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The Barbara Belgrade Spargo Collection: Facets of Modernity (1900-1950)
January 13 - April 1, 2012
The Barbara Belgrade Spargo Collection: Facets of Modernity (1900-1950), on display at the New Britain Museum of American Art from January 13 to April 1, 2012, brings to the Davis Gallery approximately 25 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from the collection of Barbara Belgrade Spargo. Assembled by Mrs. Spargo, business woman turned art enthusiast and scholar, over the past three decades, it totals over 300 works of art and is among the finest collections of American art in private hands in the region. Publicly on view for the first time, highlights from the collection will provide a kaleidoscopic view into the developments in American art during the first half of the twentieth century. (right: Reynolds Beal (1866-1951), Chase's Tenth Street Studio, ca. 1894, Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Collection of Barbara Belgrade Spargo)
When Barbara Belgrade Spargo first began collecting art in 1976, it was the artists of the Ashcan school that became the focus of her efforts and still remain one of the hallmarks of her collection. By extension, one of the focal points of the exhibition is urban realism of The Eight, a group of painters led by Robert Henri who rejected the classical, genteel themes and traditional art making promoted by conservative academies in favor of a more expressive, individualized approach that was better in touch with the pulse of modern life. Artworks by Robert Henri and five other members of The Eight -- William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Everett Shinn and John Sloan -- as well as a number of their students and associates, Edward Hopper among them, are featured. Collectively known as the Ashcan school, artists who sympathized with Henri's emphasis on "art for life's sake" rather than "art for art's sake," came to define the avant-garde of early twentieth-century American art.
While the Ashcan artists drew inspiration from 17th and 19th century European masters, such as Frans Hals, Diego Velazquez, Edouard Manet, and Edgar Degas, a number of their younger contemporaries took to the Fauvism of Henri Matisse, the Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and other threads of the European avant-garde, whose influence cemented itself on American ground after the watershed 1913 Armory exhibition. Included in Facets of Modernity (1900-1950) are artworks by Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer, Max Weber, William Zorach and other leading "radical" American modernists, offering a compelling display of the pluralistic tendencies that characterized art making during one of the most unsettling and transitional periods in American culture.
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