“Rising from the Sea: The Art of Jay Hall Connaway” will be on view at the Arkell Museum August 22⁍ay 27. A student of the sea, sky and mountains Jay Connaway (1893‱970) painted in an era marked by the economic, political and social upheaval of World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.
Connaway earned 85 lifetime solo shows and a reputation with critics as “the greatest sea painter since Winslow Homer.” Originating from his response to nature, and evoking a bold Impressionist style, Connaway’s paintings appeared endlessly searching for something that could not be found on land or sea.
Connaway was preparing to open his 86th solo show at the time of his death. Exhibition curator Ruth Green-McNally notes that “In this, his fifth museum exhibition since 2009, Connaway’s oeuvre has been reconsigned to the public consciousness. His marines and landscapes exhibit a prolific ‘painter of poetry’ and confirm his individualistic response to the challenges and credos of an era.”
Under the patronage of Bartlett Arkell, president of Beech-Nut Corporation and founder of the Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery, Connaway painted in Brittany, France, and later on the remote island of Monhegan, Maine, where he resided in a house provided by Arkell.
In an act of generosity, Arkell conferred the Monhegan property in his will to Connaway. Relocating to Vermont and invigorated by new subject matter, the painter opened an art school that attracted New York painters, novices and servicemen under the GI Bill. Bartlett Arkell’s widow, Louise Ryall, became one of Connaway’s students and with the Arkells, Connaway became a founder and sponsor of Southern Vermont Artists, Inc. The Connaway Art School merged with Southern Vermont Arts Center in 1962.
This exhibition includes paintings by Connaway from the Arkell Museum and Arkell Foundation collections and two works from a private collection. Visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to see paintings by three of Connaway’s contemporaries. Two of these artists, Gifford Beal (1879‱956) and Clarence Chatterton (1890‱973), shared Connaway’s background as students of William Merritt Chase. The third artist, Edward Christiana (1912‱992), attended summer classes at the Connaway Art School on Monhegan Island.
Curator Ruth Greene-McNally will present a gallery talk at the Arkell Museum on Sunday, September 25, at 2 pm. The gallery talk is free with regular museum admission.
The museum is at 2 Erie Boulevard. For more information, www.arkellmuseum.org or 518-673-2314.