The advent of Plein Air
'Fairylands' (1890) by Ross Turner (American 1847 - 1915)

By Elise Outerbridge

When Princess Louise arrived in Bermuda in 1885 she not only created quite a stir, but also heralded the beginning of tourism on the island. The word of the island’s beauty quickly spread, especially up and down the eastern seacoast of the United States and attracted a special breed of tourist — the “Plein Air” painter. Impressionism had made its way to America from France around the turn of the century and flourished in art colonies in such places as Old Lyme Conn. And Shinnecock on Long Island. They sought to convey the fleeting effects of sunlight and atmosphere on canvas and this was best achieved outdoors. The big issue was it was a bit cold outside in January, so many artists migrated to more congenial climates, such as Bermuda. Ross Sterling Turner was one such artist who made frequent trips to Bermuda to paint from 1885 through the early 1900s, often accompanied by fellow painters such as his brother-in-law Dwight Blaney. Fairylands is a perfect example of Turner’s impressionist style — quick, featherlike brush strokes which flit across the water and the lush foliage anchored by the luminescent white of the roof top and touches of the canvas glowing through in shades of pearly, waxy greys. The house depicted in this painting still stands at the mouth of Fairylands creek and is thought to be the home of the Dismont family. The home is still recognizable today despite some modern additions.

Elise Outerbridge is curator at Masterworks.

A sky echoed on water
'Sunrise, St George's, Bermuda' by Cole Weston (American 1919 - 2003)

By Tom Butterfield

Cole Weston was one of three sons of Edward Weston. 

He was his father’s dark room assistant in Carmel, California helping to print Edward’s portfolios under the famous photographer’s scrupulous eye and in 1946 started to experiment with Kodachrome when Kodak sent the studio some 8 x10 samples for testing. 

From that time on, he differentiated his work from his brother Brett and father by working mainly in colour. Cole was not deterred by the fact that colour was then considered a less than noble medium. In 1970, he left his job as the first Cultural Department manager in Carmel to sail to Bermuda with his family. This Bermuda work, entitled Sunrise, St George’s, Bermuda, was included in his book Home and Abroad and is a fine example of his oeuvre. 

We are presuming that he was aboard his boat in St George’s Harbour looking eastward at Town Cut just as the sun was rising. It evokes the decisive moment where the balance of the sky is echoed on the water. The brilliant, warm rays reach out in every direction and you get a sense of the sleepy town just beginning to awake.

It is a puzzle to us that he would only take one photograph while in Bermuda, given the quality of the light and the unusual landscapes and architecture, but so far, this is the sole picture we have been able to find from his Bermuda sojourn.

Tom Butterfield is founder at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.