Mountain Trail (1874)
Thorvald Simon Niss (b. 1842 - d. 1905)
In the 19th century, innovations in landscape art were heavily influenced by the French Barbizon school. Here, a key innovation was the practice of painting en plein air, outdoors ... in the open air. Prior to this, artists worked in studios, close to the resources to mix their paints and securely mount their canvases to sturdy easels. With the innovations of premixed paints in a tube and portable easels, the artists moved outdoors where they could capture the every-changing skies, landscapes, and weather directly onto their canvas. This en plein air technique, combined with impressionism, created a new style for landscape artist like Niss. Loose brushstrokes, earth toned colors, and natural light seems to draw the viewer into the scene. Paintings were often done quickly with fast, long brushstrokes to complete the painting while the weather cooperated.
Niss favored fall and winter scenes. His masterful techniques carefully capture the details of barren trees and gray, gloomy skies. Mountain Trail highlights several features which define Niss' work, the barren trees, the grayed skies, and the trail that draws one into the scene. Unlike many of Niss' trails that lead to distant wildlife or farm animals, Mountain Trail leads to the majestic mountains as the destination for the eyes.