Kenyon College

Garden (Maine)


Gretna Campbell
(American, 1923-1987)

Garden (Maine), 1962
oil on canvas
53 x 57 inches
Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts; Gift of the Longview Foundation

Garden (Maine) is a significant work in Gretna Campbell’s early period, in that it foreshadows the figurative approach to expressionism that she developed throughout her career, while having attended the Arts Students League and later teaching at the Yale School of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Philadelphia College of Art, among other institutions. In this piece, Campbell references grass and trees as well as other aspects of nature, making the initially chaotic scene more comprehensible as a landscape. In her use of bold pigments, Campbell pushes the principles of Abstract Expressionism by emphasizing color and movement. Much of Campbell’s work was painted at her house on Cranberry Isle, Maine, the namesake for this piece. Her passion for the outdoors inspired her to paint outside, even in the lively, brisk winds of the isle. This allowed her to paint through feeling nature rather than simply viewing it. In Garden (Maine), the entirety of the work’s canvas is completely saturated in hues that reflect an autumnal landscape. Also, Campbell’s use of loose brushstrokes creates lively, dynamic movements, mirroring the seaside winds that she felt while painting in the garden of her island home. For Campbell, the expressiveness of painting was a reminder that landscape cannot be contained in language.

-Annabel La Riva, ‘19