Provincetown Street Scene by Henry Hensche

When Hensche took over Charles Hawthorne's Cape Cod School of Art, he took the Provincetown tradition of painting in a new direction, combining Hawthorne’s color theory with the Impressionists’ credo of observing how the changing light affects those colors throughout the day. Where Monet had his haystacks, Hensche’s “block studies” helped his students interpret the subtle variations of hue on a block, brick or box, establishing a “light key” dependent on weather, time, season, and distance, and through this process gathering a true understanding of tonal relationships. This practice was later applied to all manner of subjects – landscape, figure, still life – and like Hawthorne, Hensche encouraged his students to use their palette knives when mixing and applying paint to prevent getting lost in unnecessary details. These methods can be seen in his painting of a white house in Provincetown Street Scene. Like the Impressionists, he understood that “if you look at a white in shadow on a sunny day with an unprejudiced eye you will see it is some kind of blue.”[1] Here the artist succeeds in transcribing with color and form what the eye sees firsthand, giving a sense of visual truth to the composition and revealing Hensche at his best.
[1] Robichaux, John W., Hensche on Painting (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1997), p. 41.

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Media: oil on board