Monday, September 15, 2014

Degas/Cassatt at the National Gallery of Art

Mary Cassatt Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878 oil on canvas overall: 89.5 x 129.8 cm (35 1/4 x 51 1/8 in.) framed: 114.3 x 154.3 x 5.7 cm (45 x 60 3/4 x 2 1/4 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Edgar Degas's (1834–1917) influence on fellow impressionist Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) is widely known, but her role in shaping his work and introducing him to American audiences is fully examined for the first time in Degas/Cassatt. On view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington—the sole venue worldwide—from May 11 through October 5, 2014, the exhibition includes some 70 works in a variety of media. Groundbreaking technical analysis is presented by conservators and scientists who examined key works by both artists.

"Despite differences of gender and nationality, Degas and Cassatt forged a deep friendship founded on respect and admiration, and we are delighted to share the results of this relationship with our visitors. The Gallery is particularly well suited to the exploration of this subject because of the exceptional works donated by discerning collectors, such as Paul Mellon, Chester Dale, and Lessing J. Rosenwald," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. "A profound debt of gratitude is owed to our many lenders, both public and private, in the United States and France."

The Gallery is exceptionally rich in holdings by both artists, with one of the finest collections of works by Cassatt in existence, totaling 119, and the third largest collection of works by Degas in the world, totaling 158.

Exhibition Highlights

Degas/Cassatt is organized thematically over four galleries with a focus on the height of Degas and Cassatt's artistic alliance—the late 1870s through the mid-1880s. Included are oil paintings, pastels, and works on paper (etchings, lithographs, monotypes, and drawings), with several that were once in the artists' personal collections. Cassatt stated that her first encounter with Degas's art "changed my life," while Degas, upon seeing Cassatt's art for the first time, reputedly remarked, "there is someone who feels as I do."

A focal point of the exhibition is Cassatt's Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1878). Degas's participation in this painting is known through a letter (also in the exhibition) that Cassatt wrote to her dealer Ambroise Vollard, but the details have remained a mystery. Recent cleaning and careful analysis of the brushwork, as well as x-radiographs and infrared images have revealed changes beneath the paint surface, providing clear evidence of Degas's intervention in Cassatt's picture.

Both artists explored alternate and mixed media, including distemper, tempera, and metallic paint, during a brief but intensive period of experimentation from 1878 to1879. A group of these daring and unconventional works are on view, including

Cassatt's Woman Standing Holding a Fan (1878/1879) and

Degas's Portrait after a Costume Ball (Portrait of Mme Dietz-Monnin) (1879),

which is being loaned for the first time in 60 years.

The show presents some of the most audacious and technically innovative etchings of the artists' careers done in anticipation of a new impressionist print publication that was never realized, Le Jour et la unit.

The exhibition includes the most comprehensive group of works depicting Cassatt at the Louvre, including prints, preparatory drawings, pastels, paintings, and an original copperplate.

Several important artistic juxtapositions are revealed throughout the exhibition, including

Cassatt's Young Woman in Black (Portrait of Madame J) (1883),

on view for the first time beside

Degas's Fan Mount: Ballet Girls (1879), which appears in the background of her painting.

Degas owned some 100 works by Cassatt—more than any other contemporary artist of his generation. Among the works in his collection at the time of his death was a unique set of 13 impressions of Cassatt's print The Visitor (c. 1881). Four of these impressions as well as the original softground preparatory drawing (also from Degas's personal collection) are included.

Although their friendship endured until Degas's death in 1917, their interactions decreased after the eighth and final impressionist exhibition in 1886. A small group of works dating to the 1890s is included in the exhibition to illustrate how their paths diverged.

The exhibition curator is Kimberly A. Jones, associate curator of French paintings, National Gallery of Art.

Published by the National Gallery of Art and DelMonico Books, an imprint of Prestel Publishing, the 176-page fully illustrated exhibition catalogue is available in softcover and hardcover. The catalogue includes essays by Jones, with contributions by Elliot Bostwick Davis, John Moors Cabot Chair, Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Erica E. Hirshler, Croll Senior Curator of Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Ann Hoenigswald, senior conservator of paintings, National Gallery of Art; Marc Rosen and Susan Pinsky, private dealers in impressionist and modern art; and Amanda T. Zehnder, associate curator of fine arts, Carnegie Museum of Art.


Little Girl in a Blue Armchair came to the Gallery from Paul Mellon, who also donated his extraordinary collection of works by Degas. Formerly part of Degas's personal collection,

Cassatt's Girl Arranging Her Hair (1886) was among the more than two dozen paintings and works on paper bequeathed to the Gallery by Chester Dale.

More images from the exhibition:

Edgar Degas
Mademoiselle Malo, c. 1877
oil on canvas
overall: 81.1 x 65.1 cm (31 15/16 x 25 5/8 in.)
framed: 106 x 90.8 cm (41 3/4 x 35 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Collection

Mary Cassatt
A Woman and a Girl Driving, 1881
oil on canvas
89.3 x 130.8 cm (35 3/16 x 51 1/2 in.)
framed: 109.9 x 150.5 cm (43 1/4 x 59 1/4 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1921
The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

Mary Cassatt
Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son Robert Kelso Cassatt, 1884
oil on canvas
100 x 81.2 cm (39 3/8 x 31 15/16 in.)
framed: 120.7 x 100.3 cm (47 1/2 x 39 1/2 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Purchased with the W.P. Wilstach Fund and with funds contributed
by Mrs. William Coxe Wright, 1959
The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

Edgar Degas
Henri Degas and His Niece Lucie Degas (The Artist's Uncle and Cousin), 1875/1876
oil on canvas
unframed: 99.8 x 119.9 cm (39 5/16 x 47 3/16 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis L. Coburn Memorial Collection

Gabriel Metsu: Rediscovered Master of the Dutch Golden Age

An exhibition of some 40 of the finest and most celebrated masterpieces by the Dutch 17th-century artist Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667) was presented in the National Gallery of Ireland 4 September - 5 December 2010. It was organised by the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, in association with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The exhibition, Gabriel Metsu: Rediscovered Master of the Dutch Golden Age featured works from all phases of the artist's career, including a number of recently discovered and restored works. It paid homage to his engaging genre scenes which vary from musical companies and amorous encounters, to revellers, street traders and kitchen maids. Examples of Metsu's lesser known yet wonderfully accomplished achievements in the fields of religious painting, portraiture and still life are also highlighted. The works in the exhibition were drawn from public and private collections around the world.

Born in Leiden in 1629, Metsu was, like his contemporary Johannes Vermeer, one of the most important painters of his age. Despite his untimely death at the age of 37, Metsu produced an outstanding oeuvre which provides a fascinating glimpse into love, life and fashion in 17th-century Holland. His remarkable mastery of the brush and talent for imbuing his figures with humanity and personality drew admiration from both artists and collectors of his time. This exhibition is an opportunity to re-evaluate an artist who was one of the most collectable artists of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Among the works in the exhibition were a number of recently discovered paintings that will afford a contemporary audience an opportunity to evaluate the artist afresh, including

A Woman Artist (Le Corset rouge), (c.1661-4, Private Collection)

which features Metsu's wife, Isabella de Wolff, who frequently modelled for her husband.

The exhibition also reunited for the first time since the 18th century, two paintings which hung in the house of his most important patron, Jan Jacobsz.

Hinlopen: A Visit to the Nursery (1661, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

and A Portrait of Jan Jacobsz. Hinlopen and his Family (c.1662-3, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin).

Like Vermeer, Metsu began his career as a history painter. One of his earliest surviving biblical paintings,

Dives and Lazarus (c.1650, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg)

was included here alongside

The Dismissal of Hagar (c.1653-4, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden),

one of the highlights of Metsu's early career in Leiden.

The exhibition showed that Metsu was a versatile artist who painted subjects ranging from interior scenes to portraiture. His favourite subjects though were women attending to their daily chores, selling food, or engaged in amorous pursuits:

A Young Woman Selling Poultry (1662, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden);

A Woman Tuning her Cittern, Approached by a Man (c.1659-62, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel).

Metsu painted himself at least ten times in various guises. In one of the most accomplished of his blacksmith scenes,

A Cavalier Visiting a Blacksmith's Shop, (1654-6, The National Gallery, London),

Metsu portrays himself as the comically pompous cavalier who orders horse shoes from the smith.

In another painting,

A Hunter Getting Dressed after Bathing, (c.1654-6, Private Collection),

he depicted himself putting on his clothes after a swim in a brook.

In the early 1650s, Metsu moved to the larger and more prosperous city of Amsterdam which had a profound effect on his career; he soon transformed himself from a history painter into one of the leading painters of 'modern companies'.

His later works, painted in Amsterdam in the 1660s, demonstrate the artist's technical virtuosity and also reflect the stylistic influence of major genre painters of the time, most notably Gerrit Dou, Gerard ter Borch, Frans Van Mieris and Johannes Vermeer.

Examples include

The Intruder (c.1661-3, National Gallery of Art, Washington) and

A Woman Composing Music, with an Inquisitive Man, (c.1664-7, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague).

Among the works which particularly recall Vermeer are the companion pieces,

A Man Writing a Letter

and A Woman Reading a Letter (c.1664-6, National Gallery of Ireland, Sir Alfred and Lady Beit Gift, 1987)

which are considered to be the artist's most renowned works. Another painting showing Vermeer's influence is

The Sick Child (1664-6, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam),

one of the most iconic images of parental devotion in Dutch art. Towards the end of his life Metsu returned to painting religious subjects, the most dramatic of which is

Christ on the Cross (1664, Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome).

Also on display were the only two drawings that are securely attributed to Metsu: The Resurrection of Christ (c.1650-3, Musée Fabre, Montpellier) and Sketch of a Female Figure (c.1662-4, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main), which is a preparatory sketch for the painting, A Man Visiting a Woman Washing her Hands (c. 1662-4, Private Collection).

The curator of the exhibition was Dr. Adriaan E. Waiboer whose Ph.D. dissertation and forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Metsu provided the knowledge base for the National Gallery exhibition. He is also editor of the accompanying catalogue to the show which documents the social context in which Metsu lived and worked. In his introductory essay, Dr. Adriaan Waiboer gives an insight into the artist's life, work and reputation both during his own lifetime and over the centuries. Another essay by his hand discusses Metsu's relationship with Vermeer. He says:

"Metsu enjoyed admiration and success as an artist during his lifetime. By the second half of the 18th century Metsu's pictures could be found in some of the most prestigious collections in France, including that of King Louis XV, while as many as 34 authentic works by Metsu were imported into England, with Parisian auctions as their main origin. In recent years however, Metsu has been somewhat eclipsed by the popularity of the Delft artist Vermeer, which has prevented people from properly admiring or evaluating Metsu's work. This exhibition hopes to rectify this and provide visitors with the opportunity to explore and appreciate the full extent of the artist's merits."

The exhibition catalogue includes six other informative essays with contributions from Professor Wayne E. Franits (Syracuse University): 'Gabriel Metsu and the Art of Luxury; Professor Linda Stone-Ferrier (University of Kansas): 'Gabriel Metsu's Street Vendors-Shopping for Values in the Dutch Neighbourhood'; E. Melanie Gifford (National Gallery of Art, Washington): 'Fine Painting and Eloquent Imprecision: Metsu's Painting Technique'; Pieter Roelofs (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam): 'Early owners of Paintings by Metsu in Leiden and Amsterdam'; Bianca M. du Mortier (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam): 'Costumes in Metsu's paintings: Mode and Manners in the Mid-Seventeenth Century'; and Marijn Schapelhouman (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam): 'Gabriel Metsu's Rare Drawings' (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

The catalogue also reviews the contributions to literature on the artist with particular reference to a number of published sources in the 18th and early 19th centuries which show that Metsu was highly respected in his own life-time. Among the publications included in the display is a copy of John Smith's Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters (vol. 4, London 1833) in which he argued that the 'superiority of Metsu over every artist in the Dutch School is chiefly observable in the chaste and beautiful drawing of his figures, accompanied by a peculiar refinement of character, and where necessary, great elegance of manner'.

There was also material on loan from the archives in Leiden and Amsterdam, including a number of notarial records. One of them documents a visit by a certain Nicolaes De Roy to the young painter in Leiden around 1649. De Roy ordered a portrait of himself from Metsu in return for a 'manikin' (a wooden model). Records of sponsorship of young artists in 17th-century Holland, such as this one, are rare. Also on loan is Jan Vos's Alle de Gedichten (All his Poems) (vol.1, 1662 Library of the University of Amsterdam Special Collections) which includes the poem originally commissioned from Jan Vos by Hinlopen (Metsu's patron) on the virtues of the painting, A Visit to the Nursery (1661, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

As part of the exhibition, the National Gallery of Ireland had on display a number of interesting artefacts and objets d'art, many of which feature in Metsu's paintings, such as an ornate Dutch picture frame (c.1660-3, Natinoal Gallery of Ireland), which is identical to the one appearing in the Gallery's painting, A Man Writing a Letter (1660-3). Also on view is a goblet, made of buffalo horn in a silver mount (1566, Amsterdams Historisch Museum), which belonged to the Amsterdam Guild of Saint Sebastian and appears in A Woman Tuning her Citter, Approached by a Man (c.1659-62, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel). Other objects include a so-called night-raile (c.1635, Fries Museum Leeuwarden) or linen cloth, which was used to protect women's clothes while combing their hair; a Standing Putto, by Johan Larson, after Francois Duquesnoy, which features as a studio prop in Metsu's A Woman Artist (Le Corset rouge) (c.1661-4, Private Collection); a sewing cushion in green velvet with an interior of printed leather, similar to the one in Metsu's The Hunter's Gift (c.1658-61, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam); and a rare pair of embroidered Dutch mules (c.1660) made of linen, hemp, silk and wool which appear in various paintings in the exhibition,

The last major exhibition dedicated to Metsu was at the Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden in 1966 and the most recent monograph dedicated to his work was that written by Franklin W. Robinson and published in 1974. This exhibition is an opportunity to rediscover a wonderfully accomplished artist whose works have gained him a place among the most celebrated painters of 17th-century Holland.

Alice Neel: Painted Truths

 Alice Neel: Painted Truths opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on 21 March, 2010 and closed on 13 June. This survey of 68 paintings was arranged thematically and includes portraits and cityscapes from all phases of Neel's career. The exhibition traced Neel's style and examines the themes of Allegory, The Essential Portrait, the Psychological Portrait, Portraits from Memory, Cityscapes, Parent and Child, the Detached Gaze and Old Age.

This was the first major exhibition and publication on Alice Neel since the 2000 retrospective. After its Houston showing it traveled to the Whitechapel Gallery, London and the Moderna Museet, Malmö.

Widely regarded as one of the most important American painters of the 20th century, Alice Neel is internationally recognized for her contributions to Abstract Expressionism, especially her perceptive portraiture. Neel (1900–1984) was a portrait painter at a time when this was traditionally the role of a male artist. After ascending to prominence in the 1960s as the feminist movement gained momentum, she has remained an iconic figure in the history of American painting.

A self-proclaimed “collector of souls,” Neel often painted friends and family, as well as the celebrated artists and writers of her day, such as Andy Warhol, Frank O’Hara, and Meyer Shapiro, delving into personalities and idiosyncrasies with a rare frankness. Alice Neel: Painted Truths brings together paintings that demonstrate Neel’s range and ability, along with insightful commentary from four leading art historians.

Although the book focuses on her portraits, it also covers the artist’s early social realist paintings and cityscapes, tracing the evolution of Neel’s style and examining themes that she revisited throughout her career. It contains essays by co-curators Jeremy Lewison and Barry Walker as well as Tamar Garb and Robert Storr. There are also artist's appreciations by Frank Auerbach, Marlene Dumas and Chris Ofili, thematic introductions and catalogue entries.

From the arts (some images added)

A self-portrait by Alice Neel, aged 80

In her only self-portrait (main picture), painted in 1980, four years before her death, she looks formidable. Aged 80, naked and with a spindly brush in one hand and a rag in the other, she belies, with her fearsome look, her physical vulnerability: the stubbornly down-turned mouth, an eyebrow raised in a disdainful and defiant arch (disdainful, perhaps, of her own reflection or of us); and her hair like a steel helmet, not the mass of grey, formless, candyfloss we see in the film.

Degenerate Madonna, 1930, shows the influence of German Expressionism, though its mannered stylisation hides nothing of the pitiless rawness of self-hatred.


InSymbols (Doll and Apple), c 1933another doll-child sits slumped and twisted-limbed, surrounded by Christian imagery. Its style is that of the Latin American devotional painting. More perplexingly, an apple hides its genitals, another apple is held in one hand and a huge red glove is worn in the other. It was painted soon after Neel was discharged from a hospital following her mental breakdown.

 You can see Neel’s style shift according to who she was painting and what he or she represented. She even flirts with socialist realism. Pat Whalen, 1935, shows the fervently committed Communist staring into the middle-distance of a promised future, his heavy, oversized fists clenched over a copy of the Daily Worker, the organ of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA).

Elsewhere, heavily worn Neue Sachlichkeit caricature informs her painting of Audrey McMahon, 1940(pictured left). McMahon was the director of the New York division of the New Deal’s Federal Art Project and was an unpopular figure among many artists, including Neel. McMahon stares out of the canvas with a face as brown and as hard and as shrunken as a shrivelled nut.

Neel.NancyandOliviaIt is not until the Sixties that Neel’s dense, dark palette lifts, and she becomes thoroughly and recognisably "Alice Neel". She begins to paint fellow artists, curators and writers but also returns again and again to the theme of Mother and Child. These are unlike the earlier Degenerate Madonna, yet many unflinchingly depict the anxiety and often sheer shock of new motherhood. Among the most arresting – and I think one of the strongest paintings in the exhibition – is Mother and Child (Nancy and Olivia), 1967 (pictured right). Neel’s daughter-in-law sits hugging her baby as if it were a life buoy and her saucer-wide eyes betray her utter bewilderment. A later portrait of Nancy with five-month-old twins, painted in 1971, shows someone altogether more practised at motherhood, transformed by self-assurance.Neel.Warhol

Neel was always interested in getting under the skin of her sitters and one certainly feels her portrait of Andy Warhol (pictured left) – an artist whose interest lay only in surface – achieves this. At the very least it succeeds in portraying the humanity behind the almost impenetrable coolness of his image. Painted in 1970, two years after his near fatal shooting by Factory hanger-on/stalker Valerie Solanas, Warhol sits on a cartoon outline of a sofa. He is stripped to the waist, his eyes closed. He might be inwardly flinching at our unwavering gaze, but his face conveys dignified self-possession.
We survey the scars of his gunshot wounds, his pendulous man-breasts, the bulging surgical corset. His frame is fragile, almost feminine. And the paint is so thinly applied that he looks ethereal, his feet barely anchored to the ground. He might float off at any moment. We, however, are rooted to the spot.

Outstanding review

Swann Gallery: Homer, Cadmus, Rockwell, Burchfield, Wyeth, Marsh

Swann Galleries’ June 12 auction of American Art was the highest-grossing sale in this category ever—and also the first American Art auction at Swann to bring in more than $1 million—the sale total was $1,020,970*.

Todd Weyman, Swann Galleries Vice President and Director of Prints & Drawings, said, “We are delighted with the results of this American Art auction, which was our strongest sale ever in this category. There was spirited bidding across the board, from 19th-century artists to mid-century modernists. Particularly notable were 

Winslow Homer’s Study: Fresh Air

which fetched an auction record price for a pen and ink drawing by the artist, and 

Preston Dickinson’s The Peters Mills

which brought a record price for a Dickinson watercolor, gouache or ink.”

The Homer drawing, which brought $106,250, was a recent discovery—having previously been listed in the Homer catalogue raisonne as “whereabouts unknown”—and had descended through the family of the artist James D. Smillie. It was a study for Homer’s seminal, same-titled watercolor 

Fresh Air

which is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

A work by Smillie himself also set a record in the auction. His Sunset Over a Lake, oil on board brought $11,875.

And, as mentioned above, a 1924 brush, ink, wash and color pastel with pencil by Preston Dickinson brought a record $60,000.

Prices remain strong for drawings by Paul Cadmus, and this sale featured 

Seated Male Nude (NM 96), color pastel and charcoal, 1972, which achieved $37,500; and a pen and ink, Jared French Leaving, circa 1930, $13,750.

A work by French was also a highlight: Mediterranean Street Corner, tempera on Masonite, 1954, which sold for $22,500.

Another top lot from the 1950s was Norman Rockwell’s studies for 

The Family Tree

charcoal, drawn for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post’s October 24, 1959 issue

(see a great history of this work here)—which was accompanied by a copy of the magazine, $28,160.

A pair of watercolors by naturalist Charles Burchfield performed well: Lacy Trees and Sunlit Clouds, watercolor and pencil, 1916, at $25,000 and Morning Glories, watercolor, gouache and pencil, 1915, $21,250.

Rounding out the top lots were 

Andrew Wyeth’s Portrait of Alfred Porter, pencil, 1973, $22,500;

 Hughie Lee-Smith’s Buoy and Girl, oil on canvas, 1982, $23,750; 

Reginald Marsh’s Vaudeville Dancers on a Stage, watercolor, pen and ink, 1944, $20,000; 

John La Farge’s Study of Reef, Tautira, Tahiti, watercolor and gouache, circa 1891, $16,250

and Miguel Covarrubias’s Ceremonial Kachina Dancer, tempera, $15,000. 

Master, Mentor, Master - Thomas Cole & Frederic Church

Master, Mentor, Master - Thomas Cole & Frederic Church at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site  April 30-November 2, 2014  tells the story of one of the most important teacher-student relationships in the history of American art – that between the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and his student – successor, Frederic Church (1826-1900). The exhibition will be on view from April 30 through November 2, 2014. 

The Thomas Cole Historic Site is located at 218 Spring Street, Catskill, New York. For information visit or call 518-943-7465.

Frederic E. Church, Charter Oak at Hartford, 1846, oil on canvas, 24 x 34 ¼”. Florence Griswold Museum; Gift of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance / Company / 2002.1.29.

Master, Mentor, Master - Thomas Cole & Frederic Church will be the first exhibition to explore this seminal moment in American art through the lens of the unique relationship between Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. Their student-teacher arrangement grew into a life-long friendship between the two families, and later, the two historic sites that bridge the east and west sides of the Hudson River. Church, who evolved into one of the most celebrated artists of the 19th century and later built Olana, was first introduced to the Hudson River Valley as an 18–year-old when he came to live and study with Cole at the property known as Cedar Grove in Catskill, New York, from 1844 to 1846. Church’s paintings from this formative two-year period show the artist learning from Cole while developing his own emerging style and unparalleled mastery of landscape painting.

Frederic E. Church, Scene on Catskill Creek, 1847, oil on canvas, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland

A selection of very early works made by Church during his time as a student of Cole will be on view, including views of the landscapes that surround Cedar Grove and Olana. The Cole Site has also worked closely with curators and staff at the Olana State Historic Site on this special exhibition, and will present a unique selection of rarely shown oils on paper and sketches made by Church from the Olana collection.

Accompanying the show will be an exhibition catalogue about the Cole-Church relationship, illustrated in full color, which will include the artworks in the show plus many additional paintings and drawings. Also included will be stories that bring the student-teacher relationship to life, including a description of the day that Cole first took Church to “Red Hill” where Church would return years later to build his castle, Olana. Wilmerding’s essay will include quotes from Church about these formative years, including some late (1890s) letters by Church where, decades after his mentor has died, he continues to write about his abiding respect for Cole, comparing him to a Turner or Constable.

About the Curator

John Wilmerding is the Sarofim Professor of American Art, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He has been a visiting curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and served as Senior Curator and Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, where he was former chairman of the board of trustees. He is currently a trustee of the Guggenheim Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. President Obama appointed him to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. In 2013 he curated an exhibition about Frederic Church at the Olana State Historic Site, our sister institution directly across the Hudson River.

From a review in the Wall Street Journal (images added):

Cole was among America's pre-eminent artists when an 18-year-old Church arrived at Cedar Grove from his native Connecticut in 1844. "View of the Catskills From the Hudson River Valley" (c.1844), one of the earliest Church pieces exhibited, is a competent oil-on-paperboard sketch of pleasant scenery revealing native talent awaiting polish. Thereafter, Mr. Wilmerding notes, Church absorbed Cole's technique so well that when he exhibited his large canvas

"July Sunset" (1847) at the National Academy in New York, a critic declared Church's work to be "strongly influenced, if not made, by Cole himself."
Though Cole painted many wonderful landscape canvases as such, he often treated landscape as a backdrop to his expressive narratives. Church made the landscape itself emphatically expressive by bringing the radiant depiction of light and atmospheric phenomena to a much higher level of naturalism. For instance, to capture the mighty surf pounding against the jagged cliff of

"Frenchman's Bay, Mount Desert Island, Maine" (1844),
Cole painted the wild water with countless minuscule curls of white on the breakers' green surface. It is a strong effect, but endearingly naive beside the sheer technical panache of

Church's "Fog Off Mount Desert" (1850). 
With myriad tones of green, gray, white and pink, Church achieves the unimpeachable illusion of translucent water crashing, pooling and washing over the rocks. Here, Church's virtuoso naturalism anticipates that of a more famous work, his 

"Niagara" (1857, 
at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington), its convincing rush of water virtually audible to viewers. 

Cole's "Study for Catskill Creek" (1844-45) 
depicts the somber profile of the distant mountain range against a demurely fading sky flecked with cloud formations gently touched with crepuscular tints of russet and gold. But Church's "Sunrise" (1847) shows him already developing his powerful signature vocabulary of highly figured skies whose textured cloud formations reflect crimson sunlight at the two most dramatic times of day—dawn and dusk. In "Sunrise" the dark foreground landscape and glowing quilt of mottled crimson and purple cloud-cover frame a small fanlike burst of golden sunrays piercing a lower band of purple cloud, anticipating one of Church's most celebrated canvases,

"The After Glow" (1867, 
at Olana State Historic Site), which focuses on a much larger burst of dying rays, and which Church himself declared "the best Twilight I have ever painted."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sotheby's: Rothko, Diebenkorn, Homer, Hopper, Seurat, Picasso, Pissarro

Sotheby's has announced details of its November 2014 sales series comprising the extraordinary collection of the late Rachel Lambert Mellon.

The auctions will commence on 10 November with an evening sale dedicated to a curated selection of Mrs. Mellon’s fine art, which encapsulates her sophisticated eye and approach to collecting. The pieces on offer in the Masterworks auction span four centuries.

The Masterworks auction is led by

Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) from 1955, 

which captures the ephemeral magic of daybreak (est. $20/30 million). The work belongs to the most pivotal moment in the artist’s career -- he painted only 22 works in this pinnacle year, 13 of which reside in prestigious museum collections. The collection also offers Rothko’s Untitled from 1970, classified as the penultimate painting in the artist’s prodigious oeuvre (est. $15/20 million). Both works have remained in the Mellons’ collection for more than 40 years.

The 10 November sale offers three monumental canvases from Richard Diebenkorn’s famed Ocean Park series, each acquired by the Mellons in the 1970s shortly after they were created. 

Not quite corporeal but not entirely abstract, the dazzling 

Ocean Park #61 engulfs the viewer with spectacular color, form and texture (left, est. $8/12 million). Executed in 1975 and acquired the same year, 

Ocean Park #89 conjures the warm, atmospheric haze of an early evening dusk (est. $8/12 million). 

And Ocean Park #50 from 1972 marks a transformative moment in the series, following an evolution in the tenor of the paintings thatbegan to take hold in 1971 (est. $7/9 million).

Old Master paintings and drawings from the collection are led by 
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s Still Life (est. $3/4 million).  Here is a similar work:

Ambrosius Bosschaert Still-Life with flowers Oil on Copper

Mrs. Mrs. Mellon’s collection of American art includes works by Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper. 

Homer executed his oil sketch 

Children on the Beach in 1873, 

during his first visit to the busy fishing port of Gloucester, Massachusetts where he explored the subject of children at play in numerous works (left, est. $3/5 million). 

O’Keeffe painted 
White Barn during a 1932 trip to the Gaspé Peninsula in eastern Canada (est. $1.5/2.5 million). Although the barn was a motif O’Keeffe explored at numerous times in her career, the present example is remarkable for its strikingly-minimalist aesthetic. 

 A siimilar work from the visit is at  The Metropolitan Museum of Art,:

White Canadian Barn II, 1932
Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887–1986)
Oil on canvas; 12 x 30 in. (30.5 x 76.2 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1964 (64.310)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Following the purchase of his first car, Hopper created  
Coast Guard Cove during his second visit to the village of Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, Maine in 1929 (est. $1/1.5 million). The majority of the works Hopper completed during this period were executed in watercolor, a medium that allowed him to accurately capture the fleeting qualities of light and shadow on this unique environment. 

 A siimilar work from the first visit is at  The Metropolitan Museum of Art,:

Coast Guard Station, Two Lights, Maine, 1927
Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967)
Watercolor, gouache, and charcoal on paper; 13 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (35.2 x 50.5 cm)
The Lesley and Emma Sheafer Collection, Bequest of Emma A. Sheafer, 1973 (1974.356.25)

Impressionist and Modern works by Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Camille Pissarro also highlight the Masterworks sale.

Femme tenant un bouquet is one of two pieces in the collection by Seurat done in conté crayon on paper (est. $2/3 million). The artist’s evocative technique as a draughtsman was developed early in his career, and he executed the present portrait circa 1882 when he was only 22 years old.

Painted in Barcelona in 1901, Picasso’s La Plage  is a charming scene depicting a group of women and children playing at the beach -- a motif the artist returned to throughout his career (right, est. $1/1.5 million). 

Pissarro’s Paysanne assise et chèvre belongs to a series of works capturing the rural charm of Érangy, France, the small hamlet where the artist lived from 1884 until his death in 1903 (est. $1/1.5 million).