Editor's note: Orlando Museum of Art provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Orlando Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:


An American Palette: Paintings Celebrating American Art and Life

March 16 - May 26, 2002


The Orlando Museum of Art presents An American Palette: Paintings Celebrating American Art and Life, featuring one of Florida's most important collections of American art, from March 16 through May 26, 2002. The more than 60 works in the exhibition range from the mid-19th century to the present and include examples of landscapes, still lifes, portraits and interiors by many of America's most prominent artists. Never before has such a large number of works from this collection been shown to the public. The exhibition was organized jointly by the Orlando Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida. An American Palette opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL [see An American Palette: Works from the Collection of John and Dolores Beck (10/14/00)]

The artists represented in An American Palette include major figures such as Albert Bierstadt, George Inness, George Bellows, Robert Henri, Everett Shinn, Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Burchfield, Arthur Dove, John Marin, Reginald Marsh, Max Weber, Stuart Davis, Oscar Bluemner, Charles Sheeler and Andrew Wyeth. (left: Charles Burchfield (l893-1967), July Evening, 1917, watercolor, gouache, pencil on paper, Private Collection)

An American Palette presents some of the most fertile periods in the history of American art. Among the earliest works is a traditional still life by Robert Spear Dunning, Still Life with Oranges, 1861, and among the most recent is Andrew Wyeth's striking watercolor, Logging Scoot, 1968.

The vast and diverse American landscape has played a central role in the creation of this country's nationalistic images and myths, as well as its art. In this exhibition, there is a luminous marine painting by Francis Silva, October on the Hudson, c. 1873, with graceful sailboats dotting the harbor; George Inness's rural scene, Medfield, 1877; and Willard Metcalf's Thawing Brook, 1921, completed near the end of his life.

Albert Bierstadt is one of the foremost 19th-century American landscape artists. The Bierstadt in this exhibition, After the Shower, is a European scene, but is characteristic of his American work. The natural world encloses and towers above a little village, with a rainbow providing an optimistic touch, as well as a wonderful display of color.

An American Palette includes a remarkable group of American still lifes created from the mid-19th century to the turn of the 20th century. Martin Johnson Heade's Cherokee Roses in an Opalescent Vase, c. 1883-95, is not only beautiful, but also reveals the artist's attention to botanical detail. This is the perfect painting for a Florida collection, as the Cherokee rose is the state flower. William Michael Harnett's Solace, 1878, presents objects of comfort such as a large mug and pipe, while suggesting the passing of time through the yellowing newspaper.

Nineteenth-century genre painting is also impressively represented. These scenes present glimpses of the everyday life of ordinary people. Enoch Wood Ferry Jr.'s The Helping Hand, 1877, shows a couple working together to churn butter, but the implication is perhaps much greater. They are clearly united, suggesting a prototypical American couple building a household - and a country. Among other examples of genre painting are works by Edward Lamson Henry and John George Brown. (left: Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), One Hour of News, 1940, watercolor, pen, ink on paper, Private Collection)

Also featured in the exhibition are examples of American figurative painting. Charles Hawthorne's Sun Bath, c. 1910-20, an impressionistic image of a seated woman bathed in sunlight, more than matches its title. The colors emerging through and reflecting in the window behind the woman, the light and color in the drapery, the flowing dress and delicate blue shawl create an elegant scene, enhanced by the subject's pensive expression. The portraits by Irving Ramsey Wiles are more traditional; Young Woman Wearing a Rose, 1908, is especially striking, contrasting the light radiating from the woman's skin against her dark dress and background. The portraits by Robert Henri, George Bellows and Everett Shinn are starker and reflect the influence of urban life in New York. The woman in Shinn's The Blue Girdle, 1906, brings to mind a vaudeville or cabaret performer caught in an intimate moment in her dressing room.

Among the more modernist still lifes are Max Weber's Bowl of Fruit, 1907, Alfred Maurer's Cubist Still Life with Pears and Bananas, c. 1928-32, and George Ault's Mantelpiece Composition, 1929. Arthur Dove's watercolor Landscape II, 1941, is boldly abstract, indicating that the American landscape also greatly influenced modern artists. John Marin's Taos Canyon, New, Mexico, 1929, is more representational, but leans toward abstraction as well.

Oscar Bluemner and Charles Sheeler are represented by paintings that combine both realism and abstraction. The crisp, geometric planes and the emphasis on architecture in both works make them decidedly modernist in conception.

A 134-page catalogue, featuring color reproductions of the works in the exhibition, an essay on the development of the collection written by Guest Curator Dr. Valerie A. Leeds and entries on paintings in the exhibition written by various scholars, is available for purchase in the Museum Shop. This is the first catalogue produced on the collection.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Orlando Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

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. 6/3/11

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2011 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.