Birge Harrison is recognized as one of America's leading Tonalist painters. A native Philadelphian, Harrison studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he credited Thomas Eakins as a major influence. As a Tonalist, Harris was well known for his subtle paintings of winter landscapes and street scenes. His landscapes often featured dark, neutral hues.
Relying on such a deeply muted palette of limited neutral colors, Harrison has created a somber atmospheric mood amongst the winter shadows and a subdued setting that recalls the works of James McNeil Whistler and George Inness. The dim atmosphere, however, is relieved by the startlingly white snow and secondarily by the reflections of the landscape in the water. Harrison's application of a subtle range of hues -in this instance blacks, grays, and browns-evokes all the nuances of light from the snow and its reflection as well as the surrounding atmosphere. The softened details and the darkness create a quiet, meditative atmosphere. Harrison championed what he called:
"the big vision-the power to see and to render the whole of a given scene or picture motive, rather than to paint a still-life picture of its component parts; the power to give the essential and to suppress the inessential, the power to paint the atmosphere which surrounds the objects rather than the objects themselves…."
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Acquired from the above March 23, 1918
The George D. Horst Collection of Fine Art
One Hundred and Thirteenth Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 3-March 28, 1918, no. 23 (label verso)