Wall panels from Long Island Collects
- Main panel: Long Island Collects
- Inasmuch as the private collector is one of the museum's most important
resources, it is fitting that this exhibition coincides with the 20th anniversary
year of Nassau County Museum of Art. The whole first floor displays works
that are borrowed from private Long Island collectors. The works are organized
into in-depth groupings forming a sense of shows within a show.
- The initial section entitled Poetic Journey, presents 19th-century
American landscape painting, choice examples by Hudson River artists demonstrating
a variety of individual stylistic approaches. This collection has never
before been shown here as a unit.
- In the adjacent galleries comprising the second section of the show,
Impressionism and Modernism are represented followed by postwar American
art. While these themes have been well represented in the museum's past
exhibitions, nearly all the works on exhibition are being seen here for
the first time.
- The Europeans dominate the first of these rooms with previously unseen
work by Turner and a Cezanne still life. Three oils by Renoir, a painting
and a pastel by Pissarro, and two charcoals by Degas represent Impressionism.
The moderns represented include Matisse, Vlaminck, Braque, Robert Delaunay,
and a substantial body of work by Picasso, all but one never before hung
in this museum. Also shown are a Chagall fantasy landscape, a vividly colored
Léger, and several strong German Expressionist oils by Beckmann,
Pechstein, and Münter.
- The section on American postwar art begins with one of Hans Hofmann's
classic abstract paintings, demonstrating his vibrant palette and formal
concept of "push and pull" color relationship. The dynamics and
scope of the Abstract Expressionist movement are further reflected in a
charismatic work by Franz Kline, a small but distinctive Jackson Pollock,
a drip and splatter painting by Sam Francis, and a serene color field painting
by Helen Frankenthaler. Subsequent figuration includes work by Larry Rivers,
David Hockney and Wayne Thiebaud. Large scale photo works by Cindy Sherman
and Candida Hofer conclude this eclectic section of the exhibition. To
complement the other elements of Long Island Collects, the museum
has mounted a special Library Gallery showing of silkscreens by Andy Warhol.
- Gallery III text
- Wall #1
- For more than 40 years, Hans Hoffmann performed the dual role of teacher
and artist, inspiring generations of painters to become pioneers by taking
their cues from the natural world while exploring and expounding their
individual techniques. This large painting by Hoffman beautifully demonstrates
his "push/ pull" theory in which colors, by their very nature,
appear to either recede or project into space. Hoffman manifested this
theory through vigorous brush strokes and an intuitive placement of pure
pigment. The exuberant, color saturated result demonstrates why he played
a pivotal role in the development of Abstract Expressionisms.
- Sam Francis used a drip and splatter technique comparable to that originated
by Jackson Pollock. In this work, brightly colored and thickly painted
splotches fuse with an underlying design of more thinly applied paint.
The continuous white background also sets off additional and purposeful
drops of paint. The intimate Jackson Pollock, from his most mature period,
reveals the artist's sustained interest in automatism. In this work, Pollock
returned to the biomorphic imagery- suggestions of clouds, stones, or other
topographic elements - which he had explored in his early experiments with
- Wall #2
- Abstract Expressionism was an exclusively American movement which took
root in New York during the period after World War II. A decidedly romantic
impulse, it bypassed rationality, order, and traditional techniques in
favor of spontaneity, intuition, and free association. This was often achieved
by employing novel techniques and materials. Jackson Pollock, who employed
sticks, towels, knives and syringes to drip, fling and pour paint in a
free-form but calculated method, inspired other artists to paint without
a brush. This influence was felt most strongly by the color field painters
of whom Helen Frankenthaler was the leading proponent. Her luminous large-scale
composition was achieved through a soak-stain technique. With her canvas
lying flat on the ground, Frankenthaler drenched it with vivid color that
was literally poured on.
- Hollow Men's Cave, by Robert Motherwell is a painting from his
Hollow Men series, which is based on the poem by T.S. Elliot. This example
includes ovoid forms which were central to Motherwell's long-running elegy
series. The "cave" in the title refers to Plato's cave
a subject which occupied the artist's work. Like so many of his Abstract
Expressionist colleagues, Motherwell also gravitated to Long Island's East
End, which is the source of his collage bearing the title Montauk. The
red circle suggests a sun while jagged shapes of cliffs frame the beach
though this interpretation hints at the surreal. The collage is built
up of layered materials; one gets the sense that the accretions were a
fusion of new with old, in an effort to achieve an unexpected result. The
artist's mastery is evident in his skilled composition: he knew not only
when to add but also when to stop.
- Wall #3
- Franz Kline's work is dominated by bold black lines that seem to thrust
and hit as they make contact with one another. The result is a forceful
network of black interacting with the white areas around them. Kline treated
his paintings as if they were freely improvised calligraphy, and in the
spirit of action painting, they create a sense of energetic and uninhibited
- Larry Rivers' Mary, exemplifies the infusion of Abstract Expressionism
into sophisticated modes of representation in the 1950s. The evanescence
of form, partially revealed and partially obscured, combines with an all-over
composition consistent with the sensibilities of this powerful movement.
- Wall #4
- The wedding in Jim Dine's diptych may refer to that of the cartoon
characters, Popeye and Olive Oil, who appear as chalky silhouetted heads
superimposed over the commanding array of flowers. Sumptuous bouquets dominate
the composition: over it are two hearts which are iconic symbols in Dine's
art. The presence of a skull, an overturned glass, and an antique fragment
all suggest a vanitas: a mode of painting from the baroque period
that represented a meditation on the brevity of human life.
- Larry Rivers' tribute to Matisse at once incorporates images of the
French master's portrait along with one of his most famous paintings. A
perfect example of appropriation, or art about art, it dates from Rivers'
late phase when he constructed his work sculpturally by building up layers
of foam core beneath the canvas in order to create three dimensions.
- Wall #5
- Roy Lichtenstein's Still-Life with Cherry Pie utilizes a palette
of primary colors and underlying grid structure which is a distinctive
interpretation of Mondrian's work. The pie is reduced to red circles and
a yellow wedge; a slightly angle line bisects the composition and diagonal
stripes appear as shading or zones of color. The totality is crisp, pure
and impeccable in its rendering, and typical of Lichtenstein's strong graphic
- David Hockney portrays a vista across a sun-dappled deck in the San
Fernando Valley. The artist's presence is suggested by the vantage point
of the table, set for tea with a figure reading in the foreground. Hockney
believes that Cubism was never carried far enough, and he has endeavored
to sustain aspects of its twisting vantage points, roving perspective,
and enfolding forms in his treatment of these contemporary surroundings.
His heightened palette reflects the richly warm colors of the vegetation
and the refulgent California light.
- Cezanne-wall #1
- A radical at heart, Paul Cezanne left his native Provence to study
art in Paris. He did so with the disapproval of his banker father but with
the encouragement of his friend, the writer Emile Zola. Initially, Cezanne
aligned himself and exhibited with the Impressionists. Pissarro was his
mentor; the two explored the Impressionist principles, capturing the fleeting
nature of bright color and strong light through everyday subjects. As Cezanne
matured, he moved beyond these concerns and abandoned the impulse to capture
sensory perceptions in favor a much more solid and architectural style.
His highly personal approach was to emphasize the volumetric aspects of
form and a tangible sense of pictorial space. As he declared, "I want
to make of Impressionism something solid and lasting." His ultimate
thrust toward geometric simplicity and multiple perspectives launched the
fracturing of forms which led to the Cubist movement. Although he is classified
as a Post-Impressionist, Cezanne was ultimately the bridge between Impressionism
- Cezanne painted Les deux vases de fleurs in 1877, which was
a decisive year in his development. As Lawrence Gowing explained, "The
essential development of 1877 was that the atmospheric tones of Impressionism
gave place to the intensity of local color: color, in fact, gained a kind
of autonomy, and form, as if to serve it, became progressively simpler
and more block-like.
- Still-life held a particular fascination for Cezanne. Because these
canvases were painted in the studio, he was able to readily work and rework
each composition extensively, thereby exercising his predilection for order
and stability. As Andre Perate said, "the conscientiousness of his
craftsmanship is everywhere apparent in the still-lifes where it seems
the sense of sight has been transformed for us into the sense of touch."
- Wall # 2
- In this gallery viewers may see works from the strongest areas in European
art collected by Long Islanders: Impressionism, Modernism and German Expressionism.
On the wall that sweeps from Turner to Chagall, one can compare the similarities
and differences in how these artists treat composition, brushwork and color.
In common among them is a strong suggestion of space around the main subject,
a context of sky, architecture, landscape and the implied or evident touch
of humanity. Within the period and style of each artist, brushwork spans
a range from the most tightly rendered in Turner through the varied and
tactile handling of Chagall.
- Turner's Hampton Court Palace is by far the oldest work in this
group. Dating from circa 1825-28, it was executed comparatively early in
his career and shows the Romantic appeal of this English artist, who was
perhaps the most important visionary of his era. Turner has been described
as a pre-Impressionist but he may also be compared to the Luminists. More
than a half century later, the French Impressionist, Pissarro, composed
an English scene, but one of dramatically different sensibility than that
of Turner. Pissarro used bright pigments, almost straight from the tube,
and arrayed them in a tapestry-like effect to evoke a topographical sense
of landscape, architecture and human form. Rather than blend his colors
in a polished surface, Pissarro allowed each brush stroke to remain distinct
so that colors interact by juxtaposition, an approach related to the influential
pointillism of Seurat.
- Among the Impressionists, Renoir is (along with Degas) most strongly
associated with the figure. His subjects are often women, occupied with
grooming, bathing, or other activities associated with fashion or beauty.
His painting, Beaulieu Femmes et Garconet, combines his fascination
with the figure along with the novel design possibilities presented by
mountains, lakes and trees. Renoir's typical feathery brushwork blends
his signature reds and greens with creamy white in a striking composition.
- Wall #3
- In the center of the wall is a portrait by Metzinger whose Cubist manifesto
of 1912 did much to spread the style of which he was a founder. This work
however reflects what the critics deemed a "the return to order"
which occurred in France during the 1920's. Here Metzinger preserves a
vestige of shallow Cubist space in his organizing principle, but the canvas
is predominantly Neo-classical, with an elegantly draped partial nude -
in the mode of a 20s flapper -- set against an architectural column and
tropical plant. Shading is done in a moving tone as if on carved marble.
- In Vlaminck's sailing scene, the pungent colors are arbitrary, favoring
a palette of strong greens and blues. While these choices are visually
logical; they were more the product of the artist's emotional sensations
than directly linked to observation. This approach reflects the attitude
of Fauvism, the early 20th century French movement associated with high-keyed
color. Finally, the work by Chagall, an artist who defied classification
as either Cubist or Surrealist, presents a rich composition with many of
the elements that symbolize the period when he worked in France. The flowers,
gigantic in size, are on a picnic blanket with a diminutive tazza or
bowl of fruit. A shepherd and sheep stroll in the grass, and the town,
with its roofs and church spire, spreads out in the distance. Chagall evidences,
almost in the spirit of Cezanne, a striking individuality and verve in
the manner in which his highly textured paint is applied.
- Wall # 4
- The work by Cezanne is deliberately sited as a central motif in this
gallery since he was believed to be "the father of us all" as
both Matisse and Picasso suggested. Cubism was a guiding premise of much
20th century painting and its shallow articulation of space and fragmentation
of form can be traced directly to the optical explorations of Cezanne.
The notion of painting as a "window on the world" dominated in
prior epochs, but was supplanted by a new assertion that each painting
was a self-contained realm whose ultimate point of reference was itself.
The ultimate end to all of this was abstraction.
- Wall #5
- On this wall, which features Braque, Picassso, Leger and Delaunay,
Cubist space is the predominant force. Braque and Picasso were known to
have a symbiotic relationship and their still lifes share much in terms
of line, the use of relatively flat color, and the varied, tactile expression
in the handling of the material. Delaunay represents a distinctive phase
of Cubism, known as Orphism (and also called Organic Cubism), with its
heightened chromatic sense and pre-occupation with orbs, rainbows, and
similarly arch-like forms. The setting, of lights glinting behind them,
and the nearby Eiffel Tower, comparatively large in scale, suggests Paris
under a rainbow. The primacy of color and the artist's trademark motif,
the Eiffel tower, make this a prime example of the movement which he founded.
Léger's work tends to be very stylized, each silhouetted shape,
usually of recognizable forms, is rendered in a simple color outlined in
black, and the design is flattened overall.
- Prominent on this wall are three works by Picasso dating from the 1920s,
50s, and 70s. In the 1929 Buste de femme , the spiky cleaved head
seems like two linear profiles facing each other with a split between them.
Each pushes a pointed triangular tongue in the other's direction, as if
engaged in a sharp exchange. The 1959 Nue assise, a full-figured
female nude, has sinuously contoured forms and huge hands, all configured
within a Cubist matrix featuring both side view and frontal, with the head
done from multiple angle views. The 1972 Tete d'homme is a costumed
figure with an elaborate hat, in the spirit of the artist's musketeers.
It is the most painterly of the three, and emphasizes expressive gestures
which are readily seen through the varying degrees of liquidity in the
pigment and the sgraffitto (scratching into wet paint with a sharp
instrument) technique used to incise details of the beard and hair. Eyes,
nostrils, and mouth are all abstract, yet comprise a readable scheme of
circles and lines.
- Wall #6 (German Expressionists)
- German Expressionism is a movement which is considerably less explored
by Long Island collectors but crucial, nonetheless, to the history of this
museum. Our first director, Serge Sabarsky (who was the inspiration and
co-founder of the Neue Gallery), organized several German Expressionist
shows in the formative years of NCMA.
- German Expressionist art, in which emotion and exaggeration take precedence
over representation and form, is not thought to be an especially decorative
phase of art. It presents a somewhat challenging aesthetic which contrasts
with the pleasurable sensations of Impressionism or the intellectual challenges
- The three works presented are all still-lifes. The Pechstein and Münter
are early examples from the first phase of this movement. They reflect
how the Germans discovered the high-keyed and arbitrary colors of such
earlier artists as Gauguin and Van Gogh. This is evident in the sunflowers
of the Pechstein and the brilliant jewel-like palette of the Münter.
They infused Expressionist qualities into their own distorted and exaggerated
sensibilities. Colors became darker and lines rougher as elegance was supplanted
- The Beckmann, featuring snow-drop flowers set in the context of a library,
is bookish and refined, yet equally rendered with heavily wrought line
and a decisive earthy palette.
- Hall didactics
- Hallway I
- Works on paper -- in charcoal, pencil, and pastel provide a variety
of spirit and technique, even when they are done by the same hand. The
two Degas demonstrate this artist's very different approaches to pastel.
The first, of three women, is linear and open. In the second, the body
of a single bather is heavily wrought with multiple strokes and shading.
The Matisse pencil drawing depicts one of his signature odalisques. It
is finely drawn with a stiletto outline that carefully and graceful marks
the contours of the figure and its costume. A Socialist, Pissarro, captures
the essence of labor in his pastel of working men. Pissarro employs an
Impressionist sensibility, through prismatic color and an absence of black
or brown for shading. The handling is tactile; multiple strokes overlap
in varying directions, as form arises out of the interaction between these
numerous and distinct marks of color.
- This wall also includes a contemporary American pastel by the Californian,
Wayne Thiebaud. His drawing is less "Pop" than some of the work
he is best known for, but it maintains his ever playful artistry and humor.
Thiebaud's sensitive handling of the pastel blends various tones into the
distinctive shape of a pear and its shadow. Despite its small scale, the
simplified space -- just a surface and a background -- and the isolation
of the pear in its airy surroundings, lend a monumentality to a single
piece of fruit.
- Hallway II
- This section provides a transition between the European and American
artists with a variety of works in eclectic styles, media and geographic
origins. In the oil, Self Portrait by Marchand, we can see the artist's
precise control of his medium. A palette of earth tones and the planar
definition of the facial structure evokes Cubism of which this work is
a particularly early example. Edges and shading are variously defined with
fluid paint handing, active gestural brushwork, clear lines and firm, black
- Larry Rivers pays homage to Surrealism in a three-part work entitled
De Chirico's Dilemma. Here, a colorful mannequin figure is joined
by horses standing amidst classical ruins, both of which are adopted from
the paintings of de Chirico. At the center is the Surrealist's own pencil
portrait suggesting a photograph. Rivers is expounding on the concept of
"art about art" or art appropriation, in which a prior artist's
work becomes a valid subject for a new artist's creations. In Rivers' interpretation,
the two paintings adopted from de Chirico are rendered through repeated
strokes of colored pencil, whose waxy qualities are evident in the heavily-worked
and definite surface. De Chirico's own painting, which we have hung adjacently,
shows a horse on a beach littered with classical columns; the very subject
which Rivers uses for his inspiration .
- Another proponent of Surrealism, Leonora Carrington, combines vignettes
suggesting rituals or voodoo in her fanciful drawing. The imagery is done
in pen and ink, tinted with watercolors that range from deeply pigmented
to fluid washes. Finally, Picasso's portrayal of a bug-studded flower utilizes
a multiplicity of lines, all in colored pencil, creating a vibrant floral
which pops out against the stark white background.
- Hall part II
- The photography of Cindy Sherman and Candida Hofer displays a clarity,
intensity and large-scale formats with impacts that are more often associated
with paintings. Sherman uses herself as both model and photographer, creating
a character through the controlled orchestration of pose, make-up, costume
and lighting. She is her own muse and works without any other presence
in the studio, embedding her identity into each and every image.
- Hofer works with a pre-existing subject: typically the grand and sumptuous
rooms of libraries, palaces, banks and ceremonial buildings that boast
a significant past. The sheer scope and sustained focus of her manner,
and the subjects rich in abundant period detail create an almost overwhelming
sense. They also suggest the meeting of earlier architectural episodes,
in this case Baroque with present interpretations. Take note of the velvet
ropes in the central section of El Escorial VI. To envision how
the artist arrived at this image, look for the center point, where lines
of perspective converge. Now try to imagine the height of the artist's
vantage point in taking the picture.
- Jim Dine's diptych of two robes is from a series often thought to be
implicit self-portraits. By dividing this work into two perspectives, the
artist suggests a multiplicity of personalities. The left panel, on roughly
textured paper, bears marks of abrasion, creating a play between raw white
areas and the soothing pigment. The right section, done with bravura abstract
expressionist brush stokes, bears a whole vocabulary of converging colors,
smears, drips and splashes which admirably conveys the image.
Please click here to return to
Poetic Journey: Hudson River School Paintings from the Grey Collection
Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.
Copyright 2009 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights