Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery
at Keene State College
Alexander James (1890-1946)
Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College will re-open for the summer with an exhibition of paintings, pastels, and drawings by one of New England's most noted portrait painters, Alexander James. The exhibit entitled Alexander James (1890-1946), will open Saturday, June 20, and run through Wednesday, August 5, 1998. A gallery talk and reception, hosted by The Friends of the Thorne, will be held Thursday, July 30, 4-6 p.m. The exhibition is co-sponsored by The Friends of the Dublin Art Colony.
Also on display, in the Gallery conference room, will be an exhibition and sale of Neotropical Migratory Bird Art from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. Both exhibits, the gallery talk, and reception are free and open to the public.
The James exhibit will present a cross-section of his work and include landscapes from France, the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire, early formal portraits, and his later character studies including, A Solitary. He is noted for his sensitivity and the ability to capture the character as well as the likeness of the sitter. The exhibit will also contain a number of self-portraits, sketches, and paintings of James's family. Several pieces are part of a pastel series that explored body language observed in public gatherings such as, Town Meeting.
Born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1890, James was the son of William James, the Harvard philosophy professor, and nephew of Henry James, the novelist. His father hoped Alexander would attend Harvard to pursue a practical career, but due to a learning disability (dyslexia, which was unknown at the time), he did not pass the entrance exam. Alexander showed both great interest and aptitude in art and was finally allowed to pursue painting. He studied with Abbott Thayer in Dublin, N.H., and Frank Benson at the Museum School of The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass.
James spent time in California, New York, and Washington, DC where he taught at the Corcoran School of Art, before moving to Dublin in 1920. His early career was spent as a successful portrait artist where he won the respect and friendship of John Singer Sargent. He became disillusioned with what he described as "storage warehouse portraits" because he wanted to focus on painting the character of his subjects rather than their likeness. In 1931, he gave up taking on commissioned portraits altogether and retreated to a farmhouse in nearby Richmond, where he painted local farmers and friends as character studies. This work was well received by critics in New York where he mounted two shows, but the portraits did not sell well. James began to suffer from heart problems in the early 1940s, and he died of a heart attack in 1946.
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