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Friday, 31 December 2010 11:56
The nineteenth century critic George W. Sheldon spoke to the popularity of William Hart's (1823–1894) cabinet landscapes2 when he observed they "may be found in almost all the principal private collections in the Atlantic cities...These productions always meet with a ready sale. Their author is very industrious and persevering."3 What is notable about this quote is the stir that physically small landscapes created, particularly in relation to the heroic panoramas executed by fellow landscape painters at the time. As art historian Phyllis Peet would later record about William (and his brother James [1828–1901]): "By the late 1850s leading magazines and newspapers reported on the landscape painters William and James Hart as frequently as their famous Hudson River School colleagues, Frederic Church (1826–1900) and Asher B. Durand (1796–1886)."4

William Hart embodied the meaning of Ralph Waldo Emerson's belief: "To be simple is to be great." His compositions relied on a simplicity of elements combined and developed in a variety of ways, so that while the landscapes shared similar content, they were by no means repetitive or formulaic. Sheldon articulated Hart's straightforward schema: "Mr. Hart's landscapes present the sunny and peaceful aspects of Nature—the sylvan stream, the refulgent sunset, pleasant trees, honest cows and lush, green grass."5 Such elements create a calm and pleasant mood, striking a balance between contemplation and elation. As we begin to study these landscapes, their simplicity, variety, and balance become more apparent, as does the artist's technical skill.
Tuesday, 28 December 2010 02:26
Whatever high jinks his mermaids and sailors may be up to in the foreground, paintings by celebrated Cape Cod folk artist Ralph Cahoon typically have a background of sea and sky. Often there's a clipper ship or two sailing on the glassy water and a lighthouse on a promontory at the horizon. Ralph Eugene Cahoon Jr. was born in such a setting on September 2, 1910. Located on the Cape's elbow, his hometown of Chatham, Massachusetts, boasts more than sixty miles of coastline and, until 1923, had four lighthouses in operation.
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 04:33
The ceiling height and abundant light make the great room a natural display area for many of the couple's interests. The two stands beside the matching sofas reflect the owners' interest in both form and surface quality. One, with a dramatically shaped top and unusual inlay is made of cherry; the other with carved rosettes applied to the corners of the top is made completely of bird's-eye maple. Each stand retains its original surface. On the far wall to the right of the double doors to the patio, is the colorful J. H. Davis watercolor of seventeen-year-old Dorinda York painted in 1837, and pictured in Three American Watercolor Painters (1974), by Gail and Norbert Savage. A small theorem of fruit depicts a Canton ware bowl, circa 1830. Beneath is an octagonal-topped sewing stand with an inlaid and molded-edge lift top, inlaid facade, and with line-inlaid splayed legs and cross-stretchers. This rare stand is made of mahogany, retains its original surface, and was probably made in Newburyport, Mass. or Portsmouth, N.H., circa 1800. To the left of the door is one of three known "grandmother" clocks attributed to the Mulliken family of clockmakers. The others are pictured in Nutting's Furniture Treasury (1928) and Brooks Palmer's The American Clock (1928).
Sunday, 21 March 2010 02:15

This year’s ADA Award of Merit is going to the husband and wife team of Richard and Jane Nylander in recognition of their contribution to and influence on museums and scholarship. “Their many years of devotion to the field have opened our eyes to the material living of the eighteenth and nineteenth century,” says ADA board-member Arthur Liverant. “They have been extremely generous with their knowledge,” he adds, “and collectors, dealers, and the museum world have all benefited from their contributions.” About the couple who have worked in the museum field for over four decades, Tom Hardiman, keeper of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, says, “Their interest is in understanding the past, not owning it.”

Sunday, 21 March 2010 02:08

On December 20, 1951, French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) gave his now-famous “Anticultural Positions” speech at the Arts Club of Chicago. Coining the term Art Brut (“raw” or “rough” art), Dubuffet spoke of the merits of art created away from the competition and fame-seeking mentality often associated with mainstream culture. Outsider Art, the English synonym for Art Brut, is a more all-encompassing term also applied to the works of self-taught artists, eccentrics, isolates, compulsive visionaries, and the mentally ill.

Sunday, 21 March 2010 02:02

These were the candid and elated words of newspaper correspondent Charlotte Ricker when, in 1882, she reached the summit of New Hampshire’s South Twin Mountain along with the first group of women ever to ascend the peak. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Ricker was one of a larger group of women who played pioneering roles in the exploration of the American outdoors and lived impressive lives as writers, poets, hikers, and landscape painters. The achievements of these women—who broke the bounds of imposed gender restrictions to carve out lives of accomplishment, adventure and independence—appear all the more extraordinary when one considers the historical and social context within which they took place.

Sunday, 21 March 2010 01:54

At Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) first-year art students enroll in “Cast Drawing,” a discipline with a long history in Europe and America. Artists have practiced drawing plaster casts of ancient sculpture for over two centuries, yet today’s students soon learn to appreciate what might seem like a very conservative pursuit. Indeed, they realize, as one graduate put it: “Drawing a cast is challenging. You have to capture subtle variations in tone across curved surfaces, and observe changes in the light at the same time.” For Academy students the cast drawing studios represent more than just faded displays of naked gods and heroes from ancient history. They are true classrooms, where aspiring artists solidify their drawing skills in a manner that goes back more than two hundred years (Fig. 1).

Thursday, 31 May 2007 20:49
Many of Edward Hopper’s (1882–1967) most admired paintings are night scenes. An enthusiast of both movies and the theater, he adapted the device of highlighting a scene against a dark background, providing the viewer with a sense of sitting in a darkened theater waiting for the drama to unfold. By staging his pictures in darkness, Hopper was able to illuminate the most important features while obscuring extraneous detail. The settings in Night Windows, Room in New York, Nighthawks, and other night compositions enhance the emotional content of the works—adding poignancy and suggestions of danger or uneasiness.