View Full Version : Copy of "The Tow Path" by William L. Lathrop

Donna T
07-16-2009, 03:17 PM
I am really attracted to the subject and composition of this painting which was acquired by the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. in 1921. According to a book I have about American Impressionists it was probably painted in 1920. I am hoping to keep all the greens from taking over and will need help when I get to the water. I did a thumbnail sketch in proportion to the photo in my book and then enlarged the thumbnail so my copy is in proportion to the original. I didn't do a grid or anything like that, just want to keep things in the same basic proportion so the composition isn't changed too much. Mostly I just like the feel of this oil painting and hope to capture some of it and hopefully learn along the way. This is only for study - never for sale.

Here's the original:

My underpainting - hopefully these warm colors will help me control the greens. I'm going to have to figure out the shapes of the trees too - they are kind of one big mass in several areas. This is 12 x 14 on watercolor paper with a combination of gray Colourfix and burnt sienna acrylic paint. It kind of looks like the tone that shows through the painting.


I defined the trees a little so I'll know where to put my lights and darks and put in the sky. Starting to add the dark areas - some warm, some cool - and think about putting in some warm colors in the trees, trying to save the greens for last. I'm not going to put in the very dark tree on the right edge. I hope Mr. Lathrop doesn't mind but I just can't have that very dark shape on the edge of a painting!


I welcome any thoughts and suggestions so far. I'll keep plugging along and try to make this less of a copy and more of my interpretation. I haven't been able to find out if this was done as a plein air or studio painting. Hopefully, I'll be able to go see the original someday.


07-16-2009, 04:57 PM
Donna, what an interesting project. I'll be watching to see how it goes!

Tracy Lang
07-16-2009, 08:31 PM
Hi Donna,
I love what you've done so far...looking forward to seeing more!


07-16-2009, 09:05 PM
Hi Donna, so far very good. will be looking for your progress in the next post.

Kathryn Wilson
07-16-2009, 09:21 PM
Can't wait to see your next post.

Tell me why you won't be putting in that dark tree on the right .... hmmmm???

07-16-2009, 11:05 PM
This is looking very nice, Donna.


07-17-2009, 06:50 AM
Lovely so far! And a beautiful painting by Mr. Lathrop I might add. I'll be watching this project with interest. :)

Donna T
07-17-2009, 07:44 AM
Thanks everyone, I'm going to have to tackle those greens today ... and the water. If this doesn't work I'll consider it a WIP (Wreck in Progress) :eek:

Kat, in the photo of the painting the tree on the right is the darkest value. Maybe it's not this way in the original but it draws my eye too much right to the very edge. I don't know if you can tell, but there's a tiny figure on the path. I was thinking that area should be more of the center of interest. Do you think I should keep those trees on the right?


Kathryn Wilson
07-17-2009, 07:55 AM
Donna - ask yourself, are you making a "copy" of the painting, or your version of the painting? He put those trees there for a reason, I am thinking, to stop the eye from going out of the painting. Perhaps they are a bit too dark on your image, but in the real painting the colors might be a bit more subdued ???

Donna T
07-17-2009, 08:11 AM
I see what you mean, Kat. I kind of don't like the boxed in feeling those trees give me but at the same time I can see where there might need to be something there. Maybe some not-so-dark value weedy stuff but no specific branches or leaves to focus on?


Kathryn Wilson
07-17-2009, 08:39 AM
I did a painting once where I only showed a shadow and it was remarked that it needed something to indicate why it was a shadow (like the tree). I think you need something there.

Until you pointed out the figure, I did not notice it being there - so you might be correct in thinking that the dark tree is taking the focus off that figure.

07-17-2009, 08:46 AM
I haven't been able to find out if this was done as a plein air or studio painting. Hopefully, I'll be able to go see the original someday. Donna
Looks like that painting is part of the traveling exhibition 'American Impressionism: Paintings from The Phillips Collection', which is in Santa Fe right now (http://www.phillipscollection.org/exhibitions/tour/index.aspx).

Quick, someone, drive up there and see about that dark foliage on the right!:) :) :)

Donna, when the painting comes back home after the first of the year, maybe we can make an appointment to go see it, if they don't hang it. That would be fun! (I know scholars can make appointments to see pieces in the NGA (http://www.nga.gov/) collection that are in storage and I'll bet the Phillips offers the same courtesy.)

There are also two books that might offer more info on Lathrop's working methods, whether he worked plein air or not:
-- Intimate Vistas: The Poetic Landscapes of William Langson Lathrop, B Peterson, ed. (http://www.michenermuseum.org/shop/product.php?id=1)
-- Pennsylvania Impressionism, by B Peterson (http://www.michenermuseum.org/shop/product.php?id=11) (We have this one in the library. I'll take a look at it next week.)

I look forward to seeing your process unfold. Thanks for posting!!


07-17-2009, 08:58 AM
Donna, I tend to fallow the stream pause at the dark tree and head right into the light green field. if you have some more darks on that side ( you have your shadows in the grasses etc.) it will look more even and that one tree you will not think it stand out as much. after all this is your shadow side. don't think yourself out of the painting midway. let it flow, paint what you see. if you dont like it when it's done you could always change it.

Lynne Vokatis
07-17-2009, 09:50 AM
donna you have a very interesting project going. Its looking good...ill keep watching:) lynne

Deborah Secor
07-17-2009, 11:34 AM
Great exercise, Donna! I find inspiration such as this very helpful in thinking through what I'm doing in my work.

One thing that's missing at the moment is the secondary path along the bank. By adding that into the mix early in the process you'll leave room for the figure, which I consider to be critically important to the composition. In a painting roughly 22x30" (original sizes are listed as varied, but in that range) the artist was able to emphasize that figure, around which the 'wheel' of the composition turns.


Obviously there's more to the comp than just these lines, but here's where my eye travels:


So for my two cents, I think the path, the figure and the dark tree are all important elements IF you're copying this painting. Now, it could be that you decided to simply enjoy it and let it inspire something totally different, such as color or mood, but I thought I'd share my observations.

It might be fun to give this one a try myself, as inspiration--and MAYBE then I could get up to SF to see it in person! Wouldn't that be fun? :D

Keep going. I'll be interested to see where you head.


Donna T
07-17-2009, 02:19 PM
Jan, I wish I had access to either of those books! Mostly I've admired the work of the Pennsylvania Impressionists in the American Art Review magazine. Daniel Garber is a favorite of mine and I read that he hung out with Mr. Lathrop.

Pete, I'm beginning to think I need that tree. Thanks.

Lynne, Maybe I should have borrowed some of your texture stuff!

Deborah, I was trying to be a good girl and squint when comparing the values for my underpainting so that's why the path isn't defined yet, but I will definitely add it and the figure too. I have to make sure I have some good darks behind the figure so it will show up at all. Thanks for showing the lines of the composition! I knew the figure was placed by the artist specifically in that spot but never considered the lines of the trees. Very interesting! I would love to know how much of that was coincidence and how much was artistic license. I can see where the darks are needed on the right and at first I assumed the artist simply included too much of what he saw but now you have me thinking that he probably moved some other dark areas to fit that part of the painting. Wouldn't this be a good painting for a make-your-own-greens challenge?


Donna T
07-17-2009, 05:23 PM
Here's today's progress. Nothing is finished, just put some preliminary leafy squiggles on the right. I put in the darkest water color and added those dark leaves on the right. I think I have defined the trees too much on the left. It is very hard to follow someone else's work! He did the trees with lots of dots and dashes and I'm more of a squiggler so other than the basic composition my painting seems to be taking on a life of its own.


Yikes ... the left side is warmer IRL. I tried to adjust in Photoshop with levels and brightness but I never get it right.

07-17-2009, 08:41 PM

This is looking fantastic so far. I love the trees on the left. Those marks are so interesting to me.

I have the book that Jan mentioned, Pennsylvania Impressionism, and it doesn't specifically mention whether or not this particular painting was produced indoors or out, but it does say that Lathrop sketched outdoors but preferred to do his "serious" works in his studio, from memory.

I haven't read this book yet, but it's very beautiful to look at. This painting that you're doing isn't included, unfortunately.


Lynne Vokatis
07-18-2009, 02:14 PM
donna, im enjoying watching this!I like what your doing. i really like your sky!you should try the texture tech sometime too...:wink2: i think youde have fun with it!!lynne

Donna T
07-20-2009, 08:50 AM
Terri, Thanks. That book is on my wish list. I hope there is work by Daniel Garber in it!

Lynne, I'll leave the texture thing to you until you figure out exactly how it should be done ... then I'll try it. :wink2:

I guess this is about as finished as it's going to get. It was good as a learning experience but I found it very hard to do - worse than working from someone else's photo! How can those people who forge artwork stand it? It's just a weird feeling trying to stifle your own sense of creativity.


Here's a closeup of the figure. I added the little brown blob to the left. That's me walking my dog. :)

C&C welcome!


07-20-2009, 09:14 AM
This turned out great Donna!

The Pennsylvania Impressionism book does have quite a bit about Daniel Garber.


george c martins
07-20-2009, 10:07 AM
hi Donna

beautifully done and a great lesson...thank you....


Donna T
07-20-2009, 06:13 PM
Thanks for checking out the finish Terri and George. I appreciate your comments!


Kathryn Wilson
07-20-2009, 06:36 PM
Beautifully done - but something strange here - it looks like you painted it, not Garber. Makes one think that our own true style will always win out.

I love it!

Paula Ford
07-20-2009, 06:40 PM
It turned out just gorgeous Donna!

Donna T
07-21-2009, 07:56 AM
Thanks Kat and Paula. Since there was no way I could duplicate the brushstrokes in oil I figured I might as well build the texture of the trees with my squiggly strokes. It was a good way to keep from getting too fussy - it's hard to fuss with a squiggle!


07-21-2009, 09:23 AM
Hi Donna,
I'm joining this late but I'm so impressed. I'd recognize you and your dog anywhere!!!

It's truly lovely and I'm sure you learned a lot in the process about values and greens. I'm with you about copying masters... seems boring.


Mario V
07-21-2009, 10:08 AM
Donna, this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing :)

Deborah Secor
07-21-2009, 10:29 AM
Agreed--a good, strong 'Donna' finish! :D You used all the elements well and yet made it your own.


Donna T
07-21-2009, 04:52 PM
Thank you Barb, Mario and Deborah. You should all be able to recognize me if we meet on the street now. I look just like that!


07-22-2009, 01:04 AM
Donna, This came out fantastic as I said love the light and shadows in the walk way. and your trees are great also. very well done.

Merethe T
07-22-2009, 08:31 AM
Beautiful, Donna! It can be a good learning experience to copy masters, you've created a lovely interpretation! I can see you in it.... :thumbsup:

Karen Margulis
07-22-2009, 02:35 PM
Very Nice!!! I am enjoying following your progress. I have the book Intimate Vistas and really love looking at Lathrop's work. I got it on amazon and it is well worth it if you are a fan of his work.

Donna T
07-22-2009, 03:16 PM
Thanks Pete, Merethe and Karen, although I can't take any credit for this one - all the work was done for me. I will look into that book, Karen; thanks for telling me about it!