Any landscape painter “worth his salt”, is quite familiar with John F. Carlson because of his important book, “Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting”…formally published in 1928 as “Elementary Principles of Landscape Painting.”
Carlson (1875-1947) was born in Sweden. His work is admired by many; the list of prizes and museum acquisitions of his canvases would fills a long column in “Who’s Who in American Art. His clear and excellent teaching has helped many an artist interested in becoming a better landscape painter.
I am fortunate to own a December 1942 copy of “American Artist” magazine in which Carlson was a featured artist. Parts of that article I wish to share with you over the next few weeks, because of the direct interaction with Carlson himself.
As an important side note, this magazine was published one year after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor; America was now fully committed to the war effort. “American Artist” just completed a National War Poster Competition. No prizes were given but there were 2224 entries for best poster in a number of categories such as: The Nature of the Enemy, Slave World, or Free World, and Deliver us from Evil.
Here is the cover of that December 1942 issue, and the winning poster in This is the Enemy category.
And now, let’s hear from John F. Carlson…
“I’ve spent a good part of my life painting trees. Naturally I’ve gotten pretty well acquainted with them. Excellent friends they are and, for me, the most fascinating ‘sitters’. Trees are a lot like human beings; rooted men, possessing character, ambitions and idiosyncrasies. Those who know trees see all their whims; see their struggles too; struggles with wind and weather; struggles to adjust themselves to their society. For nature will not allow them to run amuck, heedless of their neighbors; their individual propensities must conform to the cosmic laws within their own democracy. Thus there is a certain rhythm in a wood; a flow between parts, a give and take that is rigidly observed.
“No one, it seems to me, can really paint trees without being extremely sensitive to their rhythm and all that is going on in the woods, without indeed having considerably more than a casual acquaintance with sylvan society.”