Charles Courtney Curran's depiction of women and children among mountain flowers is a classic American Impressionist interpretation of the rapidly changing world of the early twentieth century. Like many of his contemporaries, Curran often chose the most picturesque scenes to render in his work. "As change became more rampant and the ugliness of urban life became more evident, the American Impressionists sought solace in nostalgic landscape views celebrating a simpler way of life long since past. Although these landscapes often depict recognizable sites, their purpose was as much evocation as topographical accuracy; they express the nostalgic attitudes and emotions of their creators and were intended to arouse analogous responses in others. These painters chose subjects that offered at least a visual relief from the pressing actualities of modern life. 'What nostalgia require[s] is a sense of estrangement,' explained geographer David Lowenthal, 'the object of the quest must be anachronistic. Like the Renaissance devotion to the classical world, the remoteness of the past is for us a part of its charm.' The anachronistic features represented in American Impressionist landscapes -- farms that no longer harvested crops, canals whose barge traffic had been rendered obsolete by speedier trains, and harbors whose working fishing vessels had been replaced by recreational boats -- made them more appealing to turn-of-the-century viewers." (H.B. Weinberg, D. Bolger and D.P. Curry, American Impressionism and Realism, New York, 1994, p. 67)
Blueberries and Ferns is an outstanding example of Curran's Impressionist landscapes. Curran has skillfully captured the simple joys and pleasures of a childhood summer morning spent picking blueberries. He depicts the hillside with soft ferns and flowers, an environment easy to sit in and comfortably pick blueberries. Curran has also painted his figures sweetly with soft features and with innocence. According to Kaycee Benton, the girl standing at left is Emily Curran, the artist's daughter. The figures are surrounded by the lush, green ferns and trees with hints of color in the flowers. He has emphasized the blueberry picking using the blue color of blueberries in Emily's (Curran's daughter) hair ribbons, in the boy's checked shirt and the woman's dress.
An American Impressionist landscape, genre and figure painter, Curran is perhaps best known for his plein air images of women and children in colorful summer landscapes. Curran frequently exhibited works at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1887 until 1935 and at the National Academy of Design in New York from 1883 through 1943, including Blueberries and Ferns, exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1912.
Blueberries and Ferns was painted during July 1911, in Cragsmoor, New York. Curran spent his summers in Cragsmoor, where he found the majority of subject matter for his work. Cragsmoor was a small art colony in the "Hudson River Valley outside of Ellenville. The genre specialist Edward Lamson Henry had built a house in Cragsmoor about 1884, after visiting in 1879. Frederick Dellenbaugh arrived two years later, and Eliza Greatorex in 1884. Many more came early in this century, at the time that Impressionism was proliferating. One of the painters involved with Impressionism was Charles Courtney Curran. Invited to Cragsmoor by Dellenbaugh in 1903, Curran was immediately charmed by it, and he completed a house there in 1910. Earlier he had done crisply rendered figures of elegant women in panoramic landscape and more softly rendered fantasy figures of fairylike women among roses, a rare example of American Symbolism. About the time Curran went to Cragsmoor, he turned to the theme that would involve him for the rest of his career: beautiful 'modern' young women in bright sunlight, often high on a hill or mountaintop, silhouetted against the brilliant blue sky. They are not unlike Frank Benson's contemporaneous canvases in spirit and aesthetic. Color is rich and Curran, like Benson, achieved a sense of vitality and immediacy; but his figures are far more sharply drawn and clearly outlined, and his surface sometimes almost enamel-like in contrast to Benson's more broken and varied ones. The clear drawing, slightly stylized forms, and limitless space inject an element of fantasy, a heritage perhaps of his earlier Symbolism." (American Impressionism, New York, 1984, p. 230)
This painting will be included in Kaycee Benton's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.