy is often thought of as a conventional painter of poetic Tonalist landscapes, he was, in reality, a radical innovator who moved from his early exquisitely painted scenes of rural New Jersey to spare and iconic Catskill landscapes after 1900. Murphy’s late style emerged from his near-obsessive manipulation of the grounds of his canvases, which he constantly reworked, adding layers of pigment, scraping them down, even leaving them out in the elements to get the surface textures and tones he sought. Only then did he begin the arrangement of his iconic imagery: tree forms, stone walls, wood piles, fall-shorn pastures and the like—a purely synthetic process dictated by formal considerations. Murphy developed a range of very personal symbols, a style keyed to the essences of memory rather than a recording of particular places. He was mentored by James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
American, 1853-1921, Oswego, New York, based in New York, New York