Swedish-American Works from the Hillstrom Collection
November 23, 2009 - January 29, 2010
Images of paintings in the exhibition
(above: Dewey Albinson (Swedish-American, 1898-1971), Farm Scene (Minnesota?), probably 1930s-early 1940s, Oil on canvas. Gift of Bob and Tucki Bellig)
Both Albinson's son Tawn Albinson and daughter Leone Albinson Stein agree that this Farm Scene could be a Minnesota-based image. A list of the works in the 1936 exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art, referenced by a label on the back of the other painting donated by the Belligs, Village Scene, indicates that there was a work in that exhibition titled Farm Scene, Minnesota, with dimensions matching this painting. No photographic records of the exhibit remain, however, making a visual identification impossible.
(above: Dewey Albinson (Swedish-American, 1898-1971), Village Scene, probably late 1930s-early 1940s, Oil on canvas. Gift of Bob and Tucki Bellig)
This image of a Village Scene, and the other painting donated by the Belligs that is on view, Farm Scene (Minnesota?), likely dates to the 1930s or the early 1940s, a conclusion supported both by consultation with the artist's son Tawn Albinson and daughter Leone Albinson Stein, and by stylistic comparison with works by Albinson featured in a recent exhibition at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.
The painting has an old label on its frame from an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art (now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) in 1936, indicating a title of Farm Scene, Italy. The artist's son, however, does not believe it is one of his father's works done during the period when he lived in Italy, 1929 to 1931, and it is likely that the frame was reused without the old label being removed. Albinson's daughter believes that this painting might be an image from Quebec, which would date it to the end of the 1930s or the early 1940s.
(above: Dewey Albinson (Swedish-American, 1898-1971), May Snow, 1938, Oil on canvas. Gift of Colles and Dr. John Larkin, in honor of Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom)
May Snow was shown at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1941 in an exhibition titled "Directions in American Art." A label affixed to the back of its frame bears the title and date, and indicates that the locale depicted is Quebec, Canada, where the artist spent an extended period of time in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The painting depicts a street scene after a late winter snowstorm, with figures shown wading through or playing in the snow that blankets the ground and rooftops. The rocky promontory behind the houses is Cap Diamont, located in the old part of Quebec City, and the street depicted has been identified by Albinson's daughter Leone Albinson Stein as Boulevard Champlain. A second label on the back of the painting, from the Carnegie Institute, lists an alternative title of Retarded Spring.
There is an abstracted, geometric quality to the imagery, and although his work was figurative, Albinson borrowed from various modern art movements, including Cubism. The influence of French artist André Lhote (1885-1962), a Cubist and prominent art teacher with whom Albinson studied in Paris, may inform this and the other paintings on view by Albinson.
(above: Dewey Albinson (Swedish-American, 1898-1971), Hillside Farm, c.1930, Lithograph on paper. Gift of Gloria C. Kittleson, in honor of Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom)
Albinson was born in Minneapolis and studied at the Minneapolis School of Art from 1915 to 1919, continuing his studies at the Art Students League in New York from 1919 to 1921. He spent two years studying in Paris starting in late 1922 or early 1923. Back in Minnesota, he served as Director of the St. Paul School of Art from 1926 to 1929, where he also taught painting, and he was later involved in the WPA (Works Progress Administration), serving as State Director of its Educational Division from 1935 to 1937. He also painted murals for the WPA, at post offices in Cloquet, Minnesota and Marquette, Michigan. Albinson made extended, two-year trips to Italy, starting in 1929, and Canada, starting in 1939. He exhibited widely, including in Chicago and New York, and his works were hailed by critics for their vigor and directness. He was known for his landscape paintings in particular.
This print depicts a hilly, stylized farm landscape with farm buildings including a silo in the center of the composition and a barn at the left side. A man plows with an oxen team while another man plants seeds in the foreground. There is at once a Regionalist flavor as well as a geometric, abstracted, Cubist quality to the image. Although his work was figurative, Albinson borrowed from various modern art movements, including Cubism. His work in the 1920s and 1930s has been described as a "visual chronicle of Minnesota," and this scene may well be from within the state, perhaps farm land in the rolling countryside not far from Taylors Falls on the St. Croix River, a favorite area of the artist.
The print bears an inscription, "To friend Wedin --
October 1932," indicating not only that it dates prior to that time,
but also that it was a gift to Albinson's friend, painter Elof Wedin (1901-1983),
another Swedish-American artist who worked in Minnesota. Wedin later gave
the print to Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom, who in turn gave it to Gloria
Kittleson, who in turn donated it to the Museum in Hillstrom's honor.
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