Norton Bush

Norton Bush (1834-1894) studied with Jasper Cropsey as a teenager in New York and then emigrated to California where he became part of the fledgling art colony in San Francisco during the 1860s. After a sketching tour to Central America in 1868, Bush increasingly turned to tropical subjects, which were popular in San Francisco. A majority of San Francisco residents before 1869 had experienced a taste of the tropics in their pioneer journey to California, and Bush’s transcriptions of the lush beauty of the region evoked nostalgic memories. Bush’s favorite subject was the tropical lagoon framed by palm trees. In 1875 Bush visited Peru, Chile and Ecuador, taking studies for works like our painting. Though definitely influenced by the “luminist” aesthetic developed by Hudson River school painters, Bush also has borrowed motifs from old master landscapes. His composition with framing trees on both sides was developed by Claude Lorrain in the seventeenth century, and the composition with the sun near the horizon scattering light throughout the atmosphere was made popular by J.M.W. Turner. Newspaper critics wrote favorable reviews of Bush’s tropical paintings, the art critic for the San Francisco Evening Post noting: “Not only is the vegetation splendidly tinted, but the atmosphere is warm, soft and golden, and the water as perfectly represented as can be imagined…Mr. Bush occupies a leading position as an American artist and the newspapers of New York and other Eastern cities have often referred to his paintings in terms of warm eulogy.” (Oct. 27, 1874). Over a long and distinguished career, Bush earned the right to be considered a worthy colleague of such other American painters of tropical scenery as Church, Heade, and Mignot.