Published: September 26, 2000
American Impressionism at the Ogunquit Museum
OGUNQUIT, ME- There are just two weeks left to catch “: American Impressionism” at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, 183 Shore Road. The show ends when the museum closes for the season on October 15, and a marvelous opportunity to see a diamond of a show will have passed.
This is a huge exhibition representing nearly 100 different American painters with 135 paintings lent from numerous small historical societies, art associations, libraries, small colleges and private collections, and art dealers. While a few museums lent work to the show – the Lynn Museum, The William A. Farnsworth Art Museum and The Portland Museum of Art, for example – Dr. Michael Culver, associate director of The Ogunquit and curator for the exhibition, had to look farther afield to put the show together. Participation from major lenders was uncharacteristically weak.
The Ogunquit specializes Twentieth Century art, Modernism specifically, so the usual lenders didn’t come forward with as much support as the Ogunquit expected, according to Selma Koss Holtz, fine art dealer and one of the lenders to the exhibition. For the viewer, this means that the content of the show is fresh and rarely seen– and certainly unlikely to be assembled together ever again.
Culver intentionally broadens our interpretation of Impressionism as it was adopted and molded through American eyes. “It should be understood that no real archetypical Impressionistic style existed in American painting, but rather a number of styles and approaches which shared common aspects,” stated Culver in the show catalog. Therefore, the show goes deeper than the typically celebrated Impressionists, including dozens of lesser-known but beautiful examples of American Impressionism, as well as paintings from the Ash Can School, which evolved from early Impressionism. (The show includes nine of “The Ten” American Impressionists, a group formed in 1897, and six of “The Eight,” the 1908 group of Ash Can painters.)
Many well known painters are represented: Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, John Singer Sargent, Julian Alden Weir, Maurice Prendergast, Mary Cassatt, Willard Metcalf, George Bellows, Robert Henri, William Glackens and many others. Culver drew from hundreds of other talented but lesser know artists working in America during the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. He also included many notable women painters of the day: Agnes Abbot, Cecelia Beaux, Elizabeth Boott, Constance Cochrane, Johanna Hailman, Laura Coombs and about eight others. There are only a few regrettable omissions. William Merritt Chase, Joseph DeCamp and Thomas Dewing – all members of The Ten – are not in the show.
Said Holtz, “This exhibition, which embodies American Impressionism, is so successful and well received because it showcases subjects and locales which were uniquely American without excluding the foreign locales in which the artists painted.”
The catalog, while informative, will provide readers with a mere hint of the richness of the exhibition. The few color images are not reproduced very well. Therefore, seeing the show in person, as hundreds have done every day, is the only way to really appreciate its breadth.
The Ogunquit Museum of American Art is open from 10:30 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday, and from2 to 5 pm on Sunday. For information call 207/646-4909.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm