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Claude Raguet Hirst: Transforming the American Still Life
January 15 - April 10, 2005
Claude Hirst -- born Claudine -- was the only acclaimed woman to work in the realistic style of still life painting known as trompe l'oeil ("fool the eye"), which flourished in America at the turn of the 20th century. Hirst's intimately scaled oils and watercolors display her dazzling skill for rendering the surfaces and textures of objects. Approximately thirty of the artist's paintings are featured in Claude Raguet Hirst: Transforming the American Still Life, the first exhibition devoted to her considerable achievements. On view at the Columbus Museum of Art from January 15 through April 10, 2005, experience how this talented artist created works to appeal to both men and women, in contrast to her male colleagues who painted primarily for a male audience. (right: Claude Raguet Hirst, Still Life with Pipe and Tobacco (The Favorite Pipe), ca. 1891, watercolor on paper. John and Dolores Beck Collection, Winter Park, FL)
Hirst started her career painting still lifes of flowers and fruit. Later she adopted the typical subject matter of her male compatriots, such as pipes, dead game, and newspapers. However, in many of her mature paintings Hirst included decorative objects and literary texts that spoke to the tastes and experiences of turn-of-the-century female viewers. By incorporating examples of the art pottery movement of the late-nineteenth century into several of her works, Hirst celebrated the participation of women in the applied arts. Additionally, though she often painted in oil, she ingeniously employed watercolor (known as a "lady's medium") to mimic the detailed surfaces of trompe l'oeil oil paintings.
During the mid-1890's Hirst's focus shifted to still lifes in which antique volumes were prominently featured, reflecting the concurrent vogue for rare book collecting. In these incredibly detailed paintings, Hirst was able to render the entire text of a page legibly or replicate an engraving from a book. In many instances the books can be identified and compared line by line with their sources, some of which are classic eighteenth century books advocating women's rights. (right: Claude Raguet Hirst, Still Life with Lemons, Red Currants, and Gooseberries, ca.1885-90, watercolor on illustration board. Berry-Hill Galleries, New York)
The exhibition highlights more than thirty paintings in oil and watercolor by Hirst, which have been loaned from museums and private collections throughout the United States. It also includes a selection of rare books that the artist painstakingly reproduced in her works. Mark Cole, Curator of American Art at the Columbus Museum of Art states, "Not only is the exhibition full of wonderful and astonishingly detailed paintings, it also adds significantly to our understanding of American art. The rediscovery of this previously neglected, yet fascinating artist is cause for celebration."
Claude Raguet Hirst: Transforming the American Still Life is organized by the Columbus Museum of Art. Accompanying the exhibition is a full-length illustrated catalog authored by guest curator Martha M. Evans, who received her Ph.D. from Columbia University, where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on Hirst. Hirst left a scanty paper trail, but by piecing together reviews, a couple of letters and exhibition records, Evans has been able to construct a retrospective exhibition of Hirst's engaging paintings. The Henry Luce Foundation is the major sponsor for the exhibition and catalog.
(above: Claude Raguet Hirst, The Bookworm's Table, ca. 1901, watercolor on paperboard. Brooklyn Museum of Art, Museum Collection Fund, 80.79)
SELECTED PAINTINGS FROM THE EXHIBITION
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