Ira Barkoff became fascinated with landscape painting from the time his parents took him to the Catskills in the summers, where he painted his first landscape at an early age. “When I was ten years old…and looking up at a blue sky with fast moving cotton ball clouds. I thought, ‘I have to remember the sky…remember every single cloud.’” Although not known to him at the time, the Catskill Mountains were the stamping ground of the Hudson River School of landscape painters led by Thomas Cole in the nineteenth century.
It was the kind of painting that depended upon a quiet observation of fact, to besure, but in its celebration of nature, it touched on the romantic as well. Barkoff began with a quiet observation of fact, but soon a more romantic sensibility emerged in which the expression of his ideas was based more on memory and imagination. “My landscapes,” he said, “are not literal depictions of New England…but are distillations of visual / emotional memories.”
Barkoff’s influences range from Rembrandt (especially the great pen and ink drawings) to J.M.W. Turner’s late unfinished paintings. John Constable’s studies of clouds, the poetic subjectivity of Twachtman’s landscapes and Monet’s Water Lily Series, to name just a few.
He admires the attitude of Caspar David Friedrich and the color of Van Gogh. Later, he embraced the gestural painting of Richard Diebenkorn and William Dekooning, and more recently the premier coup paintings of Edwin Dickinson (1891-1978). Working in his studio in natural light, Barkoff paints to music – usually opera, sometimes Chopin, which, he says helps put him “in the zone,” to keep to his romantic point of view. Yet, despite his habit of working from imagination and memory, Barkoff’s landscapes still manage to evoke an extraordinary sense of place and if many of his landscapes are painted en premier coup, they evoke an extraordinary stability and presence.
In addition, he has transformed his influences into something entirely his own. It is clearly apparent that here is a lyric artist who has created memorable images and possesses a quiet originality, quietly achieved.