Published: July 28, 2016
By Anne Kugielsky
American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals, edited by Austen Barron Bailly and John W. Coffey; Yale University Press for the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Peabody Essex Museum; www.yalebooks.com, 2016; hardcover, 124 pages, $40.
An exploration of the fascinating connections between the Isles of Shoals and the paintings that Childe Hassam (1859–1935) created there, American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals was prepared in connection with the exhibition of the same title that was shown at the North Carolina Museum of Art, March 19–June 19, and is at the Peabody Essex Museum through November 6. (For a full review of the exhibition, see the cover story in this issue.)
Hassam was the foremost American Impressionist of his generation. Prolific in oil paintings and watercolors, he found his native New England to be a touchstone for his art. Hassam had a fascination with Appledore, the largest island of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire, and he traveled there almost every summer for 30 years.
This fascinating book traces Hassam’s artistic exploration of Appledore — a complex portrait of the island created over time. John W. Coffey, working with the marine biologist Hal Weeks, revisits Hassam’s painting sites, identifying where, what and how the artist painted on the island. Kathleen M. Burnside considers how the artist’s stylistic responses to the island’s nature ranged from illustrative to Impressionist and Tonalist. A photo essay by Alexandra de Steiguer reveals Appledore’s enduring beauty.
Editor Austen Barron Bailly is the George Putnam curator of American art at the Peabody Essex Museum; editor John W. Coffey is deputy director and curator of American and Modern art at the North Carolina Museum of Art.
The pairing of Hassam’s paintings with photographs of the actual site is captivating; it gives the viewer the opportunity to see through the artist’s eyes, to comprehend in some small way how Hassam saw the world, the reality and the beauty that the place revealed to him allows the viewer to appreciate both the painting and the place beyond what we mere mortals might appreciate. Like becoming an artist ourselves, without having to put paint to canvas.
The center section of the book, “Hassam’s Sites Revisited, A Visual Survey” by marine biologist Weeks, is revelatory and intriguing; it is a section that draws the reader back to it time and again to compare the art with a photograph of the place.
Alexandra de Steiguer’s photo essay of “Appledore Today” contains 15 black and white photographs (gelatin silver prints made using medium format film and printed by the artist in a traditional darkroom) that reveal the Appledore she has experienced over the last 19 years, “solitary, deserted and cold, swept with easterly gales, battered by icy nor’easters.” A far different but starkly beautiful impression of the island than Hassam’s paintings show.
A gorgeous volume to adorn a coffee table or fill in a collection, it also offers numerous indepth essays, beautiful plates of all the works, a helpful selection of further readings and an index to complete a book that is useful as well as a delight to the eye.
Embracing the Contemporary: The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Collection, edited by Carlos Basualdo with Anna Mecugni; Philadelphia Museum of Art, with Yale University Press, www.philamuseum.org or www.yalebooks.com/art, 2016; 280 pages, hardcover, $55.
Editor Carlos Basualdo is the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs senior curator of contemporary art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the exhibition “Embracing the Contemporary: The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Collection” is on view through September 5, partially in the Frank Gehry-designed gallery with the same name. To say the Sachses are generous and devoted contributors to the Philadelphia Museum, is an understatement at best. As Katherine says in her statement, “Our Journey,” “There was one constant throughout our lives together: the Philadelphia Museum of Art.” And as she also writes, “The day we walked into Timothy Rub’s office [director and CEO of the museum] to tell him we had decided to give our collection to the museum was one of the happiest moments of our lives.”
This beautiful volume documents that historic gift of contemporary art from the Sachs Collection to the Philadelphia Museum. The gift, comprising nearly 100 works, includes masterpieces by luminaries such as Ellsworth Kelly and Jasper Johns, exceptional pieces by major British and German artists, and important works of outdoor sculpture, large-scale photography and video art.
All of these works, plus some 70 more from Keith and Katherine Sachs’s personal collection, are discussed in detail and beautifully illustrated. In addition to catalog entries on the objects, the book includes essays on artists represented in depth — Robert Gober, Richard Hamilton, Howard Hodgkin, Johns, Kelly, Brice Marden, Charles Ray, Richard Serra and Joel Shapiro — written by distinguished scholars. Other texts, including an interview with Keith and Katherine Sachs, offer insight into their background as collectors and provide an intimate account of their extraordinary collecting endeavors marked by their lasting association with the museum.
All the works in the Sachs Collection (with two exceptions, Louise Bourgeois’s 1947–49 “Portrait of Jean-Louis” and Ellsworth Kelly’s 1950 “Cutout in Wood”) were produced after 1950. The focus postdates Abstract Expressionism and Pop, although a concentrated group of work by Richard Hamilton, considered a precursor of the Pop aesthetic, is included. As Basualdo says in his essay, “Although the predominant esthetic might be described as minimal, the exceptions are many, and they are outstanding in terms of their quality.”
Embracing the Contemporary is delightfully designed, filled with 220 color illustrations of exciting and thought-provoking works that define the end of the Twentieth and beginning of the Twenty-First Centuries.
Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, edited by Thomas J. Loughman, Kathleen M. Morris and Lara Yeager-Crasselt, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass., www.clarkart.edu, in collaboration with the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, distributed by Yale University Press, www.yalebooks.com/art, 2016; 208 pages, hardcover, $50.
Handsomely designed and produced, Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado highlights sensual paintings from the Spanish royal collections of the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. Prepared as the catalog for the Clark Art Institute’s exhibition of the same title, which is on view through October 10, this stunningly wrapped book is both beautiful and informative. Filled with 95 color illustrations, and some two-page spreads, the text is erudite and informative.
Many of the featured artists were court painters under sovereigns whose tastes influenced the art world of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. This selection of 28 paintings includes works by Jan Breughel, Guercino, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Diego Velázquez.
Included is Titian’s “Reclining Venus with Cupid and a Musician,” probably painted by the artist for Charles V, and several works by Rubens, who painted a considerable number of works for the Spanish court.
Informative entries accompany the beautifully designed painting entries. An essay by Javier Portús looks at the Spanish royal taste in collecting and the role of painting within European politics of the day and a contemporary response to understanding the nude in Renaissance and baroque paintings is by Jill Burke.
Editor Thomas J. Loughman is associate director of program and planning, Kathleen M. Morris is Sylvia and Leonard Marx director of collections and exhibitions and curator of decorative arts, and Lara Yeager-Crasselt is interim curator of paintings and sculpture, all at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.
Particularly helpful to the reader is a “Notes to the Reader” section that lists the Spanish monarchs from the Habsburgs and the Bourbons. Maps locate the various sites of royal displays of the Museo Nacional del Prado, and a listing of each site informs the reader about each location: history and which king used the site.
An introduction by the editors also sets the stage for the exhibition. Presented with the opportunity of an exhibition exchange with the Museo Nacional del Prado, the curators decided on a provocative and intriguing topic: the history of the collecting and display of the nude over several centuries of Spanish history. This book and the exhibition for which it was created are the result.
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