In the Range of Light: Framing James McGrew for Beloved California

We just framed this 11″ x 14″ oil painting by James McGrew for our upcoming all-gallery show, Beloved California VII: Twenty Painters with a Passion for Place. For “Bridalveil Sunset,” we made a pretty simple slope in stained quartersawn white oak but added a beveled sight molding. A slip leafed in 23 kt gold completes it, and seems to catch the sunlight emanating from the canvas.James McGrew paintingWorking in Yosemite as a seasonal ranger/naturalist for the past 25 summers, James’s painting is informed by a deep knowledge, understanding and devotion to the park and its history. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any painters today more intimately connected to Yosemite National Park. (One collector we know regards James as the premier painter of America’s national parks.)

James McGrew paintingAbout this painting, James McGrew says, “I love the way the spring and early summer sunset illuminates Bridalveil fall while the foreground falls into cool shadows. Painting this scene on location is always both a thrill and challenge because the light changes so quickly and the shadows progress up the cliff in just a few minutes. I mostly painted it on location two summers ago but the light only lasts in that position for about five minutes and I never finished it on site despite two or three attempts. I finally finished it this week in the studio.”

That “thrill and challenge” James speaks of are primary motives of plein air painters—to capture on canvas or paper short-lived effects of sunlight that may be extraordinary or just extraordinarily evocative. Where better to explore that than in the Sierra Nevada, the Range of Light?

Another Yosemite piece from James McGrew, a beautiful winter scene, the artist painted just for the show. But you’ll have to wait to see that one.

Beloved California VII: Twenty Painters with a Passion for Place opens Saturday, November 12—two weeks from today—with a reception for the artists from 1 to 4. I hope you’ll join us.


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