Huntington Library Landscapes
I am honored to be a member of the Huntington Library Garden Arts Guild. At present I am working on a series of paintings in the Huntington Desert Garden. The Garden is like the surface of another planet with an endless variety of exotic forms and intense colors.

I have recently completed six landscapes featuring views of the Huntington Library Jungle Garden. Like Henri Rousseau, whose visits to the zoo and botanical gardens in Paris resulted in dreamlike scenes of tropical Mexico, my visits to the Huntington have inspired a series of images of a primeval world.

The paintings were painted on the site in the cool mornings before the Huntington opened its doors to the public. I employed optical blending and an expressionist palette in order to communicate the experience of painting by the singing waterfalls.


Mystic Jungle is the largest of the works and it features a close up view of the upper waterfall. In the center of the composition sits a large, green, moss-covered stone, the result of the endless shower from the cascading falls. Like some sort of water god, the stone exuded a mystical presence. The Forest Primeval is a smaller version of the same scene. Its focus is more on the abundant plants that filter and reflect the light on the pool.

Welcome to the Jungle and Ribbon of Darkness are scenes of the lower waterfall and employ a pattern of light and shadow to lead the viewer’s eye into the deeper recesses of the painting. In these images of the lower falls, I am attempting to communicate the steady music of the falling water as it cascades over the rocks.
Although both paintings are similar in composition and scale, Ribbon of Darkness is darker and cooler while Welcome to the Jungle focuses more on the foreground with warm, saturated color. The Clearing is a view through the trees to a lawn in the distance. This painting contrasts the vivid red flowers and rough bark of the trees in the foreground with the soft green lawn in the background.

Higher Ground is a painted farewell to the jungle series. Like The Clearing, it shows a view from the edge of the jungle to a landscape in the distance. I employed an extreme perspective in the composition to communicate the steepness of the slope leading to higher ground.

Unlike the waterfall paintings, where you almost need a machete to hack your way through the dense jungle vegetation, Higher Ground reveals a blue sky with towering clouds. If you are willing to make the climb to higher ground, you will be rewarded with a fresh perspective and a majestic landscape.

In the paintings, Fire and Ice, and Under the Volcano, I contrast the emerald greens, blue-violets, and turquoises of the plant life with the fiery volcanic stones that line the flower beds. Because I typically begin my paintings in the early morning before the public arrives, my paintings often feature a landscape back-lit by the low angle of the morning sun in winter, as in my two paintings, Golden Barrels at the Huntington Library and The Great Kapok. Spending so many hours rendering this magical Desert Garden in jewel-like color makes me think of Aldous Huxley, who in Doors of Perception, kept telling himself: "This is how one ought to see, how things really are."

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Contact Dennis McGonagle at: Dennis@McGonagleStudio.com

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