Published: October 29, 2002
PORTLAND, MAINE – The Portland Museum of Art will present the first retrospective of Charles Codman’s (1800-1842) work, tracing the evolution of this important Nineteenth Century American artist from his early training as an ornamental painter to his first efforts as a portraitist, to his mature work as a landscape painter. In the process it will document the emergence of a distinctive American painting tradition in the first half of the Nineteenth Century.
Featuring many newly conserved paintings never before on public display, “Charles Codman: The Landscape of Art and Culture in 19th Century Maine” will be on view November 7 through January 5. Based in Portland, John Neal was known internationally for his literary and artistic expertise, and he took the young artist under his wing, encouraging Codman to capitalize on the new vogue – and his remarkable skill – for landscape painting. Codman’s work rapidly became more sophisticated in technique and palette, and as a result Neal consistently praised Codman in his writings and encourage him to produce paintings for exhibition.
Many of Codman’s landscapes were composite depictions of specific and imagined landscape forms, drawing upon a number of sources in adapting for America the grand European traditions of art making and art collecting.
Thanks to inscriptions uncovered on his paintings during conservation, and thanks to the scrupulous documentation of John Neal, Codman is known to have looked to numerous reproductive prints and literary sources, including Thomas Sully’s famous painting, “The Passage of the Delaware” (used by Codman in his banner for the Calais Frontier Guard, circa 1838); an engraving after Sir Thomas Lawrence (copied for “Youth on a Rocky Ledge,” circa 1825-1835); and the work of Dutch master Philips Wouwerman (“Landscape,” 1828).
This practice, however, went hand-in-hand with Codman’s dedication to the “real” scenes of Maine and New England, including both landscapes (“The Willey House and Notch Looking South,” circa 1830-33, depicting a scene in New Hampshire, and numerous views of Portland’s “Diamond Cove”), and scenes of vital action or local interest.
The museum, Seven Congress Square, is open 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and 10 am to 9 pm on Thursday and Friday. For information, 207-775-6148.
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