Orlando Museum of Art

Through May 30, 2019

The phrase “surrealist landscape painting” might conjure images of Salvador Dali’s fantastic vistas complete with melting timepieces and architectural ruins. Of course, Surrealism isn’t limited to Dali and his clocks. Winifred Johnson Clive painted her vision of surreal landscapes by infusing the ordinary with a hint of magic and mystery.

Winifred Johnson Clive: An Artist at Home and Abroad, currently on view at the Orlando Museum of Art, examines the work of an artist who painted in Le Grenier style with an artist group in Biarritz, France. According to gallery text, Clive and her group “professed to paint with a ‘spirit vision’ or ‘dreamlike vision’ that looked beyond the commonplace reality of their subjects,” and that these artists viewed their work as “surreal coming to the rescue of the real.”

This resulted in paintings somewhere between Cubism and abstraction with a dash of action painting for good measure. Clive’s Springtime in the Pyrenees exemplifies this combination of art movements working in perfect harmony. Fields and houses are reduced to rectangular shapes in a village set against a mountainous backdrop. The palette is browns and beiges with muted bluish grays. Clive injects this landscape painting with activity and energy with the inclusion of four trees painted quickly and forcefully, keeping the viewer’s eye steadily moving through the scene.

Her Village Near Biarritz may be the most surreal landscape in the exhibition, and a study in primary colors. Mountains and fields are blue, buildings are rectangles with bright yellow roofs, and hints of red are strategically placed to draw the viewer’s eye to every corner of this magical village. Two bare trees placed close to the edge of the plane frame the village, emphasizing its importance to the artist and creating a fantasy scene straight out of Brigadoon.

Combining elements from a variety of artistic movements and always seeking the surreal, Winifred Johnson Clive painted landscapes that were something a bit more than real, leaving an artistic legacy uniquely her own.

Adrienne H. Lee is an Orlando-based art historian, writer, artist, and contributing writer for ArtScene Press.
Image 1: Springtime in the Pyrenees, c. 1980
Courtesy Zach Stovall
Image 2: Village Near Biarritz, n.d.
Courtesy Zach Stovall
 Image 3: Burnt Trees, n.d.
Courtesy Orlando Museum of Art
Image 4: Winter Landscape #1, c. 1950
Courtesy The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Image 5: Interior of Bayonne Cathedral, c. 1950
Courtesy Zach Stovall