January 22, 2021
Donald Cronkhite, Gloaming, 2010. Oil on Linen, 28.5 x 93.5 inches
Gloaming by Donald Cronkhite is just one of forty-six paintings in his series, “Cloudscapes” (2004-present). For over two decades, this Wayne State alum has composed romanticized paintings of sights found in the natural world. He claims his style of painting has been greatly influenced by 17th century Dutch landscapes and 19th century Avant Garde art from France. In addition to the characteristics affiliated with those artistic periods found in Cronkhite’s work, he also idealizes the seemingly ordinary similarly to practices associated with romanticism.
Also, taking tips of the trade from abstract expressionists, Cronkhite uses highly saturated colors to convey the intense energy and mood present in the minutes leading up to a storm. Gloaming effectively demonstrates the ability for sharp contrasts between forms and hues to portray that intensity. The color of the sky, along with the title, indicate that the captured scene was around sunset or twilight. There are black and grey clouds that hold immense darkness within them, which vastly contrasts the bright white clouds which draw the viewer’s eyes towards them. In addition, the vibrant warm tones further provide a narrative that warns of the incoming storm.
Cronkhite’s desire with his “Cloudscapes” series is to stir up emotions in the audience. The series depicts cloud formations as they appeared just moments before a storm broke out. The realism in this painting, and throughout the series it belongs to, allows the viewers to connect personally to the scene by offering a sense of familiarity through representation of natural elements. These scenes appear realistic upon the viewer’s first interaction. Upon closer inspection, the abstraction qualities begin to arise. As one experiences the work in front of them, the large-scale work is meant to occupy their peripheral vision and seem as if it is overtaking their spatial experience. These elements all collaborate to stimulate the viewer's imaginations and emotions.
Written by Shannon Pincheck