Shown here are a number of paintings that Folinsbee considered to be major works, those that were recognized by juries and peers with awards, or works that are considered by contemporary scholars to be significant examples of his work at different periods throughout his career. Folinsbee's career can be divided into roughly five periods based on stylistic characteristics. Early in his career he painted briefly in a Barbizon-influenced manner before moving into a structured Impressionist style. His later Impressionist-influenced works in the mid- to late-1920s reflect a more fluid brushstroke which, by the 1930s, would be transformed into a highly individual expressionist style. Folinsbee painted in this style for the remainder of his career. Just before his death, in the early 1970s, Folinsbee revisited earlier themes and palettes, and painted several evocative canvases in a way that embraced and combined all the stylistic inflections of the previous sixty years.
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This period is the early part of Folinsbee’s career, covering his first exhibitions in Washington, Connecticut; his study with Birge Harrison and John Carlson at Woodstock, New York, as well as with Frank V. Dumond at the Art Student’s League in New York City. It is also the period in which the artist reconnected with his first teacher, Jonas Lie, and following his older friend's lead, began to explore the pictorial possibilities of the industrial landscape, which was to become a dominant theme in his work. From Carlson and Harrison, Folinsbee acquired a sense of light and atmosphere that grew directly from the traditions of French Naturalist and Barbizon painting; Lie introduced him to European modernism by encouraging visits to the Armory Show and the Exhibition of Contemporary Scandinavian Art, both of which were in New York during Folinsbee's winter in the city 1912-13.
In 1916, Folinsbee moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania, joining Birge Harrison, who had relocated to the town a few years earlier. In New Hope, he came into close association with Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber, and Robert Spencer, leading members of an art colony of predominantly landscape painters that would become known as the New Hope School. During this period, Folinsbee was actively exhibiting in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and other cities in the Midwest. He was briefly represented by Macbeth Gallery in New York, but after 1917 his work was handled by Ferargil Galleries, which held regular exhibitions of his work each winter. Folinsbee’s professional reputation was secured at the end of this period, when he was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design in 1919. Between 1916 and 1925, the artist received more than sixteen prizes and awards at exhibitions across the country.
The 1920s were a transitional time for Folinsbee. He was exposed to modern trends in American art, as well as the work of European artists, such as Paul Cézanne, who had lasting influence on his work. In the mid-1920s, Folinsbee's style began to shift away from the structured brushwork that had characterized his early Impressionist works. His brushstrokes lengthened and became more fluid. At the same time, he was absorbing as much as he could from Cézanne. There were a number of exhibitions of modern art in New York and Philadelphia in the early 1920s that included paintings by the French master, and it is likely that Folinsbee went to at least one of them. He had several photographs of Cézanne's landscapes and he was also reading English artist-critic Roger Fry's Vision and Design, which discussed the French painter's work in detail. In the summer of 1926, Folinsbee, his wife Ruth, and his daughters Beth and Joan, traveled to England and France so that he could study directly from works in museums and galleries, and also paint in the French countryside. The works that resulted from this trip—and through the rest of the decade—demonstrates the profound influence Cézanne and France had on his work, which became more post-Impressionistic in style and composition. As the decade progressed, Folinsbee began to move away from an emphasis on surface texture towards something deeper and more expressive. Folinsbee continued to exhibit widely during this period, participating in international expositions, regular exhibitions of American art in the East and Midwest, and was invited by the College Art Association and the American Federation of the Arts to send his works on circuit exhibitions throughout the country; he won numerous awards, including a bronze medal at the Sesquicentennial Exposition in 1926, and the top prizes at the National Academy.
Beginning in the late 1920s, but becoming more pronounced by the mid-1930s, Folinsbee’s style became much more expressionistic. His brushwork was more fluid, and the bright light that characterized his earlier career became much more dramatic. His palette also changed, and he relied more concentrated with greens, blues, and blacks than previously. Without exhibition provenance it is frequently difficult to date works in this period, as Folinsbee had a tendency to revisit and re-explore themes, colors, and techniques he hadn't worked on for a few years. Significant influences on Folinsbee in the late-1920s and early 1930s were El Greco and the French Expressionist painter Maurice Vlaminck, whose broad, swift brushstrokes and darker palette began to appear in Folinsbee's work. His focus shifted away from structure to conveying the mood of a particular place and time. Folinsbee continued to exhibit widely during this period, winning prizes at the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Carnegie Institute (now Carnegie Museum of Art).
Folinsbee's investigation of structure in the 1920s and 1930s led eventually to his mature Expressionist style that characterize his paintings from the mid-1930s through the 1950s. His palette darkened, his brushstrokes loosened further, and his sense of light and atmosphere became more dramatic. These later works are all about conveying a sense of mood and an intense emotional response to the world around him.
The last two decades of Folinsbee’s career are characterized by a shift in subject matter, away from New Hope industrial landscapes to portraits and landscapes and marines with predominantly Maine subjects. In 1949, Folinsbee and Ruth purchased a house, Murphy’s Corner, in Wiscasset, Maine, and his paintings are concerned primarily with the coastal landscapes of Wiscasset and the surrounding area.In his later years, Folinsbee's palette began to lighten--particularly in the 1960s, his subjects became more simplified, and many of his paintings suggest a renewed interest in the kind of surface texture seen in his early works. Suffering from cancer, Folinsbee was not as prolific as he had been in the past, nor was his brush as sure as it once was. Nonetheless, his later paintings reamin filled with atmosphere, mood, and tinged perhaps with a sense of longing. They are culminations of a long career, visions of nature that could be captured only by a mature and practiced eye.