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How Did He Paint That?

Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823–1880). A Gorge in the Mountains (Kauterskill Clove), 1862. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Maria DeWitt Jesup, from the collection of her husband, Morris K. Jesup, 1914 (15.30.62)

There are a handful of paintings at the Met that made a huge impression on me when I first saw them. Two of them are Sanford Robinson Gifford's A Gorge in the Mountains (Kauterskill Clove) and Frederic Edwin Church's The Aegean Sea. Every time I see these paintings, I ask myself, "How did he paint that?!"

I'm amazed by the sunlight in A Gorge in the Mountains (Kauterskill Clove), and I wonder how Gifford made it seem so realistic. How did he paint the sun reflecting off the trees and still capture all their details?

When I look at The Aegean Sea, I wonder how Church painted those two majestic rainbows. The arcs are perfectly parallel, and the colors are exquisite; they seem to pop out and complement the colors of the trees, rocks, and water.

Frederic Edwin Church's The Aegean Sea

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900). The Aegean Sea, ca. 1877. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Mrs. William H. Osborn, 1902 (02.23)

What works of art at the Met make you wonder how they were created?

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