Many of our favorite artists have returned to a particular place, time and again, to paint the landscape. The places are not always their primary residence, or even a place they call home, but a place where they somehow find inspiration.
Wolf Kahn 1927-2020
Wolf Kahn was a city boy. He was born in the city of Stuttgart, and emigrated from Germany to England to New York when he was thirteen. He had taken art lessons in Stuttgart. In New York he was accepted at the High School of Music and Art. He studied with Hans Hoffman in New York and completed his Bachelors Degree at the University of Chicago.
But it was the coast of Maine and then the scenery in Vermont that inspired his landscape paintings.
Kahn and his wife, painter Emily Mason, spent summers at their farm in Brattleboro, Vermont. It was their summer retreat for more than fifty years. But it was in their New York City home where Kahn was at his most creative. “The environment in which my paintings grow best is at Broadway and 12th Street.” he said. “I can see nature most clearly in my studio, undistracted by trees and skies. Art being emotion recollected in tranquility, I constantly find Nature too emotional, and Broadway very tranquil.”
Thomas Hart Benton 1889-1975
Thomas Hart Benton was born in Neosho, Missouri. His father was a four-term U.S. Congressman, so Benton spent much of his young life traveling between Neosho and Washington, D.C.
He spent two years at the Art Institute of Chicago and then at the Académie Julian in Paris. He returned to New York in the early 1920s, where he painted and taught for about twenty years.
In 1935 he returned to Missouri, where he advocated that American Art represent American ideals, founding the American Regionalism movement. His work became more narrative, telling stories of American history and the lives of Americans during the Great Depression.
Benton’s depictions of Manhattan are just as beautiful as his depictions of Missouri. “I have a sort of inner conviction,” he said, “that for all the possible limitations of my mind and the disturbing effects of my processes, for all the contradicting struggles and failures I have gone through, I have come to something that is the image of America and the American people of my time.”
Miles McEnery. A Tribute to Wolf Kahn. The Brooklyn Rail. June 2020.