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The Art Students League of New York: Highlights from the Permanent Collection and Selections from the Hillstrom Museum of Art Collection
September 10 through November 4, 2007
The Hillstrom Museum of Art presents two concurrent exhibitions,The Art Students League of New York: Highlights from the Permanent Collection and Selections from the Hillstrom Museum of Art Collection, which will be on view from September 10 through November 4, 2007 (with an opening reception during the College's annual Nobel Conference, October 2, 2007, 6:00 to 8:00p.m.).
The Art Students League of New York: Highlights from the Permanent Collection
The Art Students League was formed by students in 1875 as an alternative to the National Academy of Design (also in New York), then the pre-eminent art school in the U.S. The National Academy, which had been founded fifty years earlier, had, in the view of many, become inadequate and overly conservative, and the dissatisfaction became acute in 1875 when, for financial reasons, classes at the Academy were cut back. The newly formed League filled the void. When the Academy later resumed its full course schedule in 1877, it was decided to keep the League running, and by about 1920 it had become the most prominent art school in the country. The League, which is still a vital, flourishing institution, was more open in membership than the National Academy, and it aimed to be less old-fashioned and more aware of European trends. Its academic structure reflected methods used abroad, in Paris and Munich in particular, and featured tutelage under individual, fairly independent instructors.
The League's permanent collection was formed by purchase, by donations from patrons, instructors, and students, and from works required of students as part of their scholarship agreements. The collection reflects major trends in American art, and this exhibition drawn from it features over seventy paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures, ranging in date from about 1885 to 2002 and including early works in traditional modes such as romantic landscape or still life, works of the gritty realism associated with the "Ashcan School," works of the abstract expressionism that flourished in the 1950s, and works by artists active today.
The appearance of such an exhibition at the Hillstrom Museum of Art is particularly appropriate, since the Museum is part of a College at which a vital program of instruction in studio art is offered. And the exhibit is also relevant for the Museum's own permanent collection, which includes many works by artists who were associated with the League as instructors or students or both.
The exhibit is presented courtesy of The Art Students League of New York, and its tour development was by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, Kansas City, Missouri. (For an earlier Resource Library article on Smith Kramer Fine Art Services please see The David Smith Story: Sharing the Arts)
Selections from the Hillstrom Museum of Art Collection
Many of the works in the Hillstrom Collection are by artists who studied or taught at the Art Students League of New York. These selections from the Collection highlight this connection, and include works by two artists, Gifford Beal (1879-1956) and Henry Schnakenberg (1892-1970), who served as President of the League. Most the works on view are by League instructors, such as the recently acquired drypoint of The Statue of Liberty (1893) by American Impressionist Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), who was hired as an instructor at the Art Students League in the early 1880s, and there are several works by League students who went on to prominent careers. Many of these paintings, drawings and prints were donated by Museum namesake Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom, including the 1937 painting of Central Park, New York by Leon Kroll (1884-1974), donated in 2006 in memory of his parents Martin and Alma Hillstrom, and there are also several recent donations from Dr. David and Kathryn Gilbertson, including Rough Going, a 1919 drypoint from the War series by Kerr Eby (1889-1946), who studied at the League.
Also on display as one of the Selections from the Hillstrom Museum of Art Collection will be an oil painting titled Mozartiana (c. 1940) by Esther Williams (1907-1969), whose main training was at the School of the Museum of Art, Boston, but who also studied at the Art Students League. Williams was a key part of the "American Scene" group of artists represented by the prominent Kraushaar Galleries of New York in the 1940s, and she was an avid music enthusiast and an accomplished amateur pianist. Mozartiana, which was singled out for praise in a 1941 New York Times review of Williams' solo exhibition at Kraushaar that year, features a vase of anemones and Mozart sheet music set on a piano, and is Williams' commentary on the brevity of Mozart's life (the anemones being symbolic of the transitory quality of life, in particular life cut short). The painting is the subject of another of the Museum's FOCUS IN/ON projects, in which works from the Hillstrom Collection are collaboratively explored by the Museum Director and a colleague from across the curriculum. Mozartiana will be considered in an extended didactic text co-written with Dr. David Fienen, Edgar F. and Ethel Johnson Professor of Fine Arts, Organist and Cantor of Christ Chapel, and Chairperson of the Department of Music.
(above: Esther Williams (1907-1969), Mozartiana, c.1940, Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches. Gift of Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom)
To view a .pdf file of the exhibition brochure please click here.
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