Nature Through the Eyes of a Romantic Realist: A Study on Daniel Garber’s Landscapes

Nature Through the Eyes of a Romantic Realist: A Study on Daniel Garber’s Landscapes

By Carolyn DeMatteo, marketing intern

Artists create landscape paintings illustrating the natural setting around them while evoking a sense of wonder for viewers, taking them back to a place perhaps where they have been or where they want to be. Daniel Garber, known for his landscape paintings here in Bucks County, blends the concept of reality in with that of fantasy, bringing emotion that can be felt beyond what the human eye can physically see. During my first week working as an intern here at the Michener Art Museum, I had the pleasure of studying Daniel Garber’s installation and was drawn to his landscape paintings, particularly a piece called The Glen, which he painted in 1913, Mesmerized by his poetic landscape, I took a closer look at Garber’s history and sources of inspiration.

In 1887 he began studying landscape painting at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, continued his education at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1889, and began experimenting with plein air shortly thereafter. He studied light effects on landscapes and buildings while living in Europe from 1905 to 1907. Garber returned to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in 1909 as an art instructor until 1950 and became a member of the New Hope Art Colony while living in Bucks County. Garber’s contemporaries described him as a Romantic Realist.

During the time that Daniel Garber worked on this painting, he was living in Cuttalossa Valley, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Cuttalossa Valley’s name comes from a Native American Lenape tribe who lived there before the Europeans settled in around the 1700s. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Cuttalossa Valley served as an industrial center. The first mill that was built by Samuel Armitage, a Quaker settler from England, around 1748, still stands today. John E. Kenderdine, a millwright from Montgomery County, purchased the property in 1833 and helped expand trade by constructing a new road through the valley to transport goods. He also built a fountain two years later along that new road. When Kenderdine died in 1868, his property was sold and divided. A few years later in 1873, local residents built a new fountain with a figure of a boy holding a vase, in an effort to enhance Cuttalossa Valley’s beauty. However, flooding forced the collapse of the site and many of its structures. All that remains today from the fountain is a pipe and stone. Since the collapse of the mill industry, Cuttalossa Valley has become a tourist area, attracting many artists due to its breathtaking views and historical buildings.

Garber moved to a farm in Cuttalossa Valley with his family in 1907, where he lived until the end of his life in 1958. For Garber, Bucks County was a place of peace where he could enjoy the simplicity of life with his family, which is reflected in his paintings. He depicted nature as lyrical, creating familiar and tranquil landscapes. Garber was inspired by the French Impressionist styles of Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, and Alfred Sisley. As an American landscape artist, Garber adapted the French Impressionist palette, expanding it with a broad spectrum of colors. Expressing his individualism, Garber chose what he wanted to see in nature, using a controlled composition, eliminating and adding components to his landscape paintings. Garber’s brush strokes are overt but delicate. His work captures a quietness of rural places for which he became known. His aesthetic was Bucks County’s nature during the spring, summer, or autumn seasons, using natural light and bright colors in his palette.

When I saw The Glen, I was fascinated by Garber’s, picturesque trees with their warm, golden hues wrapping around the foreground and background, with subtle cool colors in the middle ground and background that peer through the bushes and trees. His delicate brush work softens the overall image, creating a serene atmosphere. The white swans in the foreground appear to be floating gently across the shimmering blue water, heading toward land in the middle ground, creating a sense of movement. In the background, the building that sits behind the tall trees creates an illusion of depth and a sense of belonging, uniting us with nature’s beauty in Bucks County. Garber, a beloved painter, inspired many of his students through his teachings, and others through his finished masterpieces to fully appreciate the beauty of nature in our community and beyond. His landscapes encourage many artists and others to reflect upon and capture the beauty of Bucks County to this day.

Image: Daniel Garber (1880-1958), The Glen, ca. 1913.

2018-11-19T14:28:25+00:00