This is Lack’s first Minnesota landscape painted not far from his home; it’s worth noting that Susanna also owns his last, (No. 000, Clouds). The fact the subject matter (clouds) is featured in one and the subject of the other is serendipitous.
Landscape painting by far was Lack’s favorite genre second only to imaginative painting. He completed more landscapes than any other subject matter (350 including watercolors). He was influenced by the Boston Impressionists; Dennis Miller Bunker, Frank W. Benson, Edmund Tarbel and Aldro Hibbard, who was still actively painting when Lack was studying with Gammell in Bosotn.1 He struggled at first and learned much from his fellow student, Robert Douglas Hunter while painting on Cape Cod during their summers together. “I learned a great deal by watching him, Hunter had the ability to see color without exaggeration.”2 Lack’s manner of painting evolved over time. Early in his career his approach, as represented in this work, was relatively loose the use of broken color was minimal. As he gained more confidence in seeing color he incorporated the use of broken color, his brush work became more precise, his use of color more lush. He credits Don Knostner (no. 000 Portrait of Don) with helping him to see the color in nature as only an impressionist painter can see it. “He had an incredible ability to capture the look of nature and was an impeccable colorist. I watched him paint and studied his work and I kept working outside, trying to be as objective as possible. Eventually I began to get better color.”3 By the mid 1970s his brushwork had become more precise, the use of broken color more controlled. He was seeing the color in nature: “I was beginning to see color, not looking into it, but seeing the color relationships. When artists first go outside, they tend to paint local color. They have no understanding of color relationship, how one color influences another. The first person to see that was Monet. I knew the theory and had seen many good landscapes, but I had to learn to see the notes (of color) in relationship, to make comparisons. To see color truly, you must look slightly away from it and compare it with the surrounding colors. To do so was a challenge, like putting together a puzzle.”4
Lack painted several paintings of the Minnesota River Valley during his career with the city of Shakopee is in the distance on the other side of the river. The river valley area has been built up considerably since this painting was completed in 1958.5
1 Stephan Gjertson, “Landscape”, pp. 00, Richard Lack: An American Master, The American Society of Classical Realism, Minneapolis, MN, 2002, ISBN 0-9636180-3-2.
2 Stephan Gjertson, “Landscape”, pp. 00, Richard Lack: An American Master, The American Society of Classical Realism, Minneapolis, MN, 2002, ISBN 0-9636180-3-2.
3 Stephan Gjertson, “Landscape”, pp. 00, Richard Lack: An American Master, The American Society of Classical Realism, Minneapolis, MN, 2002, ISBN 0-9636180-3-2.
4 Stephan Gjertson, “Landscape”, pp. 00, Richard Lack: An American Master, The American Society of Classical Realism, Minneapolis, MN, 2002, ISBN 0-9636180-3-2.
5 “Minnesota State”. Minnesota Historical Society: The Minnesota River is a tributary of the Mississippi River. It rises in southwestern Minnesota, flowing southeast to Mankato, then turns northeast. It joins the Mississippi south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, near historic Fort Snelling. The valley is one of several distinct regions of Minnesota. Of Dakota language origin, the name Minnesota means “sky-tinted water or cloudy-sky water”, often transcribed as “minne” or “mini” meaning “water” and “sóta” meaning “sky-tinted” or “cloudy sky”. This refers to the milky-brown color its waters take on when at flood stage. For over a century prior to the organization of the Minnesota Territory in 1849, the name St. Pierre (St. Peter) had been generally applied to the river by French and English explorers and writers. Minnesota River is shown on the 1757 edition of Mitchell Map as “Ouadebameniſsouté” [Watpá Mnísota] or R. St. Peter”. In 1853, acting upon a request from the Minnesota territorial legislature, the United States Congress decreed the aboriginal name for the river, Minnesota, to be the river’s official name and ordered all agencies of the federal government to use that name when referencing it.
The valley that the Minnesota River flows in was carved into the landscape by the massive glacial River Warren between 11,700 and 9,400 years ago at the end of the last ice age in North America. Pierre-Charles Le Sueur was the first European to visit the river. The Minnesota Territory, and later the state, were named for the river.