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Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany

January 24 through April 26, 2009


Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany, presented at the Frye Art Museum from January 24 through April 26, 2009, brings together key works from the Frye Collections by some of America's most esteemed artists, including William Merritt Chase, Albert Bierstadt, and John White Alexander, who studied or lived in Germany during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

The influence of Europe, and especially France, on American intellectuals, writers, and artists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been addressed on numerous occasions in exhibitions and academic volumes. Less often examined, but equally important, were America's close ties to Germany, where American artists sought inspiration and a place to study, as well as the opportunity to exhibit their works and build a career.

The prestige of being invited to join the Munich, Berlin, and Vienna Secessions, or exhibit with them, was accorded to a select few American artists. William Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam were, however, Corresponding Members of the Munich Secession while Gari Melchers was a Corresponding Member of both the Munich and the Vienna Secessions. Mary Cassatt showed her work with the Munich Secession in 1913 and 1914, and James Abbott McNeil Whistler, a Corresponding Member of the Vienna Secession, also exhibited at the Munich Secession in 1895.

In the mid-nineteenth century, artists such as Chase, Alexander, Bierstadt, George Luks, and John Twachtman studied at German art academies, including Düsseldorf and Munich. Chase, who worked in a variety of mediums and styles, is recognized both as a landscape painter and portraitist. He was also an important American proponent of plein-air (outdoor) painting advocated by the artists of the Barbizon School such as Théodore Rousseau and Impressionists such as Alfred Sisley.

Prominent German practitioners of plein-air painting, with whom Chase was certainly familiar from his years of study in Munich, were Wilhelm Leibl and Wilhelm Trübner. He may well have been aware of the work of the influential artists Ludwig Dill and Adolf Hölzel who painted the fenlands surrounding Dachau. In America, Chase taught classes outdoors at the Shinnecock Hills Summer School on Long Island, which he established in 1891. Coast of Holland, 1884, a large scale landscape painting, and Portrait of a Lady against Pink Ground, circa 1886, both on view in Transatlantic, demonstrate Chase's use of rapid brushstrokes and his skillful juxtaposition of color.

While in Munich, Chase shared a studio with fellow American painter Frank Duveneck, who began his artistic training in 1869 at the Royal Academy. After his initial studies,

Duveneck established art schools in Munich and Polling, Bavaria where his students formed a group known as "Duveneck's Boys," which included John White Alexander and John Twatchman.

Best known for his portraiture, Duveneck was greatly influenced by the dark palette and the broad, strong brushstrokes of Munich artists such as Wilhelm Leibl. Duveneck's realistic portrayal of his sitters is typical of the artist's portraits, particularly recognizable in Henry Bisbing, circa 1880-1885. The sitter, Henry Singlewood Bisbing (1849-1933), was an American artist who Duveneck befriended in Munich. Known for his paintings of animals and landscapes, Bisbing studied at the Munich Academy in 1876 before moving to Brussels and then to Paris in 1883.

American painter Henry Raschen, who is represented in Transatlantic by The Deserted Camp, n.d., was a fellow student of William Merritt Chase. In this painting, Raschen's dramatic depiction of light contributes to a romanticized portrayal of the American West, a frequent subject in the artist's oeuvre. Although born in Germany, Raschen emigrated with his family to America at an early age. After studying briefly at the San Francisco Art Academy, Raschen returned to Germany, where he trained at the Munich Academy in the late 1870s. Under the influence of his teachers, Wilhelm von Diez and Ludwig von Löfftz, Raschen incorporated the techniques of the Old Masters in his paintings as well as more modern, naturalistic sensibilities.

Raschen traveled between Munich and California in the later decades of the nineteenth century before settling near San Francisco. His close friendship with Charles and Emma Frye resulted in his becoming an advisor to the Fryes in the acquisition of artworks for their collection. Raschen's profound knowledge of the Munich Secession and the Künstlergenossenschaft is reflected in the Frye Founding Collection, which includes a number of works by the artist.

Although each worked in his and her own style, these American artists painted portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes often closely linked to developments in German painting at that time, from symbolism and realism to the beginnings of abstraction and Jugendstil. The exhibition celebrates the contributions American artists made to these major movements in America and abroad, and demonstrates the key role they played as purveyors of artistic ideas across the Atlantic Ocean.

Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany is co-curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Frye Art Museum Foundation scholar and Jayme Yahr, Frye Art Museum curatorial intern. The exhibition is shown in conjunction with the landmark survey The Munich Secession and America, presented January 24 through April 26, 2009.

(above: Albert Bierstadt. Rainbow in the Sierra Nevada, c. 1871-1873. Oil on panel. 18 x 24 inches. Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1997 - Photo: Susan Dirk/Under the Light, Seattle, WA)


(above: Childe Hassam. Parc Monceau, Paris, 1897. Oil on canvas. 24 1/8 x 17 3/4 inches. Charles and Emma Frye Collection)


(above: John Henry Twachtman. Dunes Back of Coney Island, circa 1880. Oil on canvas. 13 7/8 x 20 inches. Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1956)


(above: Gari Melchers. The Pilots, circa 1888. Oil on linen. 63 _ x 79 _ inches. Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1960)


(above: William Merritt Chase. Portrait of a Lady against Pink Ground (Miss Virginia Gerson), c. 1886. Oil on canvas. 72 x 36 inches. Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1969)


Checklist for the exhibition

John White Alexander
American (1856-1915)
Woman in Black, 1896
Oil on canvas
40 _ x 22 _ in.
Museum Purchase, 1998
Albert Bierstadt
American (1830-1902)
Rainbow in the Sierra Nevada, circa 1871-1873
Oil on panel
18 x 24 in.
Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1997
William Merritt Chase
American (1849-1916)
Coast of Holland, 1884
Oil on canvas
58 7/8 x 80 in.
Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1979
William Merritt Chase
American (1849-1916)
Portrait of a Lady against Pink Ground (Miss Virginia Gerson), circa 1886
Oil on canvas
72 x 36 in.
Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1969
Frank Duveneck
American (1848-1919)
Henry Bisbing (Portrait of Henry S. Bisbing), circa 1880­1885
Oil on canvas
23 x 19 in.
Frye Museum Purchase, 1962
Childe Hassam
American (1859-1935)
Parc Monceau, Paris, 1897
Oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 17 3/4 in.
Charles and Emma Frye Collection, 1952.059
George Benjamin Luks
American (1867-1933)
Danty, circa 1915
Oil on canvas
42 1/4 x 24 in.
Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1982
Gari Melchers
American (1860-1932)
The Pilots, circa 1888
Oil on linen
63 _ x 79 _ in.
Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1960
Henry Raschen
American (1854-1937)
The Deserted Camp, no date
Oil on fabric
26 7/8 x 46 _ in.
Charles and Emma Frye Collection
John Henry Twachtman
American (1853-1902)
Dunes Back of Coney Island, circa 1880
Oil on canvas
13 7/8 x 20 in.
Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1956
Thaddeus Welch
American (1844-1919)
Steep Ravine, Marin County, California, 1912
Oil on fabric
26 x 46 1/4 in.
Charles and Emma Frye Collection

rev. 2/24/09

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