Editor's note: Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio and Paul Steven Gratz provided permission for Resource Library to publish the following essays for the exhibition Albert Van Nesse Greene (1887-1971) Impressions of Life. If you have questions or comments regarding the essays, please contact Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio directly through either this phone number or web address:
Albert Van Nesse Greene
Impressions of Life
By Paul Steven Gratz, 2015
As a child I wandered the trails and woods of Historic Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania, a small village west of Valley Forge. My parents were married at Saint Peters United Church of Christ in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. My sister and brothers and I waded in the stream of the Pickering Creek that flows through the village. We explored the wonders of nature, finding frogs, salamanders, sunfish crayfish and an occasional water moccasin. I have fond memories of bright blue sunny skies in spring and summer. We would lie in the grass and watch the clouds float by above. The days would go on forever. This is where I was taught my love of nature and developed a passion for the Pennsylvania landscape. As I grew older I would be drawn back to this magical place called Yellow Springs time after time.
As teenagers, my friends and I hiked the Horse Shoe Trail. We would begin at Valley Forge and ramble past Wharton Esherick's studio down into Chester Springs and Yellow Springs. We often hiked at night, under the full moon, ending with a bonfire and camp out. In my twenties, we rode horses along the trails from Saint Peter's Village to Yellow Springs. My grandfather, Ivan March, was an equestrian and a carpenter. He built many of the bridges and railings along the Falls of French Creek, the area where he was raised. Eventually, bicycles turned into motorcycles, my first being a Triumph Bonneville. We would ride through Chester and Montgomery counties all the way to the Delaware River in Bucks County. Later, I began my career in painting conservation and I learned the importance of Historic Yellow Springs as an art community and school.
Yellow Springs was originally a place of healing. The name is derived from the sulphur springs that feed the Pickering Creek. It served as a hospital for George Washington's troops at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. During the American Civil War it became the Orphan School for Homeless Children until 1912. Historic Yellow Springs was also the home of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Country School from 1916 to 1952. Daniel Garber taught landscape painting at the Country School for many years. It was also the headquarters of Good News Productions, a motion picture company that produced Steve McQueen's first sci-fi movie, The Blob. Today, they continue to host an annual art show and provide a wonderful venue for art and teaching. The Phillips Mill, in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and the Historic Yellow Springs share much in common. Both were extremely important in the history of American Art, far more than a footnote in the development of Pennsylvania Impressionism.
One of the long-running traditions at Yellow Springs was the annual Antique Show. Dealers were scattered throughout the village and bars with food stations were set up at each exhibit; lumineers lit the paths. The Antique Show was always festive and fun, reminding visitors of the magic that surrounds Yellow Springs. I purchased my first work of art by Albert Van Nesse Greene at the Antique Show from Betty Titone. It was a beautiful pastel of the Hallman family's property with figures and architectural elements. The Hallman's owned the General Store in Yellow Springs and were generous supporters of Greene throughout his time in the area.
I became increasingly interested in the work of Albert Van Nesse Greene after initially encountering it at Yellow Springs. I discovered two more works in Bucks County at an antique shop in Lahaska. One was a spring landscape the other a painting of Booth Bay in Maine. After attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and developing my conservation skills, I met Virginia Lippincott. Lippincott had married Greene's dentist, who had amassed a large collection of the artist's work. Virginia owned a gallery in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania that handled the work of local painters, including A.V. Greene. I learned a great deal about the life and art of Greene from Virginia, and conserved a number of his paintings for her collection. I have continued to collect his work for the last thirty years.
Albert Van Nesse Greene was a true dedicated artist. He survived financially by trading his paintings for dental work and medical care, as well as food and supplies. This bartering practice allowed professionals surrounding Yellow Springs to acquire impressive collections of his work. I ultimately acquired many paintings from his doctor who moved to Maine.
One family who was particularly generous to Greene was the Hallman family. As owners of the General Store the Hallman's were recipients of many of Greene's paintings through trade. They were very kind to Greene and allowed him to build a house on their property; a home where Greene lived for many years.
Albert Van Nesse Greene was originally from Washington, D.C. and moved to Philadelphia in 1917. He served during World War I and was severely injured during his deployment. In the 1920s he traveled to France and studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He painted sailboats and harbors in Concarneau and became friends with other American painters such as, Edgar Payne. While abroad, Greene was greatly influenced by the work of Claude Monet and Edgar Degas. The French Impressionists influenced Greene's strong use of pastels; evident in the palette of his artwork. While abroad, Greene learned the technique of using flint or sand paper as the ground for his pastels, a practice widespread among French draftsmen. He was well trained in technique and stretched and primed his own canvases. The impact left by the French Impressionists allowed Albert Van Nesse Greene to develop his own unique style that set him apart from other Pennsylvania Impressionists.
While studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, A.V. Greene excelled as a student under Daniel Garber and Hugh Breckenridge. He assisted Garber at the Yellow Springs Summer School and became a good friend of Newell Convers (N.C.) Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth, a friend of Daniel Garber's, was a guest lecturer at the Country School. Greene would occasionally visit Garber in Lumberville, Pennsylvania and paint landscapes along the Delaware River in Bucks County. Aside from Daniel Garber, other artists from the Pennsylvania Academy taught at Yellow Springs such as, Arthur Carles, Roy Nuse, Fred Wagner and Henry McCarter. The photographer Edward Steichen created many of his black and white images at Yellow Springs. Greene was also a member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club and enjoyed making wood block prints. Albert Van Nesse Green died in 1971 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. As a lifelong American patriot, Greene left his art to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.
Albert Van Nesse Greene lived for his art and loved the Pennsylvania landscape. Historic Yellow Springs has held several solo shows of Greene's work. He was also included in several group shows of other Pennsylvania Academy artists over the years. Virginia Lippincott had several exhibitions for Greene, as well. I recently contacted the family of Virginia Lippincott regarding A.V. Greene only to find that all biographical and gallery information had been destroyed.
Over the years Gratz Gallery has supported the Historic Yellow Springs Art Show. We worked with the wonderful, Libby Seybert, and my good friend, Steve Patopa. Steve maintained the building, grounds and assisted in hanging the art exhibitions for many years. Sandra Momyer, the Moore Archives archivist, has been very helpful to us. Our Conservation Studio has conserved several paintings for their collection. I have worked with Robert Torchia, American Art Historian, to research Albert Van Nesse Greene. We have found little written information and most of what is known comes from people who knew him and Virginia Lippincott.
In the tradition of Gratz Gallery we hope to revive the art and life of Albert Van Nesse Greene. We have, and will continue to promote and advance the work of Pennsylvania Impressionists and artists from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It is with great pride and joy that we present the work of Albert Van Nesse Greene.
Albert Van Nesse Greene (1887-1971)
By Robert Wilson Torchia, 2015
The Pennsylvania landscape painter Albert Van Nesse Greene was born in Jamaica, Long Island, New York, on December 14, 1887. According to the 1900 U.S. census he was living in Washington, D.C., with his widowed mother Leila Greene, a dressmaker, and two siblings; the same source noted that he was employed as a bundle wrapper. Greene studied art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington from 1909 to 1910, and first exhibited a painting titled "The Nightingale" at the Society of Washington Artists in 1909. He moved to New York and enrolled in the Art Students League, where the famous exponent of impressionism William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) taught. Greene's studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. He served in France as a lieutenant colonel in the 114 Infantry, 29th Division of the U.S. Army and was seriously wounded in action. During a lengthy period of recuperation at the Walter Reed Naval Hospital in Washington, Greene learned that his wife and child had been killed in a house fire.
After recovering from his wounds Greene settled in Cedarville, Maryland. He moved to Philadelphia around 1917 and began to work on a part time basis at the Academy Country School (now the Historic Yellow Springs and The Chester Springs Studio) in Chester Springs, a summer school for the study of plein air landscape painting that had recently been opened by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. [Jeff Richmond-Moll, Archives Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, suggested that Greene was employed there on a work-study basis.] That year he also joined the Philadelphia Sketch Club; he became an active member of the group and often participated in its annual exhibitions. From 1919 until 1923 Greene studied at the Pennsylvania Academy's main building Philadelphia, taking classes in illustration, composition, drawing and painting from the live model, and portraiture. During these formative years Greene's work began to reflect the influence of the noted Pennsylvania impressionist Daniel Garber (1880-1958), one of the Academy's most prominent teachers. Most likely he also benefitted from the teachings of Henry Bainbridge McCarter (1866-1942) an instructor who did much to promote modernism in Philadelphia. Greene won the Academy's Second Landscape Prize in 1919.
In October 1921 Greene traveled to Paris and entered the Académie de la Grande Chaumière (renamed Académie Charpentier in 1957). Located on the Vie arrondissement and founded in 1902, the school offered an alternative to the strict academic curriculum of the École des Beaux-Arts by promoting modern styles, then known collectively as "Art Indépendant."
In 1924 the Sketch Club included Greene's name among a "heretofore quiet group of young members, whose names now began to have some meaning." Solo exhibitions of Greene's work were held at the Club in 1925 and 1927, and in 1928 "One hundred dollars was paid into the treasury from the proceeds of the sale of a large landscape painted and donated by Albert Greene." He left his part time position at the Academy Country School in 1928, and ceased taking classes there in July 1929. In the years leading up to the Great Depression Greene had established the foundations of professional success. He summered in popular artists' colonies in Cape Cod and Gloucester, Massachusetts, Booth Bay Maine and periodically traveled to France.
Around 1933 Greene closed his Philadelphia studio on 407 Locust Street and permanently settled in Chester Springs, where he lived within easy walking distance of the Academy Country School. Although he belonged to the Yellow Springs Artists Association and lived in close proximity to many noted Pennsylvania landscape painters, beginning in the late 1930s he seems to have had little contact with the Academy Country School and became increasingly reclusive. He exhibited at the Academy's annual exhibitions from 1928 to 1932, and in 1937. He maintained a studio in Philadelphia on 704 South Washington Square, but by 1935 the Philadelphia Sketch Club listed him as a non-resident member. Greene died in Chester Springs on May 31, 1971, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Having no heirs and out of gratitude for the assistance he had received from the government after the war, Greene left the entire contents of his studio to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. In 1972 the White House curator instructed the Yellow Springs Association to auction off the estate and the proceeds were then divided between the two parties.
In addition to painting in oil, Greene was an accomplished watercolor, pastel, and woodblock artist. He was also a craftsman and carved an elaborate door for his studio in Chester Springs. He exhibited widely and was a member of numerous art organizations during the 1920s and 1930s. In addition to the Pennsylvania Academy and the Philadelphia Sketch Club he belonged to the American Art Association of Paris, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, the Society of Independent Artists, the Society of American Artists, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Salons of America, and the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (an alumni association founded in 1897).
1 The census identified the artist's brother Harry E. Greene (born1881) as a clerk in the Northern Rail Road, and a sister Leila Greene (born1885) as a student. Greene's World War II draft registration listed her as the person who would always know where he was living.
2 Virgil E. McMahan, The Artists of Washington, D.C., 1796-1996. Volume I: An Illustrated Directory of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers Born Before 1900 (The Artists of Washington; Washington, D.C., 1995), p. 86; the artist's last name is listed as "Green."
3 In a later passport application Greene mentioned that he had resided in Paris from October 30, 1921, to August 15, 1922.
4 Sidney Lomas, Seventy-Five Years of the Philadelphia Sketch Club (Philadelphia, 1935). According to James Patterson, the Sketch Club's archives have limited exhibition records from the 1930s or before. The only surviving listing for Greene was from "The Sixty-Eighth Annual Exhibition of Oil Sketches" that was held from May 2 to 14, 1932, in which he exhibited "Fishing Boats," priced at $100.
5 Anna Wells Rutledge, The Annual Exhibition Record of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Volume III, 1914-1968, ed. Peter Hastings Falk (Sound View Press; Madison, CT, 1989), p. 213.
6 Clark S. Marlor, The Society of Independent Artists: The Exhibition Record 1917-1944 (Noyes Press; Park Ridge, NJ), 1984), p. 269.
7 Clark S. Marlor, The Salons of America 1922-1936 (Sound View Press; Madison, CT, 1991), p. 97.
About the authors
Paul Steven Gratz is owner and head conservator of Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio. Mr. Gratz is considered an authority on work of the New Hope Circle of painters.
Robert Wilson Torchia, Ph.D., is an art historian, appraiser, and owner at R. W. Torchia Fine Arts. He is the author of numerous articles and essays concerning American art and has served as guest curator at art exhibitions at the Lightner Museum and Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
About the exhibition Albert Van Nesse Greene (1887-1971) Impressions of Life
The above essays were written in cunjunction with the exhibition Albert Van Nesse Greene (1887-1971) Impressions of Life, being presented from May 30 through August 31, 2015 at Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio in Doylestown, PA.
Albert Van Nesse Greene, often referred to as A.V. Greene, was born in Jamaica, New York in 1887. He grew up in Washington, DC and studied at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. He furthered his studies at the Art Students League, the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, under Daniel Garber. While serving during World War I Greene was seriously injured. After recovering he moved to Philadelphia in 1917. He began part-time work at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art's Country School in Chester Springs (now Historic Yellow Springs). He ultimately settled in Chester Springs; choosing the area's beautiful landscapes at the subjects of many of his compositions.
Albert Van Nesse Greene was strongly influenced by the French Impressionists. His early work is highly impressionistic and embraces a palette more aligned with French painters than his American counterparts. Although his subjects tend to favor Pennsylvania landscapes, he also painted in Booth Bay, Maine and throughout Europe; creating a diverse and varied range of compositions. He was also an adept draftsman known for his beautiful pastel compositions. Greene's artwork was exhibited extensively throughout the United States and France during his lifetime.
The exhibition at Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio will be one of the largest offerings of A.V. Greene's work in recent years. The exhibition features over sixty pieces by Greene; a culmination of thirty years of collecting the artist's finest works. Impressions of Life showcases a number of Pennsylvania landscapes and Maine harbor scenes, as well as some beautiful depictions of Europe. Greene enjoyed transcribing the landscape as it changed throughout the seasons; therefore, the exhibition includes a number of sunny springtime and crisp winter compositions. A color catalogue will be available for purchase throughout the exhibition.
Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio is located at 5230 Silo Hill Road in Doylestown, the Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio specializes in 19th and 20th century American paintings, with a focus on painters from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In addition to art investment Gratz Gallery also offers custom framing and fine art conservation services. He was
Resource Library editor's notes:
The above essay was published in Resource Library on August 12, 2015 with permission of Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio and Paul Steven Gratz, which was granted to TFAO on August 12, 2015.
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