This ‘movement’ started in America during the late 1800’s (although there is a lot of debate around the fact that many artists before this time incorporated tonalist techniques into their works).   I suppose one of the most famous examples of tonalism in art is James Whistler’s painting of his mother (Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1). 

 Many art historians write about Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Luminism and Tonalism, there’s a fine line between them all.  For me tonalism stands on its own though, it is an impression, yes but with terrific atmosphere and mood, often almost mystical.  Due to my short-sightedness, I can really appreciate tonalism because that’s how I see the world most of the time!

 Tonalism went through a bit of a dry patch during the Impressionist era and beyond into the 1900’s, however currently it is enjoying something of a resurgence.   There are hundreds of tonalist artists working today, creating really striking work.  I am thinking of people like Maurice Sapiro as one example.   I follow a group on Instagram and Facebook ( as well as some individual artists who state they are tonalists – Katriel Srebnik is one and April Gornik, another.  Here is a small selection of tonalist work that I admire:

April Gornik ‘Tropical Drift’
Ben Bauer ‘Minnesota fall landscape’
Katriel Srebnik ‘ Wintry back ally in Winchester, Virginia’
Luke Tucker ‘Deschutes, morning light’
Maurice Sapiro ‘Unforgettable’

Bibliography  (source for Katriel Srebnik and Ben Bauer painting images)   (source of Luke Tucker painting image) (source of April Gornik painting image)  (source of Maurice Sapiro painting image) – article advertising a show

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