Lisbon, Ohio, before 1963
Materials: Watercolor, 22.5” x 30.5”
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, sixth floor hallway, outside patient rooms H5-113 and H5-114.
Watercolorist Marc Moon here gives us an early spring glimpse of a creek swiftly flowing under an old covered bridge -- one of three that survive near Lisbon, Ohio. As-yet leafless trees rise among softly greening reeds, grasses, and low shrubs across the rest of the composition, and a road winds uphill to the right after emerging from the bridge. Behind a red house and a barn with sagging roof centered in the distance, the artist renders the deep background with a pale wash of green to brighten the composition and suggest the new leaves of the canopy on higher ground.
Moon has selected his viewpoint in order to anchor the composition with easy horizontals: Stream, house, and outbuilding, as well as that stretch of white fence on the other side of stream. He gently contrasts the verticals of the built environment with the (mostly) subtle diagonals of trees and other living things shaking off winter, and he uses muted colors to augment the feeling of serenity. If you examine the painting closely, you will note certain areas where he has sketched in details before beginning to paint (the white fence, for example). You’ll also notice that brush-strokes suggest form without delineating it in detail. For example, at the entrance to the bridge at far left, freckles of bright yellow suggest the spring buds of shrubs, without Moon’s having to paint in stems or other features. Other passages in this watercolor, such as the weathered boards on the side of the bridge, have been painted smoothly with gentle modulations in hue to suggest aging wood struck by a beam of sunlight.
Watercolor is a demanding paint medium that allows for few modifications: Once Marc Moon lay down a stroke, very little could be done to change it while the paint – and often the paper itself -- was still wet. So we can appreciate how judicious he was with his individual brush-strokes, suggesting shadows here and there, allowing for the modulation of dark and light to represent the trunk of the lichen-covered tree at far left, and showing light on the moving surface of the stream. We can probably assume that Moon created this work not from a photograph but in plein aire, which is to say, outdoors, on-site, working directly by observation, to capture a moment almost as fleeting as the water rippling. The French Impressionists in the second half of the 19th century introduced this outdoor process, intending it to contrast with the increasingly cumbersome trappings of the established artist’s studio. Plein aire painting is carried on to this day by many painters (especially watercolor painters) who strive to capture their inspiration by nature in a quick and immediate recording. Moon was an expert practitioner of this medium, his work widely recognized for its subtlety.
Moon, a lifelong Akron-area resident, was a prolific painter, especially of watercolors. He returned from serving as a Marine in World War II to begin painting, studying with Roy Wilhelm locally and with other watercolorists around Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts, during sojourns there. We have works from the early 1950’s onward. He earned the status of signature member of the American Watercolor Society in 1963, entitling him to sign “AWS” after his name, which he always did thereafter. This undated watercolor lacks such a signature – it does have, at lower right, the monogram-like signature found on early works -- so probably predates 1963. Moon was also a charter member of the Ohio and the Georgia Watercolor Societies and the Akron Society of Artists.
The Teegarden Covered Bridge outside Lisbon, the subject of Marc Moon's watercolor painting.
Moon’s career was marked by vigorous exhibition throughout Ohio, Georgia, and beyond. His paintings often celebrated austere rural scenes and focused on barns or other farm outbuildings captured in winter, late fall, or early spring, when their forms seemed to be stripped down to essentials and their colors subdued, as in this watercolor. The Centennial Bridge (a.k.a. Teegarden Covered Bridge seen here), built northwest of Lisbon in 1876, has undergone some restoration and today is marred by graffiti, but you can still find it in its original location over the Little Beaver Creek on Eagleton Road in Columbiana County and recognize it as the subject of this sensitive watercolor.
Moon taught several generations of young painters the basics of watercolor technique and often continued to advise them as their talents developed; they remember him with fondness and respect. In 1959 he was among a small group of artists who helped to found the (Cuyahoga) Falls Art Institute, which they guided into its current identity, the Cuyahoga Valley Art Center. With another group of good-humored artist friends, he helped to found the Whiskey Painters of America. Members made index card-sized paintings while availing themselves, for both their paintings and their personal spirits, of the conviviality of various pubs and hostelries throughout the U.S. So if you should somewhere encounter a very small Marc Moon painting, you’ll understand why he chose that size.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
Works by Marc Moon are held by the North Canton Public Library [link: http://ncantonlibrary.com/marc-moon/], by the Akron Public Library, by the Canton Museum of Art and by many other private collections throughout Ohio. You can also sometimes find his watercolors and oils offered through online auction sites. Moon contributed a chapter on watercolor technique to Susan E. Meyer’s 40 Watercolorists and How they Work (1976). For many years, his studio on Portage Trail shared space with his framing shop, but he loved to get outdoors to celebrate the landscapes of rural Ohio, as well as seascapes and more dramatic scenery when his travels took him further afield.