Crane’s idyllic and atmospheric landscapes are very popular among collectors – he was, in fact, often referred to as “A Painter of Idylls.” The artist attended art classes in New York and abroad in the 1870s, where he was influenced by the subdued tonality and fluid brush of the Barbizon painters. He was greatly influenced by the French artist Jean Charles Cazin with whom he painted at Grez-sur-Loing in the summer of 1882. His technique was to envelop his subjects in an atmospheric haze and treat them as a flat mass; objects should never be modeled. The result was to suggest the more ethereal states of nature. In 1904 Crane married Ann Brainerd, who was his stepdaughter by an earlier marriage and 24 years his junior, causing quite a scandal. Ann was also an artist and exhibited with her husband on several occasions.
A Clearing in the Woods is a good example of Crane’s tonalist technique. He paints here a barren grayish landscape in a restricted palette using a slight dry impasto to heighten the hazy appearance of the canvas. As is so often the case in Crane’s landscapes, the presence of man is implied here by the wood piles and tree stumps.