Mountain Stream, 1888

George Hetzel (1826-1899)
Mountain Stream, 1888
Oil on canvas, 21" x 35"
Collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA (88.37)

A work of George Hetzel's later career, Mountain Stream reveals a softer, looser brushstroke than some of his earlier works—possibly denoting the impact on Hetzel of the simple pastoral scenes favored by the American Barbizon School, which reached its peak in the last two decades of the 19th century. Characteristic of Hetzel's work in general, the stream that is the main focus of the painting bends at the horizon and recedes to the right, leaving the viewer unable to see from where the water originates. A fisherman stands in the middle ground on a prominent streamside rock, holding his catch in one hand and pole in the other, facing the viewer but blending into the dark shade of the trees behind him. It's almost as if he is posing for a photograph, but the brushstrokes are too loose to give a detailed view of him. The colors chosen suggest a hazy late afternoon in summer, with the yellow glow of the sky hinting at the possibility of a storm waiting to break the humidity, and the darkness of the foreground juxtaposed with the bright highlights of the background suggest a canopy over the head of the viewer, giving shade from the low-hanging sun. The wider pond the stream feeds into is cut off at the bottom of the painting, which brings the observer into the image, placing them squarely on the banks of the water, and enhances the sense that the painted scenery is almost real enough to touch.

Copyright ©2008 Stonycreek Quemahoning Initiative
Stonycreek-Quemahoning Initiative is a 501(c)(3) and a supporting organization of Conemaugh Valley Conservancy
Site Designed by Hurst Media Works, KH2 Design, FisherWorks Consulting and Recharge Web Design