Well, we've made it safely to 2012 with our New Year's resolutions intact. It's hard to break those resolutions only a few hours into the new year. Mine include painting more intelligently and with direction, all with the goal of making me a more consistent painter. What are your resolutions?
The other night, we were watching an episode of Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Best Idea. It was the third episode, which has a segment on Alaska's Mt McKinley, now known as Denali. Burns presented a movie clip of the 1947 Washburn expedition preparing to make the ascent. I suddenly caught sight of what looked a lot like a painter standing in front of a Gloucester easel. I had to "rewind" and watch that clip again. Burns didn't mention a painter in the narration.
After some research, I discovered that the expedition did, indeed, take along a painter. It was George Browne, a one-eyed outdoor enthusiast who made 23 paintings on the climb. Above is a still from the Burns movie, and here is one of his paintings.
Coincidentally, the Anchorage Museum will be hosting an exhibition of Browne's work this spring. I wish I could visit Anchorage to see it. From the Museum's website, here's a little about Browne and the exhibit:
Mt. McKinley has been painted innumerable times, but nobody tackled the scenery quite like George Browne (1918-1958). Undaunted by blindness in one eye, the outdoors enthusiast not only conquered the tallest mountain in North America, he created 23 oil paintings during the climb.
These paintings are on view in the George Browne: Art of Altitude exhibition Feb. 3 through May 1.
In 1947 Browne reached the 20,320-foot summit as part of a Bradford Washburn-led scientific expedition. It was the fulfillment of a family goal that stretched back to his father Belmore’s unsuccessful attempts some 35 years earlier.
Most artists in the younger Browne’s place would have chosen to sketch in pencil, waiting to paint until they returned to solid ground. Not Browne. In addition to his climbing gear and food, he carried canvases, brushes, paint and an easel.
As the group ascended the mountain, he painted during periods of good weather. He carried the painted canvases in a plywood box designed so the wet paintings wouldn’t smear in transit.
Some of Browne’s Mt. McKinley paintings have patches missing; others remain unfinished because snowstorms obscured his view. Mother Nature thwarted him completely at 11,000 feet, when temperatures reached 20-below zero and his paint froze.
Browne died in a hunting accident in 1958 before he could touch up his Mt. McKinley paintings. They were never exhibited during his lifetime.I admire Browne for making that trip. I don't know if there's a more "extreme painter" !