(American, born 1938)
July 1988 (The Linden Tree), 1988
oil on linen, 60 x 60 inches (152.5 x 152.5 centimeters)
Courtesy of the Artist and Alexander and Bonin, New York
Sylvia Plimack Mangold finds the subject matter for her art in the immediate environment of her home and studio in upstate New York. Even the bare walls and oak floorboards of her house have provided ample inspiration for numerous paintings. Through her sustained observation of such ordinary spaces, she compels us to become more intimately aware of our own surroundings.
In recent years, Mangold’s focus has shifted to the landscape around her house, including this linden tree, which she has painted often and under different weather conditions. Minor details such as leaves and twigs are only indicated, giving emphasis to the essential light, color, and motion of the overall scene. In order to best convey her direct experience of nature, she paints outdoors in the tradition of plein air (“in the open air”) painting made popular by the French Impressionists a century earlier. Close inspection of this painting reveals several small flies captured in the paint layer while it was still wet.
I could paint looking at that tree for years. It seems like I’m just beginning to grasp the way the forms exist in proportion to each other and to go about fitting them into a square or rectangle. I want this painting to do what a tree does: to enclose you but still let you feel the outdoors – open and airy.