In “Rural Arcadia: Nineteenth Century Landscapes,” 20 landscape paintings from 1890 to the early 1900s will be featured. American painters left fussy landscapes behind and were influenced by the French Barbizon approach to nature. A humble direct dialogue with nature was emphasized. Providence, along with Boston, was a major importer of Barbizon School paintings in the 1880s.
Vose Gallery, founded in Providence, was very active acquiring paintings for its New England clients and Rhode Island artist Tom Robinson acted as Vose’s agent abroad in the purchase of Millet and other Barbizon painters. It was a natural result that Robinson shared with his Providence Art Club colleagues his enthusiasm for the naturalists from France, and thus a number of painters such as Edward Bannister, George Whitaker, and a young Charles Walter Stetson enjoyed an earthy palette and chose natural surroundings as their subjects.
While there are no Bannisters in this exhibit, an 1890s George Whitaker “Rhode Island Landscape” is included. This painting has an original Tilden and Thurber frame, a primary framer and art dealer of the day. Fellow Rhode Islanders, Charles Walter Stetson, Elijah Baxter, Frederick Batcheller and Frank Methewson are also on display. Stetson shows his evolution from limited tone to an avid colorist in his landscape, “By the Lake.” Batcheller’s work suggests the transition from concern with finely defined rendering to a looser, broader paint style. Contrasting the Batcheller is a James MacDougal Hart paintings, showing how the nationally recognized Hart and his sophisticated composition differs from a Rhode Island regionalist painter. Elijah Baxter will have both oils and watercolors on view, demonstrating his poetic and skillful manipulation of both media.
No Bert Gallery landscape show would be complete without the venerable Sydney R. Burleigh, watercolorist extraordinaire. There are three examples of his facile watercolor technique and clever composition of pastures and hillsides from Rhode Island and travels abroad. All and all, this intimate landscape show is but a delectable sampling of the memorable American landscape school from the turn of the century.
“Bricks and Mortar: Architectural Memories” is an altogether different outlook on the development of the New England rural arcadia to a powerful industrial landscape. The continuum of architectural structures in Rhode Island and other nearby New England states is evidence of the development from an agrarian to industrial society and the resulting impact upon community life. This exhibit will include both historic and contemporary artists. Historic artists James D. Herbert, Henry Peck, and Edgar Corbridge paint a broad array of structures. Herbert captures the opulence and elegance of the Newport mansions in the 1940s, while Corbridge looked to the glut of gritty industrial monuments of 1950s urban life. Henry Peck, the Howard Pyle trained illustrator, captures the 1920s Providence cityscape which was soon to be replaced by the fancy skyscrapers of the new capitalist generation. F. Usher DeVoll and Edna Lawrence show Providence a harbinger of what is to come with their New York City skyline paintings. Contemporary artist Frank Gasbarro paints the remnants of the industrial age building base in 2001, as Providence witnesses old manufacturing buildings being replaced with newer architectural facades.
Home and community structures are also represented. Lee Dimeo concentrates on depicting Providence’s enviable supply of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century homes of sea captains and mill men, while Kathy Hodge and Kate Huntington look at the tenement housing stock which offered affordable housing to the workers who fueled the mid-Twentieth Century economic boom. The exhibit offers viewers a composite of the treasure trove of buildings which surround us in New England and evidence the changing ideas, lifestyles, and times of our community.