Published: November 7, 2000
Another Look at a Cultural Pioneer at Vose Galleries
BOSTON, MASS. – Vose Galleries, America’s oldest family-owned art gallery, will feature “, 1855-1950” through December 1. A fixture in Boston’s cultural community for nearly a century, pioneered support for art appreciation and patronage in New England through its semi-annual exhibitions and lectures on the arts.
Fifty paintings from the current exhibition provided the nucleus for a major exhibition organized by Fuller Museum of Art in Brockton, Mass. in 1995. Entitled “Artists of , 1854-1950,” the show traveled to 14 museums across the country from 1995 to 1999. Vose Galleries has augmented this core group with more than 80 paintings ranging in style from the Hudson River School to early modernism.
While many have long appreciated the work of Boston’s best known artists of the Nineteenth Century, this exhibition and catalogue will bring to light some of the lesser known figures whose works hung alongside such names as Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase and Maurice Prendergast on the walls of ‘s capacious gallery. A 100-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition, which includes two essays, artist biographies and full-color reproductions of more than 90 works.
, originally organized as a supper club, held its first official meeting on January 1, 1885. The artists met thereafter for dinners in each other’s studios, located primarily around Tremont Row and in the Tremont Temple.
Samuel Lancaster Gerry (1813-1891), one of the founders, described the camaraderie of their early meetings: “This happy state of things [was] partly due to the fact that social gatherings have been cemented by caterers and good suppers, the palette and the palate seem to thrive together: the one is not with out the other.” Extending the witticism, the founders declared the objective of the club was “to foster a taste for high art.”
In the 1850s, artists were making a difficult leap to independence. The original 20 members of were a group of home-spun American artists who shared a common goal to achieve recognition and a more independent professional role in Boston, a city that had largely ignored them. The members hoped for a well-educated and artistically cultivated buying public, and they created as many opportunities to exhibit paintings as they could.
The New York critics took notice of their early annual exhibitions held at Boston Atheneum. The art magazine The Crayon noted, “We recognize … in the establishment of the [Boston] Art Club, a marked and healthy growth of art feeling in Boston, and an institution of great importance to the interests of the profession.”
By the 1880s was thriving. In 1882 a permanent clubhouse was built on fashionable Newbury Street, and by 1884, the Art Club had 876 members, of whom 126 were professional artists. The Art Club hosted two important juried annuals as well as numerous solo exhibitions.
In 1886 William Merritt Chase, one of New York’s most prominent artists, chose to exhibit 138 of his works in which he demonstrated an important new direction in his painting that aligned him with French Impressionism. Boston and embraced American artists returning from the land of Claude Monet with their own interpretations of the new art form.
After the famous Armory Show of 1913, made a brief attempt to showcase Boston’s attempts at modernism under the leadership of Charles Hovey Pepper. He and four like-minded artists formed “The Five” and showed annually at the Club for ten years.
Modernism, however, would not find a foothold in Boston and gradually membership in declined as rival organizations began to attract area artists. By 1950, the organization that had been largely instrumental in developing the region’s artistic awareness closed its doors without fanfare.
Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm; Saturday, 9 am to 4 pm; telephone 617/536-6176.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm