William Lewis: "Crossing the River" (1946)

A fundamental distinction in Lewis’s early oil paintings is his use of muted hues in depicting plein air landscapes. His manipulation of light and perspective pays homage to the techniques of Post-Impressionist watercolorists, maintaining realistic representations consciously veiled in romantically muddled tones. His favoring of grayed yellows, reds and blues with the heavy black outline gives the viewer the distinct impression that we are allowed a view into Lewis’s own private memories. The contrast of the silhouetting to the surrounding landscape draws attention to the contrived scenery, languishing in the artifice that reinforces the industrial background with a palpable fondness. A champion of conveying humanity’s negative impact on the natural environment, Lewis presents us a with a uniquely wistful depiction of industrial 1940s Ann Arbor.

William Lewis, 1918-2020. "Crossing the River", 1946. Oil on canvas depiction of the Ann Arbor Railroad crossing the Huron River.  Signed "Lewis" lower right, titled "Crossing the River" and dated "1946" with Detroit Institute of the Arts Exhibition label verso.  Image measures 31 1/2 x 23 1/2" high, framed 33 3/4 x 26" high overall.


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