Published: August 26, 2008
David Park Curry, senior curator of decorative arts, American painting and sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art, will present a lecture, “In Praise of Shadows,” on Sunday, September 7, at 3 pm, at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.
Curry will explore the reception of Japanese art in the West and how late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century American painters, including many of the artists featured in the Clark’s current exhibition “Like Breath on Glass: Whistler, Inness and the Art of Painting Softly,” found inspiration in Japanese art and Japanese approaches to appreciating beauty. Admission to the lecture is free.
In 1933, novelist Jun’ichiro Tanizaki published In’ei Raisan (In Praise of Shadows), exploring for Western readers the significance of light and darkness in traditional Japanese culture. Tanizaki described an approach to enjoying art displayed in soft light, taking extraordinary pleasure in the beauty of shadowy recesses and quiet contrasts. Finding resonance between the exquisite surfaces of Japanese objects and the surfaces created by some American painters, Curry will draw attention to the subtle and subdued shadows of Japanese art that survive in numerous turn-of-the-century American canvases.
In addition to his position at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Curry has served as curator at the Freer Gallery of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Denver Art Museum. He has written extensively on Whistler and other leading American artists. His publications include American Dreams: Paintings and Decorative Arts from the Warner Collection; Fabergé: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915; Childe Hassam: An Island Garden Revisited; Winslow Homer: The Croquet Game; and most recently, James McNeill Whistler: Uneasy Pieces.
“Like Breath on Glass: Whistler, Inness and the Art of Painting Softly” is the first exhibition to explore “painting softly,” a distinctive and unexamined approach to painting exemplified in works by Whistler and George Inness. “Like Breath on Glass” brings together 40 paintings by leading American artists working around 1900, including Whistler, Inness, William Merritt Chase, John Twachtman, Edward Steichen and others, to examine this style of painting through which artists obscured their brush strokes. The exhibition is on view through October 19.
The Clark is at 225 South Street. For general information, www.clarkart.edu or 413-458-2303.
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