Gideon Gilpin's house is preserved in the Brandywine Battlefield Park in Chadds Ford, PA. The house is remarkable in itself, but the Sycamore tree that stands beside it is truly incredible. The tree is absolutely massive, with its age estimated at well over 300 years.
Legend has it that this house was occupied by the Marquis de Lafayette during the battle.
Naturally, the setting has been an inspiration for many of the painters from this area. N.C. Wyeth painted a view of the tree and the house, and called it Buttonwood Farm:
His son, Andrew Wyeth, also painted the scene from further up the hill. Andrew used his artists license to transform the Baltimore Pike, which runs past the property, into a stream. Here is his painting, Pennsylvania Landscape:
Since the time that they painted the house, the stucco has been removed from the outside facade of the house. Now it is native stone.
I painted the scene a few years ago. I figured that since this tree and house have been hanging out together for 275 years or so, they must be Old Friends:
I was pretty happy with the painting and a little bit disappointed when it sold a couple of years ago. So, I decided to paint the scene again, and I thought it might be fun to record the stages of the painting process in this blog.
I often start with something of an underpainting. Sometimes, I prime the entire canvas. Other times I will just dive right in and start to block out the scene. This was what the painting looked like at the start:
This was mostly raw umber, with a bit of Yellow Ochre and some sap green for the grass. I was reasonably happy with the perspective after this sketch.
I felt like working quite a bit on the house and tree in the next stage. The house was becoming fairly detailed and I hadn't even worked on the sky. The tree also got some attention. I darkened the shadows and worked on the unique sycamore bark as well. The background behind the house is a forest. I didn't want it to draw much attention, so I used mustly a gray wash back there.
After looking at the results for a while, I decided that I should extend the back of the house into the tree. I also wanted to darken the background trees. I painted in the sky, using that to define the branches a bit more. I often will put the sky in last. Finally, I worked on the grass as well - adding in a bit more earthy yellow since it is a winter scene. Here's how the painting looked after the third session:
So, now it was mostly done. I wanted to make a few adjustments at the end. I thought the tree was still not jumping away from the background trees, so I decided to darken its shadows on the left and under the branches. This helped to pull it forward. I also added a touch of red in the doorway and inserted some steps. Finally, I went back over some of the tree bark and branches. Here is the final painting:
This is a sixteen inch by twenty inch oil on a board.