Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Coastal View is a classic example of a theme which Bricher has employed in over thirty of his marine paintings. Using a radically horizontal format, in which the width is more than twice the height, the composition is built upon a promontory of land protruding into the middle distance from either the left or right side of the canvas. The landmass is carefully balanced by sailing ships on the open sea, while in the foreground these forms are echoed by the shoreline and a strategically placed rowboat. Only the seagulls in Coastal View, rising from the shore, alleviate the quality of stillness and solitude. Bricher was more concerned with capturing the nuances of light or the subtle movement of the sea than with recording the precise topography of the land. As Jeffrey R. Brown has written: "Constantly fascinated by the dialogue between sunlight and shadow, clouds and their reflection in opalescent waters, he perfected a vocabulary of luminously atmospheric subjects."
Few paintings by Bricher are dated after 1881, but through documentary evidence, his late paintings are known to repeat his compositions of the 1870s and 80s. Although the artist's canvases closely adhere to his empirical view of nature, they are often a rearrangement of the coastal elements. The promontory that protrudes in Coast View is also found in Bricher's Headlands and Breakers-Grand Manan Maine [sic], n. d. (formerly Walker Art Center). The landform is identical, except for the addition of several small dwellings, but it now extends into the composition from the right side of the canvas. A breaking wave replaces the anchored rowboat. Unfortunately, the corrupted title of this painting does not allow us to identify the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza composition. Bricher began painting the coastline of Mount Desert Island, Maine, in 1858 and the shoreline of Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada, around 1874.
Kenneth W. Maddox