Moonlight Magic

Moonlight Magic, Chinese ink on paper, late 1930s

Among most influential sources of inspiration in James Fitzgerald’s work was his interest in Asian philosophy and art.  During his early career in California, Fitzgerald came into contact with the intellectual circle that had gathered on Cannery Row in Monterey in the 1920s and 1930s.  Led by the pioneering marine biologist, Edward (Doc) Ricketts, the writer John Steinbeck, and the poet Robinson Jeffers, this group introduced the painter to an extensive library and aesthetic discussions about science and philosophy.  Fitzgerald, himself, began to collect books on the subject, many of which remain in his home on Monhegan today, often with marked passages that related to his own philosophy of painting.

The artist’s discovery and use of black Chinese ink in his watercolor practice is evident in works such as Moonlight Magic, and other nocturnal scenes, where deep black silhouettes of trees and buildings, dissolve into abstracted shapes.  In a simple contrast of light and dark, the moon emerges to magically transform solid forms into loose, painterly brushwork.