Artist Feature: Washington Allston

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Landscape with a Lake, 1804

Washington Allston

was a painter who studied most well-known in England as well as Rome, but took most of his inspiration from England, especially from a popular artist at the time named Claude. Allston was enthralled with the idea of the new world and all the beauty as well as emptiness it had to offer. He was born on a small farm in South Carolina and eventually found himself studying at Harvard before setting sail for England and then further traveling Europe from there.

Allston took much of his inspiration from Romanesque features such as landscapes as well as pavilions that can be seen in some of his other works, such as the one shown below. Allston was an artist of the romantic era explaining why so much sadness can be felt in his painting “Landscape with a Lake” (pictured above). There is a somber sort of effect that can be observed through the lone man standing by a vast body of water with cliffs on the other side as well as in the forefront where mangled tree roots and branches can be seen.

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Italian Landscape, undated

Alliston was a very successful man and found himself later in life as a professor and also was able to see his twelve paintings displayed in the Boston Athenæum. Painting was not his life’s dedication, but was something he was proud of. As well as painting and teaching, Alliston is also a published poet.

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Storm Rising at Sea, 1804

Alliston painted many scenes from the darkness of the one painted above to the brightness of the one painted below. He was clearly a very studied artist and took enjoyment in his work, playing with shadows and highlights as well as focussing incredibly on detail as seen in both his landscapes as well as his portraits.

Alliston took inspiration from wherever he could get it, as is quite clearly shown above as well as below. The scene in the top painting could arguably be taken from the experience of sailing abroad on his trips to England and Europe, and in the painting below we see a studied piece from a different kind of artist, a poet and writer as Shakespeare was, which he would have no doubt studied at university. Alliston had a knack for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.

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Scene from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, undated

Looking at Alliston’s paintings, it’s easy to get lost in the details and the color and just the mere skill involved in creating these paintings. This is truly an artist that deserves more recognition than history has given him. Perhaps if we start talking about him more, more people will know about the wonderful paintings he contributed to the world.

If you want to learn more about this man and his life, click here to visit his wikipedia page.