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Landscapes From the Permanent Collection: Part II


This summer of 2000 featured Landscapes from the Permanent Collection exhibition, a seldom seen suite of landscape preparatory sketches by Arthur Bowen Davies, is followed by a second version of this popular exhibition. With the Davies sketches going back into storage, the Museum will exhibit an additional work by Wolf Kahn; landscapes by Ohio landscape painter Charles Basham; additional works by George Pearse Ennis, and one painting by Paul Dougherty, No Man's Bay.

Curator Mary Agnes Beach discusses below the life and work of William Starkweather, an artist represented in the exhibit.

William Edward Bloomfield Starkweather was born William Edward Bloomfield in 1876 in Belfast, Ireland. In 1884, he was brought to the United States by his mother, who died soon thereafter. He was then adopted by the Starkweathers of Winchester, CT. From 1897 to 1899, Starkweather studied at the Art Students League with John Henry Twachtman, the much-lauded American Impressionist painter who was part of the group known as "The Ten." The influence of the Impressionist style of rendering nature is evident in the flickering light effects and the multiple applications of impasto strokes and dots of color in the Starkweather landscape [The Cove in Swallowtail Light at Twilight], which is part of the Hickory Museum of Art's Permanent Collection.
Starkweather later pursued art instruction in Europe, studying at the Académie Colorossi in Paris from 1899 to 1901 and then with Sorolla in Madrid from 1904 to 1906. Following this, he went to Italy for three years; there, he met and shared a house with Wilford Conrow, the key advisor to Museum founder Paul Whitener as Whitener worked to build the Museum's Permanent Collection. Conrow thought highly of Starkweather and built a lifelong friendship with him.
Back in the United States, Starkweather worked for the Spanish Society in New York and organized exhibitions of Sorolla's work both in 1909 and 1911. From 1910 to 1916 he was the Curator at the Hispanic Society; following this, he taught art in New York City public schools and at Hunter College, also in New York City. Additionally, Starkweather was a published art historian, writing on Francisco Goya and John Singer Sargent among others.
Starkweather's and Conrow's friendship led to Conrow's cultivation of a donation of eight Starkweather paintings to the Hickory Museum of Art's Permanent Collection. Correspondence between Wilford Conrow and Paul Whitener on that subject, as well as a letter to Whitener from Starkweather himself, are in the Museum's files. These document the negotiations that led to this wonderful treasure we have in our Museum and vividly illustrate the enthusiasm with which Conrow pursued the gifts. In the bold strokes that characterize Conrow's script, he is effusive in praise of Starkweather: "In my opinion William is a very big man, a very big artist," he writes (letter from Wilford S. Conrow to Paul Whitener, November 6, 1954, 5:30 PM; New York, NY). At Conrow's urging, Starkweather was interested in placing his work in the Hickory Museum of Art, feeling that in the long run his work would serve a purpose here that could not be realized by selling to a private collector. Five of Starkweather's paintings can be seen in Landscapes From the Permanent Collection: Part II, on display on the Mezzanine level through December 31, 2000.

The Hickory Museum of Art is located at 243 Third Avenue NE, Hickory, NC 28603. Hickory Museum of Art presents changing exhibits and a permanent collection of 19th-century through contemporary American art. Works by Alfred Thompson Bricher, William Merritt Chase, and Gilbert Charles Stuart are featured. Please see the museum's website for hours and admission fees.

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