Central Park, the green lung of New York City, the cool, shady resting spot for summer-soaked New Yorkers, the Olmsted masterpiece of landscape design, was inspired by the work and the ideas of the Hudson River School of painting. So it’s perfectly natural that plein air painting would go on in those choice 843 acres. Just ask Annamarie Trombetta.
“The Destructive Dance of ‘Sandy,'” by Annamarie Trombetta
Trombetta became well acquainted with the history of Central Park when she was a student at the National Academy School of Fine Arts in Manhattan. “I worked the front desk of the Academy’s museum, and I had pockets of time to read and to look into the history of several different subjects, Central Park being one of them,” says Trombetta. “I learned that the idea for Central Park came from the Hudson River School painters, and it was championed by William Cullen Bryant, who was the editor of the New York Evening Post. He spearheaded the idea. Now Central Park is at the core of New York City, and it set the tone for other parks to be created elsewhere in the country. Finding out about all this history, and the connections generated by artists, gave me a mission.”
“Central Park Clockwork Mode of Multicolored Apps,” by Annamarie Trombetta, oil and mixed media
One result of her interest in Central Park was a recent show at the Union League Club in Manhattan, where 88 of her plein air paintings of Central Park were on view. A portion of those were next on view at the Italian American Museum, including one intriguing piece called “The Central Park Clockwork Mode of Multicolored Apps.” Under a glass dome, a box adorned with various scenes in the park sits on a lazy Susan that is surrounded by more small scenes from the park that are roughly arranged as they appear in Central Park from east to west, north to south. The encircling paintings sit on small pedestals painted in hues that suggest the color wheel. “It’s about color relationships and gradations, but more importantly, they are all one, all part of the same color wheel. The park is all one, the colors are all one, and to a certain extent, so are we.”
“Trefoil Arch,” by Annamarie Trombetta
Trombetta has been painting Central Park for about 20 years, and she continues to find aspects of it that intrigue her. She talks excitedly about the significance of Emma Stebbins, the sculptor who created the figure at the top of the Bethesda Fountain. She recalls the impetus behind the Dairy, a small Victorian Gothic building in Central Park that originally dispensed milk to New York children in a time when fresh milk was difficult to obtain and cholera from the water supply was a serious threat. Trombetta will tell of her regular encounters with wildlife in the park — raccoons, frogs, and egrets among them.
“Turtle Pond Winter City Vista,” by Annamarie Trombetta
“Seasonal Arches,” by Annamarie Trombetta, oil, 16 x 20 in.
Sitting on the Great Lawn or in the Sheep’s Meadow and noting the Manhattan skyscrapers peeping over the large mature trees is a quintessential Central Park experience, and Trombetta has painted that. But she also likes the nooks and corners Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, built into Central Park. “There are times where you just want to escape the fact that you live in New York City,” says Trombetta. “On the north side of the park you’ll find some waterfalls, and I have painted this one bridge … the subject matter is great, but I like it because when I’m there, if I look in all directions, I cannot see any buildings. With music on, I can pretend that I am upstate. And I think that was their mission — Vaux and Olmsted.”
“Winter in the City,” by Annamarie Trombetta, oil, 11 x 9 in.
The artist continues, “During warm months I do make it a point to be in an environment where the sky is the limit, literally. There’s something very freeing about painting outdoors. Any artist who takes on that ambition will clearly agree that there’s nothing like being in a fresh, open-air setting, catching the changing light. It makes you feel more alive. I very rarely work from photographs. I think people sense that. It’s like the difference between organic vegetables and mass-produced vegetables. There’s just a better taste and juiciness to it. It’s the difference between baked from scratch and something processed. You can taste it immediately.”