Published: October 16, 2001
NEW YORK CITY – Spanierman Gallery, LLC, has announced the opening of “110 Years of American Art: 1830-1940,” an exhibition and sale of works by important American artists, among them Cecilia Beaux, Frank W. Benson, Albert Bierstadt, William Merritt Chase, Jasper Cropsey, Arthur B. Davies, Arthur Wesley Dow, Frederick Frieseke, Daniel Garber, John Haberle, Childe Hassam, George Inness, Willard Leroy Metcalf, Theodore Robinson, Edmund C. Tarbell, and John Henry Twachtman.
The selection also includes works by Ben Benn, Alfred Thompson Bricher, John George Brown, Conrad Buff, Theodore Earl Butler, Jay Hall Connaway, Hyman Francis Criss, Paul de Longpre, Aaron Harry Gorson, William Morris Hunt, Richard Hayley Lever, Luigi Lucioni, Richard Miller, Edward Potthast, Frederick Remington, Bessie Potter Vonnoh and Theodore Wendel.
Comprised of more than 80 pieces, the exhibition presents an overview of American art from the early Nineteenth Century until 1940, a time when many influences and events affected the development of the American artistic tradition. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with more than 80 full color plates, available for $45 postpaid.
During the 1830s, many American artists began to turn their attention to native scenery, leading to the rise of the Hudson River School artists, whose members painted panoramic landscapes in the Catskill and Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, as well as in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The mid-century concern for topographical realism and sweeping vistas is evident in both Albert Bierstadt’s “Autumn in the Conway Meadows Looking Towards Mount Washington, New Hampshire,” circa 1858 and Alfred Thompson Bricher’s “Saco River, New Hampshire,” circa 1868 – pictorial celebrations of American’s natural beauty and radiance. The concurrent emphasis on “truth to nature” and the notion of the bountiful also found expression in the work of Severin Roesen, whose richly colored “Fruit and Flowers on a Marble Table Ledge” (after 1860) is one of a number of still lifes included.
American art of the post Civil War era is characterized by a greater stylistic diversity and a new sense of cosmopolitanism. Indeed, during this period, foreign art exerted a strong influence on American painters and sculptures, many of whom supplemented their education in the art schools of Paris and Munich and studied the work of contemporary European artists.
The rural landscapes of the French Barbizon painter Jean-Francois Millet set an example for William Morris Hunt, an influential painter and teacher in Boston represented by his evocative “Summer Twilight,” circa 1877. The Barbizon mode also played a vital role in the artistic evolution of George Inness, one of the first American landscapists to reject mid-century Realism in favor of a more progressive style that focused on light, color and mood. “Sundown,” circa 1889 shows Inness at his best, revealing his penchant for depicting the quiet, unpretentious corners of nature, as well as his love of color and expressive brushwork.
While Tonalists liked to paint quiet, unpopulated vistas at dawn and dusk – transitional times of day that inspired quiet contemplation – American Impressionists combined their love of light and color with a concern for the portrayal of modern life in urban centers. This trend is readily evident in Childe Hassam’s striking “Les Grandes Boulevards, Paris,” circa 1897, and his “Manhattan Sunset,” circa 1911.
In addition to working in Paris, American Impressionists abroad were also drawn to the international artists’ colonies that dotted the French countryside, especially the village of Giverny, home to the famous French Impressionist Claude Monet.
The exhibit includes several works by important members of the American Givernois, among them first generation colonists such as Theodore Robinson, whose lyrical adaptation of Impressionism is revealed in “Hillside in Giverny, France,” circa 1891 and Theodore Butler, Monet’s son-in-law, who captured an intimate moment of family life in “Le Bain, Maison Baptists, Giverny, France,” circa 1894.
Frederick Frieseke, who emerged as the most famous American working in Giverny after the turn of the century, is represented by “Medora Clark at the Clark Apartment,” circa 1903, which depicts the lovely wife of his friend and fellow painter, Alson Skinner Clark.
Back in the United States, American Impressionists applied strategies of light and color to the depiction of native scenery, capturing the “spirit of place,” especially in relation to their favorite summer haunts. William Merritt Chase frequented Shinnecock, Long Island, where, in addition to conducting open-air painting classes, he applied his deft brush to depictions of his immediate environment, as revealed in “The Back Yard, Shinnecock, Long Island,” circa 1900, a charming canvas painted at Shinnecock Hills, just west of the village of Southampton.
Other painters of Chase’s milieu were drawn to rural Connecticut, notably John Henry Twachtman, who spent the last 13 years of his life focusing on the scenery in the vicinity of his home in Greenwich. Both “The Cascade, Greenwich, Connecticut,” circa 1890s, and “Hollyhocks,” circa 1880s, reveal his sensitive response to his surroundings and attest to his reputation as the most poetic of the American Impressionists.
The Impressionist aesthetic also attracted many of America’s finest portraitists, such as Edmund C. Tarbell, the leader of the Boston School of figure painting. In addition to members of Brahmin society, he also painted his immediate family, as exemplified in “Emeline and Josephine Tarbell (The Artist’s Wife and Daughter),” circa 1905, a canvas that reflects his customary fine craftsmanship and his ability to combine Impressionist precepts within a realist figure style.
Family life also occupied the creative energies of Frank Benson, who garnered widespread acclaim for his joyous portrayals of genteel young women and children in sun-drenched settings. His “Eleanor Holds a Shell, North Haven, Maine,” circa 1902 evokes the sparkling light and atmosphere of a summer’s day and stands as an ode to girlhood innocence.
Among a number of talented women Impressionists featured is Philadelphia-born Cecilia Beaux who made a name for herself as both a portrait and figure painter. Her colorful “Dressing Dolls” was painted in 1928 when Beaux was in Gloucester, Mass., writing her autobiography.
American painting took on new directions during the early-to-mid Twentieth Century, especially in the wake of the Armory Show of 1913, which introduced vanguard European art to American audiences. The simplified forms and intense coloration of Fauvists such as Henri Matisse inspired the work of Ben Benn, represented by “White Horse,” circa 1931 while Synthetic Cubism and Surrealism informed the distinctive approach taken by Francis Criss in works such as “Morning in Florence,” circa 1934.
Other artists retained a commitment to representational Realism but did so in a highly individualistic way. This is demonstrated in the sculptures of Abastenia St Leger Eberle and Bessie Potter Vonnoh, represented by “Seated Indian,” circa 1910s, and “Goodnight,” circa 1900, respectively, and in several of the still lifes in the show.
The late Nineteenth Century trompe l’oil tradition, evident in John Haberle’s “That’s Me (Self Portrait),” circa 1882, was carried on with great success by Otis Kaye, whose stunning oil, “The Golden Touch,” circa 1928, not only deceives the eye but makes a direct and witty statement about the perils of investing during the late 1920s. Realism also informed the aesthetic outlook of Luigi Lucioni; his “Still Life,” circa 1940, reveals his skill in evoking a higher level of reality through innovative designs, precise brushwork and high finish.
The gallery is at 45 East 58th Street and the exhibition runs through December 31. Hours are 9:30 to 5:30 pm, Monday through Saturday.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm