Rob Burbank's Outdoors with the AMC: Celebrating White Mountain landscapes

By ROB BURBANK September 01. 2017 7:35PM
Among the plein air landscape paintings of Michael E. Vermette on display at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center is this image of the Shapleigh Bunkhouse, former studio of artist Frank Shapleigh. (COURTESY)

New Hampshire's forests, mountains and ridgelines have provided inspiration for generations of artists, and the pull of our peaks and valleys continues to compel painters to put brush to canvas today.

Following in the footsteps of such artists as Winslow Homer, Edward Hill, and Benjamin Champney, who captured the breathtaking scenery of the White Mountains in the 19th century, today's landscape painters also head to the Whites to practice their craft in the outdoors, a pursuit known as "plein air" painting.

One such modern-day plein air artist is Michael E. Vermette, whose oil paintings and water colors of recently created White Mountains scenes are the subject of an exhibition housed at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center at Crawford Notch through Oct. 29.

Admission is free and the exhibit, titled "The Painted Sketch: Crawford Notch," will remain open to the public when the room is not otherwise in use.

Vermette served as artist-in-residence at the Highland Center last fall and winter. During those week-long residencies, he created 22 plein air works that are the focus of the exhibit. He painted in the heart of Crawford Notch, and he snowshoed to more remote locations, toting his easel and paints, and creating watercolors and oils in the seasons' cold and challenging conditions. He pays close attention to color and light, and favors, bright, rich pigments.

Artists have long been drawn to Crawford Notch for its spectacular scenery. From 1877 to 1893, landscape painter Frank Shapleigh was artist in residence for the Crawford House grand hotel that once occupied the notch. His studio still stands, and serves as the Shapleigh Bunkhouse, adjacent to the Highland Center.

Vermette double-majored in painting and printmaking at the Maine College of Art, and received a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting in 1980. He has been an art educator for more than two decades and holds a K-12 art education certificate.

In addition to oils and watercolors, the artist also works in pastels. Among his awards are the New England Watercolor Society's Loran Coleman, Beverly, and Marilyn Sabin awards. He was also a first-place, second-place, and honorable mention winner at Maine's Castine Plein Air Festival.

He teaches plein air painting workshops throughout the year in New Hampshire and Maine. His works are in private collections and have been shown in a variety of Maine galleries.

More information on the exhibit is available by calling the Highland Center at 278-4453, or emailing amchighlandinfo@outdoors.org.

Rob Burbank is Director of Media and Public Affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) in Pinkham Notch. His column appears monthly in the Sunday News.


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