Does artistic genre affect what I see?

When I stumbled on this scene my first reaction was “how pastoral this looks” which is odd since I don’t usually think in terms of artistic genre.  Nonetheless, what I saw was the peaceful, soft, illuminated aspects of color, shadow and light I’ve come to associate with paintings I’ve been told are Pastoral in their style.  Turning to the go-to universal definition place (Wikipedia) I expected to find a comprehensive article on this painting style, the influences on its development, major contributors to the genre and how it was supplanted by the continued evolution of visual arts.  At least I was hoping to find some aspects of why we find some scenes “pastoral.”

Turns out this term is used to covered a lot of art, from writing to poetry to music, and yes, painting.  What isn’t seemingly clear, at least in language I could understand, is how the genre is defined.  Reading several critical pieces on the form it seemed all the writers class this style of art not by what it delivers but rather what it is trying to avoid.  Pastoral turns away from urban, civilized, organized, routine aspects of life to embrace the wild, natural, agricultural.  It uses simplicity as a way to forestall complexity.  Some critics indicate it’s simply art about shepherds and their lifestyle (not sure why shepherds are more pastoral than cowboys, farmers or conservationalists other than all those Greek plays and pottery extolling the lives of shepherds).

Way too much information.  I finally found a comment about how the Hudson River school arose in this country as an off-shoot of English Pastoral tradition and then it clicked for me.  The Hudson River school was about romanticism, showing how humans and nature co-exist peacefully.  Portrayals were at times idealized, at times realistic, many times showing the wildness of nature as a backdrop for the idyllic state of agriculture.

Thomas Kincade is probably the most well known American painter using this type of portrayal (although his work is not traditional Hudson River school), a style characterized by the self-proclaimed phrase “Painter of Light,” which was originally attributed to J. M. W. Turner.  Perhaps it was the light that caught my attention immediately in the above scene.  Or the warm vs. cool color palette.  Or just how inviting the composition appeared.  For whatever reasons, it seemed pastoral to me so I make this image to share the moment with you.


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