Charles Rosen (1878-1950), The Mill Race, 1907, oil on canvas, canvas: 31 1/2 in x 39 1/2 in; framed: 42 1/2 in x 50 1/2 in x 3 in, James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of Louis and Carol Della Penna; Charles Rosen (1878-1950), Water Birches, n.d., oil on canvas, H. 25 x W. 30 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest; Charles Rosen (1878-1950), The Roundhouse, Kingston, New York, 1927, oil on canvas, H. 30.125 x W. 40.25 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of the John P. Horton Estate.

For Charles Rosen, painting a single subject matter or specific style for his entire career, was not what made him happy. He enjoyed a very successful career as a landscape painter for the first 20 years of his creative life. He was associated with the impressionists in the New Hope Art Colony and became well noted for his famous for large scale snow scenes and spring scenes. In the late 1930’s early 1940’s, he became dissatisfied with landscape style and made a radical shift in his work. He abandoned his traditional landscapes and started to work in a modernist style. This change occurred at the same time that he moved to Woodstock, New York. The Woodstock and New Hope art colonies were very different – both physically and stylistically.

When you look at Rosen’s paintings over the years there are very obvious differences with the style and in subject matter. But let’s take an even closer look – at the brushstrokes. From left to right shown above are: The Mill Race (1907), Water Birches (n.d.) and The Roundhouse, Kingston, New York (1927). Included are detail images of the paintings.

Examine the brushstrokes – what do you see? How are they different? In The Mill Race, you can see how they are very thick and look like they were quickly applied on the canvas.

Now look at Water Birches. How are the brushstrokes similar or different? In this work, they appear smaller, but are still loose and broken as seen in The Mill Race. They also seem like they were quickly applied to the canvas.

Finally, examine The Roundhouse. What do you notice about how the paint was applied? Can you see the brushstrokes? What has changed?

Which of these paintings do you like best?  Next time you visit the Michener, take some time to look a little closer at the surface of these works. What other details can you discover?

To see more work by Charles Rosen, visit the Michener Art Museum on Google Arts and Culture.

Related Resources

Gallery Activity Sheet: Quarry and Crusher by Charles Rosen

Gallery Activity Sheets: Let’s Talk Texture and Drawing Texture

Charles Rosen on the Bucks County Artists’ Database