Brian Sweetland’s oil paintings of rural Vermont are rendered with a gentle hand. His paintings have the sense of immediacy of the Impressionist tradition, and there’s an underlying compositional architecture that is careful and deliberate and enduring. His subjects are the threatened agricultural landscape, that which is bound to disappear, and he was adept at capturing both its substance and its essence. Pastoral Vermont is depicted lovingly, but not sentimentally; rusted farm equipment hulks under cover of snow; Holsteins squelch in the muddy yard. The tranquility of the scenes is reassuring, and he painted the nuances of favorite places in different ways at different times. Sweetland’s confident hand laid down layers of paint, creating luminous, opalescent effects that please the eye from across a room or right up close. He painted every day, out-of-doors, year-round. As well as the atmospheric light, there is structure; he was a fine draftsman, whose still-lifes have the same delicacy of subject and light touch–the sheen of polished wood, the burnished bowl, the fragile scrap of lace is given the same perceptive attention he gives to the bony angles of a cow’s hip, the shadows that weigh down a cloud or dapple a mountain, the light shimmering on a running river.
Brian Sweetland was born in Wheaton, Minnesota in 1952 and grew up in Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Ohio. After graduating from Ohio University in 1974 with a degree in world history, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he independently developed his childhood interest in art and started oil painting.
In 1977, his sketches caught the attention of Dean Fausett, a prominent portrait, landscape and mural painter, and Sweetland was invited to Vermont to continue his studies. A grant from the Society for the Preservation of Traditional Values in the Fine Arts helped Sweetland begin his apprenticeship. His first major exhibit was held in 1980 in Middleburg, VA, followed by shows at many galleries in Vermont, New York, Alabama, and Massachusetts, where he exhibited at the Copley Society and, in 1988, at the St. Botolph Club. His paintings are found in many private collections in the region and around the world.
Sweetland loved animals, classical music and literature; he was a much-loved, full-time plein air landscape and still-life painter, highly respected by his peers. He died from a fall while walking his dogs on October 16, 2013, days after he was honored as the featured artist at the Agricultural Stewardship Association exhibition in New York. With more than four decades of work, he is certain to be recognized as an American master, an important interpreter of Vermont’s working landscape at this time in history.