A Matter Of Perspective: Thomas Fearnley's Pergola With Oranges

Thomas Fearnley Pergola with Oranges Art Institute of Chicago circa 1934
On a recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, I was struck by this painting, Pergola with Oranges by Thomas Fearnley. At first it seems like a basic exercise in perspective--all those lines converging at a vanishing point. But it didn't feel like mere geometry. The golden light, the oranges, the flowers, and the Mediterranean architecture seemed emotionally resonant, and intentionally so. Wouldn't it be great to join the man reading in the sun?

The museum's brief caption suggests I was right. If the date is correct (and it may be based on the assumption that the artist was working from life rather than memory), Fearnley painted this scene during a three-year sojourn in Italy. But he was a Norwegian--someone decidedly not from a land of golden sunshine and oranges so abundant they roll on the ground. He would have appreciated how special the scene was and I think he injected some of that emotion into the painting. But maybe it's in the eye of the beholder.

[Photo by Virginia Postrel. A better image is available on the Art Institute of Chicago's website.]