Editor's note: The following article was reprinted, without accompanying illustrations, in Resource Library on March 10, 2006 with the permission of Paul A. Manoguerra and the Paine Art Center and Gardens. This text was written in conjunction with an exhibition titled Tones, Impressions and Landscape: American Works from the Paine Art Center & Arboretum held October 18, 1998 through January 3, 1999 at the Paine Art Center & Arboretum.
If you have questions or comments regarding the article please contact Dr. Manoguerra at the Georgia Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:
American Works from the Paine Art Center
by Paul A. Manoguerra
Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Paine Art Center & Arboretum, Tones, Impressions, and the Landscape presents over a century of Realist, Tonalist and Impressionist paintings and works on paper from the museum's permanent collection of American landscapes. This stylistically eclectic collection of American art ranges from the Hudson River School-influenced work of James MacDougal Hart to the Midwest-themed lithographs of Grant Wood, from the misty landscapes of George Inness to the sunlit scenes of Maurice Braun, and from the visionary canvases of Ralph Blakelock to the impasto pigments of John Costigan.
Nathan and Jessie Kimberly Paine, founders of the Paine Art Center & Arboretum and source for most of the paintings in the permanent collection, sought to collect art that celebrated nature in its varying moods. Nathan Paine, a third generation lumber baron and the fourth president of the Paine Lumber Company, was born in Oshkosh in 1869. After attending Lawrence University in Appleton and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he married Jessie Kimberly, daughter of the co-founder and first president of Kimberly-Clark Corporation, in April 1896.
Both the Paine and Kimberly families trace their lineage back to the 1630s when Puritan ancestors fled religious persecution and came to the brand-new colonies from Norfolk County in England. The Paines' pride in their English and American heritage led to the creation of their Tudor-revival style summer estate near the Fox River in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, eighty-six miles northwest of Milwaukee.
Using a design by Bryant Fleming, architect of the Cheekwood Museum of Art in Nashville, Tennessee, the Paines created a house and gardens that celebrated the relationships between interior and exterior, people and nature, and the strength of American know-how combined with European flavor. The foundation for the home was laid in 1927, and the Kasota limestone exterior was almost complete by the time of the 1929 stock market crash. The Great Depression, the Second World War and other socio-economic factors affected the Paine Lumber Company, and the house went unfinished until 1948 -- a year after Nathan's death. From 1947 until her death in 1973, Mrs. Paine lived almost full-time with her sister at the Kimberly family home in Redlands, California. Without ever having lived within its walls, the Paine and Kimberly families donated the building and its contents as a museum.
The Paines, with no children to inherit their home, intended for the building to eventually become an art center. They even planned gallery space to display their collection. In a 1926 draft of a letter to artist Pieter Van Veen, Paine stated that he saw Oshkosh as absent of artistic sensibilities: "I will add that Oshkosh is not a bad place for an artist to spend his vacation in the season for fishing or duck shooting. This community has nothing else that I know of to appeal to the artist."  Although Paine never sent this letter (he mailed a toned-down version to Mr. Van Veen) for fear of upsetting people in Oshkosh, the letter does show one reason the Paines collected paintings for a future museum -- to fill a perceived void in a community they greatly valued.
The Paines purchased the majority of their American collection from art galleries in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles between 1926 and 1928. Although the Paines collected more than a decade following the famous Armory Show in 1913, their taste in art did not lean toward the paintings of younger Americans (such as Arthur B. Davies and George Bellows) or of the Europeans (such as Matisse or Duchamp). Instead, the Paines sought out the work of established and historical artists -- Millet, Carot, Charles-François Daubigny, Inness, Blakelock and others. In 1928, their frenzied purchasing of art reached a peak.
The Depression greatly affected the Paines' collecting ability. They decided to sell back or place on consignment many works they considered to be "most saleable," including works by Claude Monet, Inness and Blakelock. For instance, the Paines purchased Monet's Waterloo Bridge in 1927 but, primarily because of the financial circumstances of the Paine Lumber Company, returned it in October 1930. Blakelock's Seal Rocks was on sale through consignment at the Biltmore Art Galleries in Los Angeles and the Vose Galleries in Boston during the 1930s and 40s. Almost all new art purchases by the Paines ceased with the Depression. However, many American works, including Seal Rocks, survived to become part of the museum's collection.
Paintings by two important American artists -- Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran -- were bought from Thurber Art Galleries in Chicago in 1927. To many, Winslow Homer is considered not only the American master of the watercolor medium, but also the archetypal American painter of the late nineteenth century. His subjects of the 1870s, often youths at play on the Massachusetts coast, are vigorous and lively; however, Homer turned to more dramatic themes later in his career -- specifically, to the struggle of humans against Nature.
Lake St. John, Canada was painted in the summer of 1895 while Homer was on a fishing trip with his brother Charles. William Howe Downes, reviewing the watercolor in a St. Botolph Club exhibition in 1895 for the Boston Transcript wrote, "Savage were the lines of gnarled roots and weather-beaten trees and gray rocks which spoke of solitude and desolation by the side of Lake St. John." The crisp, grey-dominated summer day is not really about the lake (which is only a small line of blue at the right center of the composition) but, as Downes suggested, about the dramatic, almost spiritual desolation of a cross-marked shipwreck site.
Thomas Moran emphasized the scale, beauty and nobility of the American West. In 1871, Moran joined the United States Geological Expedition to the Yellowstone region; in 1873, a sojourn to the Colorado River of the Rockies and the Grand Canyon; and in 1874, a trip to Mountain of the Holy Cross, Colorado. During his lifetime, he .would create many canvases based on the observations he made during these expeditions. Moran did not seek to produce accurate scenic images: ''Topography in art is valueless," he once stated. "My general scope is not realistic; all my tendencies are toward idealization." His Lower Falls, Yellowstone Canyon exhibits an atmospheric perspective and a strong sense of excitement and adventure. Its picture-postcard view of the famous canyon has a monumental grandeur and a strong sense of verticality. Idealization lends itself to moral implications, and Moran's Lower Falls seeps with sentimentality toward the vanishing American frontier.
Contrary to Moran's idealized Western landscapes, the idea that painting is basically a concrete art and therefore should be applied to real and existing things grew out of the French Realism of Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet and the Barbizon School of landscape painters. These artists painted the rural French countryside, abandoning the academic, heroic presentation that previously had been the only accepted way to paint the landscape. They took their canvases outdoors, serving as an inspiration to Monet and their other Impressionist successors. The Barbizon artists were well known and appreciated in the United States, especially in Boston.
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