Holding her hat to her head in the stiff breeze that sweeps her skirts, a young woman in summer white strides across a field under a slate-gray sky in Lawton Parker’s landscape image. Beyond the figure, a line of tall slender trees screens the view of a distant river bordering a village under a low ridge. These balanced horizontal and vertical elements create a decorative grid-like structure over the loose, rapid brushwork characteristic of plein-air execution, a hallmark of impressionist practice. Setting off the brilliant red detail on the woman’s hat, the intense greens of the rough ground suggest the peculiar bright light that can precede a storm, lending a subtle urgency to the walker’s progress.
This painting depicts a scene in rural France near the village of Giverny, possibly the town of Vernon seen from across the Seine River on the northwest edge of Giverny. Parker’s paintings made there in the summer of 1910 were presented in a well-received solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in early 1912. Included was A Windy Sky, a title that corresponds with the subject of this painting. It represents a departure from the close-up figural compositions that typically occupied Parker and other members of his generation of American painters in Giverny. These featured pretty models, in various states of undress, idly posed in luxuriant gardens or light-filled interiors, as in Parker’s La Paresse. In A Windy Sky both painter and model seem to be taking a respite from their usual work: leaving the confines of studio and garden, the woman moves briskly and unselfconsciously, while the artist indulges in pure landscape painting, quickly capturing Giverny’s rural environs in all their transitory immediacy.
Wendy Greenhouse, PhD