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Painting the Beautiful: Impressionist Paintings from the James A. Michener Art Museum

November 8 - December 16, 2007


Painting the Beautiful: Impressionist Paintings from the James A. Michener Art Museum, on exhibit November 8 through December 16, 2007 in the Stark University Center Galleries, is a selection from the world's most extensive collection of Pennsylvania Impressionism and includes 25 American Impressionist Paintings by 12 Pennsylvanian Impressionists.

Pennsylvania Impressionists are dedicated to painting outdoors, directly from nature. While this practice exemplifies the ideals of the movement, what most characterized Pennsylvania Impressionists was not a single unified style but rather the emergence of many mature, distinctive styles with the use of moody, expressionistic colors and village scenes. Visitors will experience Daniel Garber's luminous and poetic renditions of the Bucks County woods; Fern Coppedge's colorful village scenes; John Folinsbee's moody, expressionistic snowscapes; and William L. Lathrop's evocative vistas. Another artists featured within the exhibit is Edward Redfield, who was known as the stylistic leader of this period.


(above: Edward Redfield, October)


(above: George Sotter, Coastal View, 1948)


(above: William L. Lathrop, Untitled)


(above: Fern Coppedge, Road to Lumberville, 1938, oil on canvas, 20 1/8 x 18 1/8 inches; collection James A. Michener Art Museum, gift of Ruth Purcell Conn and William R. Conn)


Additional text concerning the exhibition

The Impressionists celebrated the modernity of Paris and the everyday life of its residents. They believed that a painting should not be constructed carefully in the studio; it should be taken directly from nature. So many Impressionists painted en plein air (French for "outside"). They were especially dedicated to portraying subtle changed in light or atmosphere. But this approach to painting meant that the artist had to work very quickly in order to capture the desired effect before the sun went behind a cloud or it started to rain. There was no time to mix colors carefully or to portray objects in great detail. Instead, Impressionist artists tended to use short, quick brushstrokes to quickly capture the essence of the subject rather than the details. This technique created the flickering sense of movement that makes the Impressionists paintings so freshly spontaneous.

Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include visible brushstrokes, light colors, open composition, an emphasis on light and its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, and unusual visual angles. Colors are applied side-by-side with as little mixing as possible (the optical mixing of colors occurs in the eye of the viewer). Close attention is paid to the reflection of colors from object to object.

French Impressionists believed that you should trust your eyes. Using newly developed theories of how the eye physically registers color, they believed that what you saw in nature was not form, but rather light on form. And light could be conveyed by color. To prove their theories, they took their paint tubes and easels outdoors, where they re-created the world as colors that suggested light. Criticized at first for what appeared to be unfinished paintings, the Impressionist vision soon became a standard for truthfully conveying the outdoor experience.

From the 1890s through the 1910s, American Impressionism flourished in art colonies-loosely affiliated groups of artists who lived and worked together and shared a common aesthetic vision. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, artists increasingly spurned cities, preferring instead to live and work in the numerous art colonies that sprang up throughout the country. Art colonies tended to form in small towns that provided affordable living, abundant scenery for painting, and easy access to large cities where artists could sell their work. Some of the most important American Impressionist artists gathered at Cos Cob and Old Lyme, Connecticut; Laguna Beach, California; Brown County, Indiana; in New York on eastern Long Island at Shinnecock; and in Boston.

The Pennsylvania Impressionists were not preoccupied with the scientific investigations of optics or the transitory effects of light and color theory that intrigued the French painters Monet and Seurat. Rather, they expanded on the realism of Manet, Renoir, Degas and Cassatt. However, like their predecessors, many of them took their easels out-of-doors to paint on the spot rather than work in their studios from sketches. Popularly called the New Hope School, the artists painted at sited along or near the Delaware River. The key ingredient of Bucks County for these artists was the stunning geography, particularly the Delaware River and the valley with the lush forests, broad pastures, and picturesque farmhouses. The area was also conveniently located near both New York and Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Impressionists played a dominant role in the American art world of the teens and twenties. In their prime, these artists were considered somewhat avant-garde. Their work celebrated for its freedom from European influence and was praised as being the first truly national artistic expression. They were associated with a vigorous realism, grounded in love of the land and embodying America's populist, pioneer spirit.

-- the above additional text concerning the exhibition is credited to Brian Peterson, curator of the Michener Arts Museum and ExhibitsUSA, a national division if Mid-America Arts Alliance with The Texas Commission on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts. The text was provided to Resource Library by Francesca Marquez of J Wayne Stark University Center Galleries.


Tour Schedule from ExhibitsUSA website:

April 6 - Aug. 11, 2007, Wichita Art Museum; Wichita, Kansas
Sept. 1 - Oct. 20, 2007 Gari Melchers Home and Studio; Fredericksburg, Virginia
Nov. 8, 2007 - Jan. 7, 2008, J Wayne Stark University Center Galleries; College Station, Texas
Jan. 28 - March 16, 2008, Huntington Museum of Art; Huntington, West Virginia
April 6 - Aug. 11 , 2008, Southern Vermont Arts Center; Manchester, Vermont
Sept. 1 - Oct. 20, 2008, Perspective Gallery; Blacksburg, Virginia
Nov. 10, 2008 - Jan. 7, 2009, Michelson Museum of Art; Marshall, Texas
Jan. 28 - March 16, 2009, Sordoni Art Gallery; Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania


More about the exhibition from the ExhibitsUSA website:

The exhibition originates from the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Thanks to a recent major gift of 60 works from a prominent collector, the Michener holds the world's most extensive public collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings. The artworks are accompanied by the major publication Pennsylvania Impressionism, co-published by the Michener Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Press. The book is edited and principally authored by the curator, Brian H. Peterson. Peterson has more than 20 years of experience as a curator, critic, artist, and arts administrator in the Philadelphia area.

For further information from ExhibitsUSA and to view a four-image slideshow of paintings in the exhibition please click here.

Google Books provides a search function for the text of the 340-page Pennsylvania Impressionism, co-published by the Michener Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Press.


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