Los Angeles

Balcomb Greene

La Jolla Museum of Art

Balcomb Greene was represented by sixteen medium-to-large oils of mixed landscape and figure subjects, all painted in a rather dry, sparse manner with large white areas as one of the most prominent features. In the pure land- or seascapes, the white works conventionally in the manner of the oriental watercolorists, and often suggests fog or mist rising from the water. But it works differently on the figures, giving the impression of a thick, white, fluid light—rather as if the figure were being defined in hot wax. The white in all of the paintings is important, but only in those works dealing with the figure does it function with a deep psychological communication.

The reason may be that the lack of complete delineation is in itself slightly disturbing, for the white areas give the impression that the figure is standing in an intense, unearthly brightness—frozen by some unimaginable holocaust. The lack of complete delineation of the figure forces the anthropomorphic mind of the spectator to complete the figure himself in the space provided, a reaction that is not called forth by incomplete rocks or pools of water. Under these conditions, the white light becomes malevolent and searing, in contrast to the placid, fog-like quality of the pure landscapes. It is also notable that the presence of the figure causes the light to be equally intense on the background elements, so that the landscape features in works with figures in them share this psychological communication. Among the works, “Avenue of Trees,” “Two Women,” and “Fashion Street” convey the deepest sense of this miasma, while “Amsterdam” and “Morning” present a quality of arrested holocaust.

H. J. Weeks