Sunday, October 18, 2009

St. Mary's Lake, by A.C. Leighton

This is the kind of painting that resulted in AC Leighton becoming an artist for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Scenes of wherever their tracks went, became posters and were displayed on train coaches, and in railroad stations and magazines. They inspired people to travel - and to visit Canada from abroad.

This painting reflects, Leighton's English watercolour background. While the scene is beautiful, its colours are muted and the power and grandeur of the Rockies is only one step removed from the hills and the lake country of northern England.

Leighton paints with a restricted palette. This is a picture of blues and browns and with a reduced middle range of light values. This constriction has sensory and emotional consequences. The edges of emotion are rubbed out...almost mistified, and indeed, almost mystified. And, this is the power of the painting. St. Mary's lake reaches across the globe into travel offices and its neutralized, dreamlike quality suggests that there is beauty to be seen, beyond the horizon, and this beauty is untrammeled by wires and crowds, and that this beauty is available if you let the Canadian Pacific Railrroad take you there.

Leighton's art can be seen in Glenbow Museum in Calgary, and at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, in Banff, Alberta.

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