Astoria Fine Art, July 25-August 5
This story was featured in the August 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art August 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
It used to be that wildlife art meant one thing: meticulously rendered animals in realistically portrayed natural settings. No more. Today artists paint wildlife with a wide range of creative approaches. This month, Astoria Fine Art celebrates this diversity with a 10-day show devoted to contemporary wildlife art by four modern masters—Andrew Denman, Ewoud de Groot, Mark Eberhard, and Morten Solberg.
Though the artists may hesitate at the accolade, managing partner Greg Fulton says the term “master” is well deserved for each of them. With a career spanning more than five decades, Solberg is a legend in the world of watercolor. He is known for his blend of photo-realistic subjects and abstract backgrounds, an approach that de Groot and Denman also take in their respective ways. De Groot fashions impressionistic backgrounds for his birds, buffalo, elk, and moose, while Denman renders graphic, stylized settings for his birds and exotic wildlife.
Of Solberg, Fulton observes, “He uses abstract edges and vignettes. It’s very contemporary, and he’s had that contemporary look for several decades, which is seemingly impossible to do. His work is still fresh and relevant.”
Florida-based Solberg touts the value of realism, even in the contemporary genre. “If you can’t paint realistically, you can’t abstract it,” he says. “If I can create the atmosphere of an animal with a few strokes or a few values, I’ve succeeded. I want to create the feeling of what it feels like to be in the woods with a grizzly bear, or to stand on an ice flow in Alaska.” Solberg begins his paintings with the background, finding a suitable subject to place in that setting.
Birds are primary for painter Mark Eberhard. “His career is as hot as can be,” says Fulton. “He’s finally achieving the recognition he deserves, with museums acquiring his work for their permanent collections and placing it in the ranks of Remington, Russell, and other old masters.”
The Ohio-based artist sometimes draws upon views close to home. One painting depicts nine birds, among them a cardinal, a blue jay, and a sparrow—all of whom visit a feeder at the back of his property. A second work shows a stark contrast in geographic inspiration. Drawn to graphically interesting trees when he last visited Jackson Hole, Eberhard painted the pines in a nocturne, with the trunks barely visible against the night sky. A roosting raven completes the scene.
Fulton anticipates as many as a dozen new pieces from each artist—a coup, he says, since it’s rare to have a dozen new works at a time from any one of the artists. As a group, these four offer a body of work that transcends traditional expectations of wildlife art. —Ashley M. Biggers
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