American Masters from the Cheekwood Collection
January 6 - March 14, 1999
"The Cheekwood Museum of Art is housed in a Neo-Georgian mansion situated on fifty-five acres in the rolling hills of Nashville, Tennessee. Named after its original owners, Leslie Cheek and his wife, Mable Wood Cheek, Cheekwood was built during the years of the Great Depression on income generated from the family's coffee business, Maxwell House. The mansion and grounds were donated by the family to become a fine arts center in 1959. The museum opened in 1960 with a core collection of American and European art that originated in the old Nashville Museum of Art.
Over the years, the collection grew through donations and occasional purchases, although acquisition funds were limited during the early years of the institution. Still, community leaders came forward and spearheaded organized efforts to acquire an important collection of Royal Worcester Porcelain, which today ranks as one of the largest and most comprehensive in the country. A strong collection of English and American silver, particularly Sheffield Plate, was fonned in a similar manner, as was a collection of Asian snuff bottles.
In 1989, Cheekwood received its greatest bequest from the estate of Anita Stallworth. Mrs. Stallworth's gift was earmarked for fine art, leaving the museum with the envious problem of determining what type of art should be acquired. Considerations included what was already available in sister institutions in the Southeast, what was already on view in Nashville's other art institutions, what was missing from Cheekwood's collections and, of course, what was well priced on the current market. After much discussion, the decision was reached to purchase art by the turn-of-the-century urban realists known as the Eight. This group was not collected in depth by any regional institutions. Moreover, the two important collections in Nashville - the Parthenon's Cowan Collection of American Impressionism and Fisk University's Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern Art - would be bridged by the Eight. Lastly, the work was then available and undervalued on the art market.
Between 1989 and 1997, the museum purchased over forty paintings and works on paper by the Eight (Henri, Davies, Glackens, Lawson, Luks, Prendergast, Shinn, and Sloan). "
from the exhibition brochure, by Celia Walker, Cheekwood Museum of Art Curator
Late 19th - Early 20th Century Figurative Paintings - Stairwell Gallery
"This gallery consists of figurative paintings and portraits in the styles of Impressionism, Realism and the Ashcan School (The Eight).
The turn of the century and its European art greatly influenced American artists. American artists began to break awag from traditional and technical aspects and chose to explore the expressive aspect of painting. Painting was no longer a way to portray a person, landscape, or still life. Brushstrokes became loose and painterly, allowing for texture on the canvas; subject matter became secondary to the canvas and color and light combinations were used in a whole new way.
Many of the portraits were paintings of particular individuals, but deliberate likenesses were not necessarily important to the artist. Early works such as Chase's Dorothy in Black, c. 1892, and Weir's Portrait of a Gentleman, 1897, are examples of the German influence of allowing the figure to emerge from a dark background. On the opposite end of the spectrum are paintings such as Family Gathering, 1929, by Pauline Palmer, who used variations of gray to indicate the shadowed porch while the land around is electrified with sunlight, and Summer Afternoon by Lilian Genth, whose painting is light, airy and gives the viewer the sense of peacefulness and serenity. Genth's lone figure stands in a shadow while the sun peeks into the room. The brushstrokes in this painting are evidence of the artist's influence by the Impressionistic style.
Several of the portraits capture the viewer by the straightforward gaze of the model, such as in the portrait of The Schiff Children, l892, by Julian Story. The artist clinches the viewer's attention by turning the sitter's face directly into the spectator's line of vision. The large, dark eyes of the children can't help but make one feel captivated.
Naturalism is portrayed in The Frugal Repast by Willie Betty Neuman. The gentle face is captured with changes in tone and color applied in a smooth, unpainterly manner.
The Ashcan (The Eight) artists are represented by such artists as Robert Henri and George Luks, who portrayed life and surroundings realistically without regard for artificial beauty. The realistic, and sometimes ugly, was of prime interest to these artists.
19th Century Portraits - Lower Level Gallery I
This gallery illustrates the restricted and formal style of portrait painting of the 19th century. The Ephraim Hubbard Foster Family, c.1825, by Ralph E. W. Earl is an example of a large family portrayed in all their finery with the father and small child peering shyly at the viewer while the mother's attention is on the child standing daringly on the window frame. As in all family portraits, the sitter's gaze may be on another sitter or perhaps, as with children, averted Into space. This portrait is painted in a tight, refined manner with no hint of painterly expression.
Many of the portraits portrayed in the exhibition are paintings
of individual men and women illustrated in a formal and representative fashion.
This style of painting does not allow for quickness and speed of execution
but rather slow, careful study. Many thin layers of paint are employed to
achieve the rich tonal qualities present.
The visual texture created is amazing to study, and different settings are included to allow the artist to "show off' his painting expertise. Intricate lace collars and dresses, rich decorative fabrics, trees, foliage, and the delicate treatment of the faces provide the viewer with the visual enjoyment of the sitter and his surroundings.
These portraits contrast sharply with the late 19th and early 20th century portraits, where the artist is more concerned with portraying the personality of the sitter than with documenting the face of the sitter.
One painting entitled Christ on the Road to Emmaus, 1884, by Johannes A.S. Oertel portrays Christ and his disciples as mentioned in the New Testament (Luke, 24:13). The painting exemplifies a beautiful layering of tones, and the soft, distant wash of light provides the viewer with a sense of peacefulness.
Historical portraits serve not only as an artistic endeavor but also as a historical document, providing us with a visual record of people of significance such as the Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. This painting is one of many painted by Stuart of the nation's first president.
19th and 20th Century Landscape and Genre Painhings - Lower Level Gallery II
This group of landscape and genre (everyday life) paintings range from depictions of grandiose mountains to urban street scenes.
Early landscapes such as Milton on the Hudson, c. 1882, by George Inness depict trees and figures in a grassy meadow. The contrast of light and dark is paramount to achieving the expression desired by the artist. The dark trees against the pale sky give the viewer the impression that late afternoon has arrived and the day will soon be at a close. This painting is in stark contrast with Ernest Lawson's Spring Scene, in which the viewer notices the focus of the high-keyed colors as well as the painterly texture.
The portrayal of cityscapes became a trend in the early 1900s when the Ashcan School was fonned. The poetic variations of trees and rolling hills was of no interest to the Ashcan painters. Genre scenes of people in everyday life comprised a theme enjoyed by the Ashcan artists. John Sloan's Sally, Sarah, Sadie, Peter and Paul, 1915, is a delightful representation of three girls and two cats playing gleefully on a ward day outside the family home. This painting is vastly different from the figurative paintings by Arthur B. Davies of nude figures unaware of their nakedness and surroundings.
Seascapes such as Bellpart Regatta, 1913, by William Glackens is a depiction of sailboats glistening in the open blue sea. The expression is acheived by the use of brilliant hues and quick brushstrokes. Herman Dudley Murphy's Opal Sunset, c. 1910, represents a desolate open sea late in the day. The muted pastel colors and cloudy expanse create a calm and contemplative environment."
from the exhibition brochure, by Tommie Rodgers, LRMA Curator of Exhibitions
From top to bottom: Julian Alden Weir, Winter Landscape, 1897, oil on canvas, 17.25 x 23,25 inches; Frank Duveneck, The Whistling Boy, 1872, oil on canvas, 30.5 x 26.75 inches; John Christen Johansen, The Story Book, 1905, oil on canvas, 38 x 29.25 inches; Ernest Lawson, Washington Square, c. 1910, John Sloan, Sally, Sarah, Sadie, Peter and Paul, 1915, oil on canvas, 44 x 37.25 inches
For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.
Copyright 2010 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.