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An American Luminist

In his Luminist landscapes and portraits, Norman Powell interprets and celebrates the ever-changing American present and reveals his fascination with the interaction of sunlight and the natural environment. – from “Refreshing Pause” by Dalhart Windberg

An Intimate Sense of Place

Norman Powell’s pastorals portray nature’s illumination as numinous, all-encompassing light that overwhelms and transforms. His canvases often evoke an intimate sense of place or unseen presence and mood. Generally, only transient vestiges of man appear in Powell’s idyllic scenes, mere footnotes to the passage of time in eternity, set off against eternal mountains, sky, and nature’s self-generating abundance.

Smooth-surface Techniques

Powell’s noble landscapes are a southwestern expression of the Luminist style as defined in the paintings of John F. Kensett, Fitz Hugh Lane and Martin Johnson Heade. The influences of his early mentor, Dalhart Windberg, can be seen in the brushwork and detail of Powell’s smooth-surface techniques.

Lot 23, "Sunset over Lake George," by John Frederick Kensett, oil on canvas, 28 by 46 inches, 1867

Lot 23, “Sunset over Lake George,” by John Frederick Kensett, oil on canvas, 28 by 46 inches, 1867

Compositions in the Country

Powell’s interest in light and its relationship to the pastoral, leads him to place most of his compositions in the country. There he discovers a singular beauty in this interaction of light and the natural environment, a phenomenon more interesting to him than either factor alone. In his paintings, the harmony between sunlight and nature illuminates both in constant redefinition.

Powell’s landscapes, free of narrative detail, are rooted in the realistic depiction of nature. However, his use of heightened color and subjectively nuanced form signal the dominance of a psychic presence, mood, and spirituality.

The Presence of the Invisible

Powell’s foray into still-life painting and figures illustrates the presence of the invisible in the humble objects and experience of daily life.

A Sculpture of Fitz Hugh Lane

A Sculpture of Fitz Hugh Lane

Surrealism vs. Luminism

Powell’s dramatic atmospherics have as much in common with Surrealism as with Luminism. Each Surrealist creates his own reality by endowing fact with subjective, spiritual significance, which is nonetheless predominant. Indeed, one series of Powell’s paintings are landscapes which are imaginary. Yet Powell differs from the Surrealists in the themes and phenomena from which he constructs his imaginary views, for his canvases are free of frightening, nightmare elements, or subtle suggestion from ominous shadows. The components of Powell’s imaginary worlds are all natural elements, heightened shapes, and colors, which constitute moments of revelation, a contemplation of pure form and color, liberated from the restraints of reason, rules, objectively accepted patterns, shapes and colors.

Powell’s landscapes of the mind bring to ultimate fruition the theme of all-encompassing and indestructible beauty. They are a visionary reality in American Luminism.

by Richard Scott Perkins


Norman’s birth mother christened him “Richard Scott Perkins,” and Norman authored this piece in that name.  To learn about Norman’s family please click here.

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