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Chester County Press

Sculthorpe captures nature in all its serene beauty

10/29/2018 10:46AM ● By J. Chambless

'Storm Break at Midnight'

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

It's always rewarding to catch up on what Peter Sculthorpe has been painting lately, and his solo show at the Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville, Del. – while it contains only 13 works – scores several “wow” moments.

His huge diptych, “Shallow Waters,” is a watercolor tour de force. The viewer is looking down at a crystal-clear stream, with endless colors of rocks, one upon another, jumbled across the two panels. But it's the autumn leaves, casting shadows on the rocks below them, that suggest the depth of the unseen water. It's dazzling.

But there's a similar sleight of hand at work throughout the show. There's the sweep of barely rippled water in “Mount St. Regis Sunset,” reflecting the fading light of the sky. The large format of the piece – 60 inches wide – fills your field of vision and inserts you into the scene. It's the same way you're drawn into the dramatic arc of shoreline and the barest suggestion of mist in “Proposal Rock to Cascade Head.”

But scale isn't the only way Sculthorpe impresses you. The 9-by-12 sunset view, “Ice in the Furrows,” has a thin blade of fading light through a cloud bank that is a perfect evocation of an elusive twilight moment we've all seen, but has now been captured with nearly three-dimensional clarity.

There's another spot of magic in “Intrepid Pines,” an 8-by-8 oil of trees standing tall against a shoreline wind. There's something absolutely right about the way the pine branches overlap, with lush but brittle textures.

“A Home By the Sea,” a 2018 oil of an unlikely home built on thin earth over a rocky point, is the kind of place that only Sculthorpe could find. It's a sentinel of civilization in a place otherwise devoid of human presence, under a glowing blue sky.

Even Sculthorpe's so-called study – “Winter in Frog Hollow” – is a fully realized depiction of barely moving water in winter.

If there's a “traditional” Sculthorpe here, it's “Storm Break at Midnight,” a farm in the snow under a full moon. The wire fence in the foreground, with wind-whipped reeds clinging to it, suggests a mighty winter gale has plastered them in place.

And in “Summer's Rest,” there's one of Sculthorpe's jigsaw-puzzle stone barn walls – an endless array of slate grays and sandstone tans that benefits from its large scale.

Works by Peter Sculthorpe are on view at Somerville Manning Gallery (101 Stone Block Row, Greenville, Del.) through Nov. 10. Visit for more information.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email

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