The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920

June 3 - September 18, 2016 


The Garden in Winter

Turn-of-the-century writers associated winter with ideas of renewal and respite from the cares of the world, making winter scenes and snowscapes an important subject in garden literature of the period. Meanwhile, artists discovered that paintings of the garden in winter -- a world wrapped in snow -- offered unique opportunities for exploring the subtleties of texture and color. Artist-gardener Anna Lea Merritt's poetic description of her own snowy garden evokes the quality of light and mood apparent in these canvases:

A few days ago the whole earth was clothed in shimmering white, radiating a light of its own, until, about noon, low down near the horizon, the pearly veil of the sky's grey face was breathed aside, and a saffron gleam, like the flash in an opal, shot across the snow and into our hearts, where we called it 'hope.'

Like the artists featured here, Merritt recognized the fallow time of the year as a period of productive rest for the land and its creative inhabitants.

43. Theodore Wendel (1859-1932)
Winter at Ipswich, ca. 1908
Oil on canvas, 24 7/8 x 29 15/16 in.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Joseph E. Temple Fund, 1909.5
Theodore Wendel studied in Giverny in the 1880s, becoming one of the earliest American painters to adopt Claude Monet's Impressionist technique and bright palette of greens and blues. In 1897 he and his wife moved to Ipswich, Massachusetts, a town north of Boston with rolling hills and colonial-era houses. As this winter scene shows, Wendel worked outdoors year-round, painting many of his finest pictures on a 60-acre farm inherited from his wife's family and which he also actively tended.
44. Henry Asbury Rand (1886-1961)
Snow Shadows, 1914
Oil on canvas, 19 15/16 x 24 in.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, John Lambert Fund, 1915.5
Henry Rand experimented with light and color following studies in Philadelphia under William Merritt Chase and Hugh Breckenridge. Snow Shadows likely depicts Shadowbrook Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the family estate where Rand lived and created most of his works. He often organized outdoor painting events on the property with fellow members of the New Hope colony of Pennsylvania Impressionists. Rand was also interested in horticulture and raised orchids in his studio, frequently making them subjects for still life paintings.
45. John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902)
Snow, ca. 1895-96
Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 in.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, The Vivian O. and Meyer P. Potamkin Collection, Bequest of Vivian O. Potamkin, 2003.1.10
In the spring, this field would have burst to life with wildflowers cultivated by the painter John Henry Twachtman, but here it is covered in a white blanket. A house is barely visible through the hazy atmosphere, as the snowy skies and landscape merge into nearly flat geometric shapes. Twachtman specialized in these complex and abstract studies of winter light. The blending of muted colors, abstracted compositions, and a poetic, wistful mood is typical of the American artistic movement known as Tonalism.
46. Everett L. Warner (1877-1963)
Studios Behind the Florence Griswold House, ca. 1912
Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 3/4 inches
Florence Griswold Museum
Florence Griswold's gardens were busiest in the summer, when a full slate of artists filled guestrooms at her boardinghouse and set up their easels near ramshackle studios on the grounds. But several Lyme Art Colony painters also stayed through the winter, including Edmund Greacen, whose work may be seen in the first gallery, and Everett L. Warner. Warner made winter views a specialty, appreciating the contrast introduced into a landscape scene by snow. Here, the Griswold gardens have been put to bed for the winter, with only a few straggly dried stalks poking through the snow. Beyond the tall, green arbor vitae the Griswold property continued across an open field.
47. Charles Morris Young (1869-1964)
My House in Winter, ca. 1911
Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Gift of Walter M. Jeffords, 1948.1
When Charles Morris Young exhibited this painting at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1915, critic John Lane praised Young's skillful presentation of light and shadows on the snowy ground. Young developed a reputation for his winter scenes, painted outdoors. Most were completed early in his career while living in France with his wife, Eliza, also a painter. At the suggestion of the artist Mary Cassatt, the couple spent the summers of 1905 and 1906 in Giverny. Upon returning to the United States, they settled in this handsome stone house in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and were active in the arts community in nearby Philadelphia. Young also visited the Lyme Art Colony, and an example of his work may be seen in the Griswold House dining room.


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