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An example of work by Joseph F. (Joe) Sweeney
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following, submitted July 2004 and updated June 2014 is from the artist who works in oil and pastel:|
"Joseph Sweeney's art is able to speak to moderns using the language of classical
landscape painting which contemplates nature. Sweeney's paintings
demonstrate an enormous amount of thought, meditation, and intelligent
planning. His simplicity is deceptive. The artist's harmonious
and balanced compositions actually continue the complex, classical
tradition of landscape painting in our modern age." CATHY VIKSJO Chester County Town & Country Living Fall 1999
I want my work to convey is an in depth personal exploration of the
land, and my relationship to it. My work is simple and direct but still
retains a certain sense of mystery that is inherent in all living
Born in Philadelphia, February 9, 1950, in the Delaware Valley, Sweeney
began to study art seriously after serving two years in the navy in the
North Atlantic. With the money from the G.I. Bill he attended the
Philadelphia College of Art from 1972 to 1976. He was moved to
paint landscape after watching the land he grew up on go from rural
farms to suburban sprawl in the space of 10 years.
Sweeney graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing
from the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts),
Class of 1976. He studied with and was influenced by: Isa
Barnett, Sandy Ceaser, David Kettner, Boris Putterman, Gerry Herdman,
Jack Andrews, Ray Spiller, Morris Schulman, Warren Rorher, David
Fertig, Jane Piper, Sidney Goodman, and Lily Yeh.
He has a Masters Degree from Penn State University, 1980, Art & Architecture, and studied with Bruce Shobaken, Diane Pepe and Peter Jogo. A landscape
painter living in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, he has taught and is currently
teaching classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The
University of the Arts, Wayne Art Center, Woodmere Art Museum, Cabrini
College and Chester Springs Studio. His geographic ranges for his
paintings are from the farmland of interior Pennsylvania, to the shores
of the Delaware and Schuylkill River Valley, to the southern tip of New
He was Awarded Best of Show at 'Images '98' Central Pennsylvania Festival
of the Arts July 1998 and Best of Show for The Philadelphia Water Color
Club 98th Anniversary International exhibition of Works on Paper.
Following is a quote from the Water Color Club exhibition reviewer,
Fred B. Adelson, of The New York Times, Sunday, October 19, 1998:
"The award for best of show was given to a truly exquisite pastel, Jack's Mountain,
by Joseph Sweeney. This picture of farmland in central
Pennsylvania is a panoramic view (more than four feet wide) capturing
the natural effect of early-morning light. Mr. Sweeney's
carefully observed cloud-filled sky recalls those by' Constable in-his
19th-century English landscapes. The richly colored strokes of
greens and blues with subtle touches of yellow appear as smooth as
Bassett's ice cream.
Sweeney founded the Pennsylvania Center for Landscape Painting in Belleville,
Pennsylvania, three and a half hours northwest of Philadelphia. Classes
consist of weekend or week long stay at Hameau Farm for painting the
Pennsylvania landscape outdoors. A primary purpose of the Center is to
promote environmental education through the collaboration of the arts
and sciences. From November, 2001 to January 30, 2002, Sweeney and
other artists in the Center for Landscape Painting were featured at the
Susquehanna Art Museum in an exhibition titled Scapes and Scrapes: Peaceful Pennsylvania Landscapes and the Best of Woodturning from Around the World. As the founder of the movement, Sweeney was a special lecturer at the exhibition.
Nancy Bea Miller, "An Artist Changes Mediums", Fine Art Connoisseur, May/June 2011
M.S. Doherty, "Capturing Fleeting Scenes in Pastel", Plein Air Magazine, Summer 2011
Cover and article in American Artist Magazine, 2000 and 1984
2013 Joseph Sweeney, New Work, Bermuda, Masterworks Museum, Paget, Bermuda
2010 Plein Air Paintings, Carbon County Cultural Project, Jim Thorpe PA
First Annual Large Format Art Show Philadelphia Sketch Club, Philadelphia, PA
150th Annual Exhibition of Small Oil Paintings Ph. Sketch Club Philadelphia, PA
Salmagundi Club, Mood Indigo, New York, NY
147th Annual Exhibition of Small Oil Paintings Ph. Sketch Club , PA (Award for Best Landscape)
Plein Air for Camphill, Rosenfeld Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Surviving Ourselves: Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA
147th Annual Exhibition of Works on Paper Phila.Sketch Club Philadelphia, PA (Second Place Award)
Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2008, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA
"The Pennsylvania Landscape: Colonial to Contemporary",
Haverford College, The Cantor Fitzgerald
Gallery, March 7-April 1.
“Old School, New School, No School". Carbon County Cultural Project.
Jim Thorpe PA., 142nd Annual Exhibition of Small Oil Paintings
The Philadelphia Sketch Club Philadelphia, PA
Craft Forms, Wayne Art Center, Wayne PA
Works on Paper Show, The Philadelphia Sketch Club, Philadelphia, PA
Works on Paper Show, The Philadelphia Sketch Club, Philadelphia, PA
“Art of the State”: Pennsylvania ‘04 Juried Exhibition, The State Museum of
Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA
Faculty Exhibition Wayne Art Center, Wayne PA
The Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 106th Annual Exhibition Chester Springs, PA
The Unbroken Circle, Wayne Art Center, Wayne PA
Works on Paper Show, Philadelphia Sketch Club, (Best in Show), Philadelphia, PA
Fellowship of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 105th Annual Exhibition
Catherine Gibbons Granger Award for Landscape, Chester Springs, PA
The Gamble Mill Show , Bellefonte, PA
Landscapes-Mindscapes Exhibition, LBI Foundation, Long Beach Island, NJ
139th Annual Exhibition of Small Oil Paintings, Philadelphia Sketch Club, The Irish Coast, Philadelphia, PA
Exhibition titled "Philadelphia: A Crossroads for American Art,
1750-2000" in The Union Club of New York, and Debra Force Fine Art,
98th Anniversary International Exhibition of Works
on Paper, Philadelphia Water Color Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey;
Krasdale Gallery, New York, "Best of Show." "Images '98" Central
Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, state College, PA, "Best of Show."
Wayne Art Center Juried Exhibition, Wayne PA. "Best of Show."
Sechuan Fine Arts Institute, Chongging, China; Printmaking East/West Exchange, Tianjun, China.
The following is from Chester County Town & Country Living, Fall 1999
A R T: JOSEPH SWEENEY by Cathy Viksjo:
Joseph Sweeney's art is able to speak to moderns using the language of classical
landscape painting which contemplates nature. Probably the one thing
that people from all walks of life can agree upon is a good view. And
Joseph Sweeney, 49, has painted hundreds and hundreds of them.
But he is far more than a calendar artist who turns out pretty but
boring pictures, according to a formula. Mr. Sweeney's paintings
demonstrate an enormous amount of thought, meditation, and intelligent
planning. His simplicity is deceptive. The artist's harmonious and
balanced compositions actually continue the complex, classical
tradition of landscape painting in our modern age.
geographic ranges are from the farmland of interior Pennsylvania, to
the shores of the Delaware and Schuylkill River Valley, to the southern
tip of New Jersey. This is where I feel at home; this is where I like
to paint," said Mr. Sweeney, whose patrons come from Boston and Florida
to collect his pieces. And let's not forget the mood of Mr.
Sweeney's landscapes. They reflect a Zen-like equanimity with his
surroundings that few painters have mastered.
"I like to think
of my art as a quiet contemplation of nature. I have used landscape as
a metaphor for my own search for balance," said the artist who lives in
Ardmore with his wife, daughter and two sons. He graduated with a
bachelor of fine arts degree in painting and drawing from the
Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts), Class of
1976. He has a master's degree from Penn State University, Class of
1980, in art and architecture. Mr. Sweeney served in the U.S. Navy from
1969 to 1971 on a destroyer in the North Atlantic fleet. The artist has
taught or is currently teaching art classes at the Pennsylvania Academy
of the Fine Arts, The University of the Arts, Wayne Art Center and the
Woodmere Art Museum.
In Philadelphia, Mr. Sweeney has been
represented by Gross McCleaf Gallery on South 16th Street since 1980.
And more recently, his paintings can be found at Salon des Amies on
Yellow Springs Road in Malvern. Regionally, this contemporary
realist has garnered considerable recognition for his art, as well as
numerous awards. Other critics have written of his "striking and
exquisite panoramic views" which possess a "majestic timelessness."
how he does this, of course, is the crux of the matter. In the history
of art, Mr. Sweeney likes to quote Leonardo da Vinci who wrote, "Choose
only one master, Nature." It was the French classicist Nicolas Poussin
(1593-1665), not Leonardo, who formulated the golden means of landscape
painting. An intellectual at heart, Poussin argued that the basis of
landscape painting was to be found in the harmonious balance of the
horizontal and vertical elements in the design, wrote the late British
art historian Lord Kenneth Clark in his seminal study of landscape
painting. Since landscape is essentially horizontal, Poussin introduced
architecture or figures to balance his compositions. "It was essential
to Poussin's design that his verticals and horizontals should meet at
right angles," Clark wrote.
Like Poussin, Mr. Sweeney also looks
for the underlying harmonies of nature, and arranges them into a
logical composition. His ordered, balanced landscapes, mostly of
central Pennsylvania, are characterized by a pronounced horizontal
format. Mr. Sweeney organizes the compositional elements by arranging
trees, farm buildings and people at right angles. This gives his art
work its vertical complement. In his popular river scenes, again
primarily horizontal, the positioning of the oars provide that
necessary diagonal element into depth. Rowers too emphasize this
feature. Sometimes, he will take advantage of a winding diagonal
path, or the patterning of shadows cast by the sun, to give his
landscapes the illusion of depth.
Such is the case with Jack's Mountain, a "Best-in-Show" pastel in the 98th anniversary
International Exhibition of Works on Paper, sponsored by the
Philadelphia Water Color Club and held last fall in Atlantic City. It
is one of the most pristine vistas in contemporary art. A New York
Times art critic described it as a truly exquisite painting that
recalled the great landscapes of British painter John Constable
(1776-1837), who revolutionized landscape painting in the 19th century
by the powers of his direct observation. It was Constable, with
his fresh naturalistic vision, who set the stage for the optical
discoveries of the French Impressionists. Constable once wrote, "I have
never seen an ugly thing in my life."
Sweeney does have a strong affinity with the English painter,
particularly in his chiaroscuro, that is, the contrasts of lights and
darks. For Constable, this pattern of sunlight and shadows gave
his landscapes a dramatic unity. Mr. Sweeney's aesthetics are
much the same.
He plans his outdoor observations in two-hour
stints, catching as much as he can of atmospheric conditions before
they change with the sun's movement in the sky. Said the artist,
"Without light, there is nothing to paint for a landscape painter."
descriptive powers are finely tuned. Joe Sweeney delights in the
pleasure of seeing, or recording visual data, just like a poet
carefully penning his words. "When I'm painting, I'm taking notes. I'm
writing with paint so I have a record of the landscape. Every
mark counts," said the artist who quoted Irish poet Seamus Heaney's
dictum: "Landscape is sacramental; to be read as text." Joe Sweeney
noted, "In looking at a landscape carefully, it is my belief that you
can define the soul of a place. The experienced observer can determine
the health of a place and its people just by looking at the condition
of the land and its people."
Although he has absorbed several
influences in the history of art, Mr. Sweeney has an entirely original
and contemporary vision. He is never imitative. At the close of
our century, Joe Sweeney's environmental concern for preserving our
open spaces is forcefully expressed in the delicate balance between
man, architecture and nature in his artwork. With strip malls
multiplying like rabbits and housing developments cropping up like
weeds, there is good reason to be alarmed.
Said Mr. Sweeney,
"I have been watching the landscape of Pennsylvania change for close to
50 years. At first, I didn't like it under any circumstances. But as
the population grows, people have to go somewhere. The question is
whether it is done in an unbridled fashion or is the growth done in a
well-ordered intelligent plan. I vote for the plan," said Mr. Sweeney,
citing Thomas Hylton's recent book, A Plan for Pennsylvania.
Sweeney asks us to consider these issues by his in-depth exploration of
the world around us. He gives substance to modern landscape. "By
exploring my relationship as an individual to the natural world, I am
looking for the answers to such questions as: 'How do we interact
with the world around its . . . What are our responsibilities to it as
caretakers and where do we fit in?' The answers to these questions are
out there, we have to learn to see them."
Cathy Viksjo is a regional art critic who holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in art history from Bryn Mawr College.
ADDITIONAL QUOTES: (Provided by the artist)
Joe Sweeney ...He has a sharp eye for the beauty of nature, which he
finds in quiet and tranquil scenes showing nature existing in deepest
harmony with man.
ARTFORUM, Ronny Cohen, Sept. 1989 (USA) page 147
In Painterly realism, unlike Photographic realism, the brush strokes
and tactile surfaces become important! Estelle Gross speaking about the
work of Joe Sweeney. THE ILLUSTRATED, Palm Beach, Candyce H. Stapen, Regional Artists. Fall 1989, (Palm Beach FL)
The award for best of show was given to a truly exquisite pastel, Jack's Mountain, by Joseph Sweeney. This picture of farmland in
central Pennsylvania is a panoramic view (more than four feet wide)
capturing the natural effect of early-morning light. Mr.
Sweeney's carefully observed cloud-filled sky recalls those by'
Constable in-his 19th-century English landscapes. The richly
colored strokes of greens and blues with subtle touches of yellow
appear as smooth as Bassett's ice cream. (Review of the Philadelphia
Watercolor Club Works on Paper Show, The New York Times, Sunday, October 18 1998 Fred B. Adelson 'On the Towns' Art Review)
Joe Sweeney, un-ostentatious landscape painter, follows his own
expressive needs which in this case is contemporary realism. Sweeney
show a deep receptivity to his source scene, yet manages not to end up
with a reportorial look so much as an icon.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, July 18, 1999 Victoria Donohoe The Arts MD4
Joseph Sweeney is the ideal complement to the 19th
century artist smitten by the Shore. He focuses on ocean vistas and
captures the immediacy of cloud-filled skies to recall Hamilton and his
contemporaries. In conversation, Mr. Sweeney acknowledged the
importance of “being there,” working out on the sand. Yet when asked if
there was something special about the coastline at Atlantic City since
he paints views from Barnegat to Cape May, he sheepishly but honestly
acknowledged, “The site can depend on an invitation to a friend’s shore
house.” (The New York Times, Sunday, June 27, 2004 Fred B. Adelson, Arts & Entertainment page 9, Art Review)
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