Published: January 18, 2011
The Woodmere Art Museum is presenting a new exhibition exploring the work of landscape painter John Folinsbee (1892‱972), offering a fresh perspective on the revered New Hope painter’s life and career. “John Folinsbee and American Modernism,” on view to March 6, moves past Folinsbee’s reputation as an Impressionist painter, revealing the artist’s contributions to the development of Modern art in America.
Visitors to the exhibition will experience Folinsbee’s paintings depicting the Bucks County region’s iconic scenery as they have rarely been presented before. Looking beyond the traditional pastoral views of the Delaware River and its environs, Folinsbee chose instead to paint the mills, factories and steel-truss bridges that lined its banks or spanned its waters, and was drawn to the architectural beauty of barns, quarries and slag heaps. These paintings, primarily on loan to the museum from private collectors throughout the country, have been seen by the public rarely, if ever, since Folinsbee created them.
The exhibition is Woodmere’s first major exhibition under the direction of William R. Valerio, who in September was appointed as the Patricia Van Burgh Allison director and chief executive officer.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Folinsbee demonstrated artistic talent at an early age and was sent at age nine to study at the Albright Art Gallery. He moved to Bucks County in 1916 to New Hope, Penn., a town well known for the Impressionist landscapes made famous by the region’s resident artists, such as Edward Redfield, Charles Rosen and Daniel Garber.
Throughout his career, Folinsbee approached his work with a fearlessness and independence that is evident in the emotional force of his paintings and the vigor of his brushstrokes.
Folinsbee was a regular exhibitor at the National Academy of Design in New York (known today as the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts), where he won nearly every award, sometimes more than once. By his mid-30s, he had a national reputation that extended to Texas, Ohio, Missouri, California, Indiana and elsewhere, far beyond the boundaries of Bucks County, with which he is so closely associated today.
Woodmere’s exhibition offers a new perspective on an artist largely identified today as a New Hope Impressionist. During the years 1920‱940, however, Folinsbee began to move away from traditional Impressionism in favor of a style more firmly grounded in structure and a greater expression of mood. Structure is a key characteristic of Modernism, and paintings made by Folinsbee during this period reveal him to be much more engaged in the development of modern art in America than has been previously thought.
Woodmere Art Museum is at 9201 Germantown Avenue. For additional information, www.woodmereartmuseum.org or 215-247-0476.
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