Case in point, a couple years ago while touring the main room of the Renwick Gallery, I spotted an intriguing pastoral painting at the top-right corner of the west wall. Even from my distant vantage point, my attention was captured by the silhouette of the two figures, one of whom was carrying a bundle of gardening tools over her shoulder, against an ominous yellow in the background. If this wasn’t unsettling enough, the use of green and black throughout the mid-to-lower sections of the work gave the piece an almost sublime quality.
I checked the onsite information key, which indicated this piece was Elliott Daingerfield‘s Bringing Home the Newborn Lamb, shown below. Daingerfield was a North Carolina painter who was inspired by the European Symbolist movement and whose style often categorizes him amongst the American Tonalists, known for their soft brushstrokes and dark, neutral hues.
Anyway, upon arriving back at our hotel, I looked up the painting online and was greatly impressed by the detail, especially within the landscape. Still, the way in which the two figures are rendered almost entirely in black is just abnormal. I’ve seen many pastoral genre paintings, but none this disquieting. One would think bringing home a newborn lamb would call for a more ebullient choice of lighting, but apparently not here.
As a bonus, behind the cut I’ve included Daingerfield‘s Midnight Moon, which I spotted sitting in an open archive case during my visit to the Luce Conservation Center at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I know, I’m such a sneak!
And also, a photo of that wall at the Renwick (Newborn Lamb seen in the top-right)