Art Appreciation: A Walk in the Pumpkin Patch with M. Evelyn McCormick

In keeping with the harvest season, I decided to feature a couple of M. Evelyn McCormick's paintings with pumpkins. Evelyn McCormick was an American Impressionist painter who lived and worked around San Francisco and Monterey, California at the turn of the 20th century. This intrepid Bohemian travelled to Paris, France in the 1880s to be with her lover, Guy Rose, also a painter. They both spent much time painting in the village of Giverny where they were influenced by the great Claude Monet.

Mary Evelyn McCormick (December 2, 1862 – May 6, 1948)

This look at a corner of "A Garden in Giverny" made me think of the pumpkins we once tried to grow in our community garden plot - lots of aggressive leaves and vines but not-so-spectacular pumpkins. There is a charming air of country derelict in this overgrown garden with its tumbledown walls, a dying tree, and all sorts of interesting vegetation rooting everywhere. It feels like the kind of spot that a child might think of hiding in when playing hide-and-seek.

"A Garden in Giverny," 1891

Almost 20 years later, back in California, McCormick painted this patch of pumpkins growing on a slope above a pond or stream in the Carmel Valley. The setting under an open sky, wide swaths of greenery and almost-still water feels more expansive than the semi-enclosed, intimate space of the first garden scene. The second image is also a more formal rendering of a landscape, evocative of a prosperous farm, with its lush, neat fields and convenient footpaths. There is almost a sense that perhaps McCormick is trying to convey the idea of an agrarian idyll for her viewers.

"Carmel Valley Pumpkins," c1907

I confess that I'm drawn to the first painting more, despite the rough state of the garden. The atmosphere is relaxed; you don't have to worry about weeding or planning neat borders. You can graze on a berry or a bean should you come across one, and you can pick a couple of pumpkins to tide you over winter. What about you? How do you feel when you look at the paintings? Do they evoke memories for you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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