The Mitchell Art Gallery at St. John's College

Annapolis, MD



American Landscapes from the Paine Art Center and Gardens


The Mitchell Gallery at St. John's College will present an exhibition of 48 landscape paintings and prints that celebrate nature, in over a century of Tonalist, Impressionist, and Regionalist works by artists such as Winslow Homer, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, George Inness, Emil Jean Kosa, Jr. and Grant Wood. "American Landscapes from the Paine Art Center and Gardens " will be on display January 9 through February 23, 2001. (left: Louis William Otte, Purple Sage, 1926)

Offering a wide-ranging perspective on mid-19th to early 20th-century American interpretations of the landscape, the collection presents nature in its varying moods, from tranquil to menacing. Each work is an expression of the ongoing, ever-changing relationship between nature and the individual artist, all of whom directly studied nature.

The core of the collection is formed by the Tonalists. (Note: The Montclair Art Museum presents Tonalism within the American art section of its website.) The term refers to the use of close values in painting, or half-tones of light. Their poetic evocations of the natural landscape were accomplished through a veiled use of a single, unifying color and soft accents. A Spring Morning Near Montclair by George Inness, an 1892 landscape scene (see left) of a tree beside a meandering stream, demonstrates that romantic view of nature, giving an impression rather than the details of natural objects, with blurred edges, visual poetry, and shimmering atmosphere.

By the first decades of this century, Impressionism had become the prevailing aesthetic throughout the United States. Impressionists capitalized on the use of light to give an impression of a scene, rather than a realistic image, to imbue mood or feeling. Although it is difficult to pinpoint specific influences upon the largely self-taught John Edward Costigan, his painting Woman with Goats certainly hints at American Impressionism and suggests the strong brushstrokes of his friend George Luks. The painting is of a forest scene with a goat in the lower right and a woman emerging from the sun-dappled trees in the background.

Winslow Homer's work has Impressionist elements in its use of light and subject matter, but differed from the school in its qualities of realistic depiction and clear outlines. He turned to watercolor later in his career and to more dramatic themes, especially the struggle of humans against nature. His 1895 painting Lake St. John, Canada (see left) is not really about the lake, which is only a small line of blue at the right center of the composition, but about the dramatic, almost spiritual desolation of a shipwreck site, marked by a cross nailed to a leaning and gnarled tree.

Regionalism refers to the period which reached its height in the 1930s when artists turned to their own surroundings for inspiration, and captured the flavor of a particular region, most often the Midwest. They used rural scenes, often depicting a passing life style, with a certain amount of nostalgia for the past. California Regionalist Emil Jean Kosa, Jr.'s Agouras (see left, no date) captures the light and landscape particular to the Santa Monica Mountains, with green and rolling hills dotted with oak trees.

The opening reception and family program for "American Landscapes from the Paine Art Center and Gardens" will be held on Sunday, January 14, 2001 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Art educator Lucinda Edinberg will lead a tour of the exhibition followed by a related workshop for children. Laurel Spencer Forsythe, curator at the Paine Art Center and Gardens, will give a lecture entitled "Tonalism, Impressionism and Regionalism: Highlights of the Paine Collection" on Wednesday, January 17 at 7:00 p.m.; there is a snow date of January 24. Art educator Lucinda Edinberg will offer a lunchtime tour of the exhibit on Wednesday, January 31 from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. She will also lead a Sunday afternoon exhibit tour on February 4 at 3:00 p.m.

This exhibition has been organized by the Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and toured nationally by Smith Kramer, Inc., a fine arts service in Kansas City, Missouri. Funding for this exhibition has been provided in part by Anne Arundel County, the City of Annapolis, the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County, the Maryland State Arts Council, Members of the Mitchell Art Gallery, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Clare Eddy and Eugene V. Thaw Fine Arts Fund, William Paca Beatson, Jr., Frederick Graul, and Carleton Mitchell.

rev. 1/6/01

Read more about Mitchell Art Gallery at St. John's College in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/30/11

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