The turn of the 20th century was a vibrant and changing time for art. There was the full acceptance of Impressionism, the dominating realists and portrait work of Sargent and other like artists, and the birthing of modern art. It was my naive conclusion that all of the highly "creative" painting that would be done at this time would be from the artists blazing the way toward modernism, but through more study, I have found several that were both creative and yet still distinguished representational artists. I did find one artist in particular that jumped right out at me, he was both beyond his time, and still grounded in realism.
Thomas Dewing (1851- 1938) was an American artist born near Boston, trained in Paris at the Académie Julian, and eventually settled in New York City. Dewing is classified as a Tonalist (the most famous Tonalsits being George Inness, James McNeill Whistler, and John H. Twatchtman), and is one of the first painters to apply this predominantly landscape painting approach of tonalism to figure painting. This use of a tonal color palette, his foundation of classical realism and the addition of more impressionistic brush work created extremely unique and mood filled paintings.
In addition to this fairly new style, Dewing also had a unique compositional style that set female figures in full-body poses with plenty of open air, almost like a present day graphic designers use of white space. This slight twist on composition really made me gravitate to these paintings.
There are some designers today that use white space to add breathing room and simplification, while keeping the elements and layout in perfect balance, and then there are bad designers that when given the same elements will produce a barren, unpleasing design because they have poorly placed those elements. I think Dewing must have been a great designer, making him a well rounded artist that combined color harmony, technique, and highly developed skill to create masterful paintings that were unique for their time, and even today.