|Painting Annual 20 presents a broad selection of compelling acquisitions that display our long-established strengths and our emerging specialties. Known for fine 19th century American Painting, in particular American Impressionism, our evolving holdings reflect the changing tastes of our clients, with a reinvigorated emphasis on Mid-Century American Modernism, Social and Magic Realism, and our recent focus on Boston Expressionism. |
Jerome Thompson’s iconic American genre painting A Country Parson Disturbed at his Breakfast by a Couple Wishing to be Married, 1848, (fig. 1) is a significant work that marks the artist’s transition from portraiture to genre subject matter, and serves as an historical record of life in America in the 1840s. The 19th century is further explored with Hudson River School works by Thomas Hewes Hinckley and Paul Weber. The Boston School is represented with the impressionistic and virtuoso watercolors of Gertrude Beals Bourne.
The American Marine Impressionist William Partridge Burpee is the most celebrated of the Lynn Beach Painters - a group of artists painting predominantly along the North Shore and depicting the regional subject matter of New England in an Impressionist style. Dorymen on Lynn Beach, 1890, (fig. 7) is a striking example of this genre. Charles Woodbury, Edward Page, and C. E. L. Green are also members of the Lynn Beach group, and fine examples of their work can be found in our inventory.
The current exhibition Family Matters: Bryson Burroughs, Reginald Marsh and Molly Luce illustrates a number of early to mid-twentieth century trends in American Realism. Though their pictorial styles differ greatly, each of the artists in this talented family imbued their works with a distinctive personal wit and captivating treatment of the human figure. All three took pains to express the individuality of their many subjects: Burroughs through multi-figure compositions rooted in mythology, Marsh by way of crowded city scenes, and Luce in her illustrations of daily life in the country.
Our exhibitions have also spotlighted the careers of artists we have handled for decades, with an emphasis on the mid-twentieth century. With Sally Michel: 1950s and 1960s, one can’t help but share the artist’s obvious joy at capturing the freedom, playfulness, and amusement of a leisurely moment in life. Michel, along with her husband Milton Avery, helped develop a fresh vernacular in American Modernism, humanizing abstraction in celebration of quotidian pleasures. Resting and Reading, 1963, (fig. 34) is a charming snapshot of one such fleeting moment.
A Painter’s Painter featured the work of Herbert Barnett, an artist who never completely abandoned the representational form for the pure abstraction that dominated his time-period. A close examination of Abstracted Still Life, circa 1966 (fig., inside cover), for example, reveals a hanging animal carcass among the seemingly random geometric forms. Even in his more clearly representational still lifes, Barnett’s fractured planes, bold colors, and spontaneity of brushwork clearly delineate him as a Modernist.
The work of Boston-born artist Henry Botkin has been successfully exhibited at the gallery since the 1980s, illustrating the primacy of Abstract Expressionism. Many of our other artists, however, turned away from that movement in favor of an individualistic representational style. Both Magic Realism and Boston Expressionism are part of that trend, two areas of renewed concentration at Childs.
The 1943 Museum of Modern Art (NY) exhibition, American Realists and Magic Realists, gave voice and imprimatur to a contrarian group of figurative painters, particularly Paul Cadmus and Jared French, at a time when Abstract Expressionism ruled New York’s avant-garde art-world. Edward Laning, another Magic Realist, was clearly influenced by the urban working class social commentary portrayed by his professors, the Ashcan School artists Max Weber and Reginald Marsh. Laning combined that commentary with much of the same mythological, classical references as his good friend Cadmus. The mystical symbolism that imbues so much of Laning’s work was well suited to his frequent mural commissions, including those at the New York Public Library and Ellis Island. The Parking Lot, 1951, (fig.22) evokes similar otherworldly imagery.
Along with the Magic Realists, a group of Boston artists was also rejecting Abstract Expressionism during that same period. Influenced by German Expressionism, they favored narrative, figurative subjects, and became known as Boston Expressionists. Many of those artists, including such notables as Hyman Bloom, Jack Levine, and Karl Zerbe, settled in Boston after fleeing the persecution of Jews in Europe during the Second World War. They quickly became influential in New England art education as instructors at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Having studied with Karl Zerbe and Ture Bengtz at that time, ninety-year-old Anne Lyman Powers continues the Boston Expressionist tradition to this day. Also of note, this spring we will be presenting the first gallery retrospective of Ture Bengtz works since the artist’s passing in 1973.
Lastly, sculpture is not to be overlooked in this annual. The work of monumental figurative sculptor Donald De Lue is featured alongside strong pieces by the iconoclast sculptor Dudley Vaill Talcott and the great African American sculptor Richmond Barthe. We are pleased to have one of only two known casts of Africa Awakening, 1967 (fig. 36).
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