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Homage to the view

Delavergne Hill inspires a landscape painter -- Trevor McWilliams captures the “way it was”
by Antonia Shoumatoff
Mon Jan 18th, 2016

Painter Alden "Trevor" McWilliams

A painting of the view from Delavergne Hill came to our attention when our photo editor was seeking illustrations to go with a story about the impact of Silo Ridge on the scenic viewshed. The view was painted by the young landscape painter, Trevor McWilliams, whose mother and father worked at Millbrook School his entire life. Throughout his childhood, he was awed by the view.

That view helped influence this young artist to become a landscape painter.  We asked Mr. McWilliams, who likes to be known as Trevor even though his first name is Alden, to tell us the story of how the painting came into being. He told us that he often travelled between Sharon, where he was born, and Millbrook and that the iconic view thrilled him as a child every time he saw it.

 
“The view from Delavergne introduced my eyes and mind to the magic of a horizon line and the awe of a big sky.  At the top of the hill, before the descent, I would stare south toward New York City, imagining its foreign scale and pace while seeing Wassaic Creek cut through the valley below. I relished the chance to turn that corner and spot the beginnings of mountains and a woody New England laid out in an intricate, pastoral mosaic.”

View of Delavergne Hill, Amenia by Alden McWilliams

He captured the view in oils after working from the ‘horseshoe’ turn pull-off along Route 44 where boulders once lined the hayfield’s edge.  He titled the painting “The Big View” and explained that painting it was formative for the entire direction of his career.

“Professionally, this was the first piece that I ever sold. It was commissioned by one of my oldest friends who is also from the Millbrook area and always admired this location.  Artistically, this was my first attempt to capture a personal place of significance with oils, a relatively new medium for me at that time. Despite that, painting this familiar setting felt as natural as anything I had ever done before. This piece led me directly to my love for landscapes and a career in observing and recording their majesty.”

McWilliams described how he works, immersing himself in a place before attempting to render it. “Since I absorbed this view from Delavergne my whole life, the memory of its essence aided my process.  I sketched and photographed it onsite before moving to the canvas. I applied a monotone under painting of the scene before applying my full palette.”

McWilliams also said he was inspired by Van Gogh’s vivid use of color and Thomas Hart Benton’s stark use of form.

“On humid summer afternoons, moisture and cumulo-nimbus clouds swallow whole hillside of this valley, creating an exaggerated sense of distance and expanse. I learned to work that atmosphere into my brushstrokes and palette partly in thanks to views like this one.”

Trevor McWilliams recently returned to Millbrook and expressed dismay at the impact that Silo Ridge is having on the view.

“To think of losing any portion of this epic expanse is beyond criminal when so many consider it the gem and pride of our region.  I find character in what is natural, as do the people who aim to protect the beauty that is left clinging here.”

 The artist now lives and works in Portland, Oregon where he continues to paint spectacular views.  You may view more of Trevor’s work on his website: aldentmcwilliams.com and follow his current projects on Facebook.