Monday, December 6, 2010

Stephen Hannock: A Throwback to Another Time... or Not

Sometimes on the PBS' Antique Roadshow there will be a pastoral scene of water and a valley. The appraiser will say, "This is from the Hudson River School." However, it wasn't an actual school. It was a group of mid-19th century landscape painters of great talent who were inspired by the area around the Hudson River. (On the left is a work by Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), arguably the most famous artist of this style and subject.)

In time, this style of work was considered too realistic and romantic. Then along came Stephen Hannock. (1951-)

Stephen Hannock is often described as a throwback to that Hudson River School. You might agree based on the image below. Hannock paints pastoral scenes with the luminescence and large dimensions of those 19th century painters. Yet, his techniques are modern and, upon closer viewing, there is something else.

With regards to the technique, Hannock doesn't like the way light plays on the paint ridges and so he sands them down - with an electric sander - between paint layers in order to achieve the luminosity. The "something else" is text. Hannock embeds text of his thoughts and recollections in the vista. On the left is an entire painting and on the right is a close up with barely discernible text.

Do his techniques and text make him uniquely modern or is he really a throwback to the Hudson River School because his subject and ultimate works are so highly reminiscent of those painters?

If you go to his website by clicking here Hannock's site shows areas of a painting where he has placed text. If you click on those areas you can see more distinct examples of his writing.


  1. Well, if you consider that there's nothing new under the sun, he could take the work and add his own modern touch to it. I can't imagine anyone in the 19th century writing on their artwork. Alice

  2. Thanks for telling me about him. Never heard of him before. Connie

  3. Amazing. It never occurred to me to sand down the ridges, but I can see his point. Considering how long it takes oil to dry it must have taken a really long time to finish a painting. I haven't heard of him. sz

  4. This was fascinating. Thanks! Diane