The Phillips Collects: Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg

Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg

Left: Lorser Feitelson, Untitled (March 14), 1972, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40 in. The Phillips Collection, Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2016; Right: Helen Lundeberg, Untitled, 1961, Oil on canvas, 36 x 20 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of The Feitelson/Lundeberg Art Foundation, 2017

Lorser Feitelson (b. Savannah, Georgia, 1898-d. Los Angeles, 1978) and Helen Lundeberg (b. Chicago, 1908-d. Los Angeles, 1999) were two of the most significant forces for the advancement of modern art in Southern California.

Feitelson was an influential teacher, gallery director, WPA mural administrator, collector, and host of a popular television show, “Feitelson on Art.” For decades, his work was overshadowed by the fact that he was living and working in Southern California while critical attention was focused on the New York School. In 1963, Feitelson became interested in the quality of lines as lines rather than as descriptions of forms. The single line became a major motif of Feitelson’s work of the late 1960s and early 1970s. With paintings such as Untitled (March 14), Feitelson was able to show that with the most subtle adjustments of width, volume, and curve, his paintings can be perceived as serene, exciting, lyrical, sensual, or austere.

Feitelson met Lundeberg at the Stickney Memorial School of Art in Pasadena in 1930, where he was her professor. Together they founded Subjective Classicism (also known as Post-Surrealism), a more conceptual version of European Surrealism’s dream worlds. She moved toward abstraction in the 1950s, and her untitled painting depicting angular planes in hues of olive and brown is typical of her mid-century “hard-edge” style.

“These elegant paintings by Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg are important additions to the Phillips’s holdings of California modernism, which also encompasses works by Richard Diebenkorn and Frank Lobdell. They provide visitors and students with a richer and more nuanced view of the history of modern American painting.”-Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski

A Modern Vision at the Kimbell

Phillips Director Dorothy Kosinski admires the newly installed A Modern Vision. From left to right: George Rouault’s Verlaine (1939), Alberto Giacometti’s Monumental Head (1960), Georges Braque’s The Round Table (1929), and Nicolas de Staël’s Le Parc de Sceaux (1952). Photo: Susan Behrends Frank

My first two weeks of May were spent with the terrific staff at Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Together, we condition checked and installed the travelling exhibition A Modern Vision: European Masterworks from The Phillips Collection. Highlighting Duncan Phillips’s collecting approach, the exhibition presents a stunning array of iconic European paintings and sculptures. It features the artists Phillips revered who achieved the mastery of color, the power of great emotion, and the balance of representation and abstraction. Works by Jean-Siméon-Baptiste Chardin, Gustave Courbet, Eugene Delacroix, and Édouard Manet are placed in dialogue with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces by Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Claude Monet. The great masters of the 20th century including Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso are shown with units of work by Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Paul Cézanne, Honoré Daumier, and Paul Klee. On May 11, Phillips Director Dorothy Kosinski and curator Susan Behrends Frank joined me at the exhibition opening; on May 13, Frank gave a lecture on the exhibition to 400 visitors. See this exhibition in the Kimbell’s Renzo Piano Pavilion through August 13.

Renée Maurer, Associate Curator

Oskar Kokoschka’s Portrait of Lotte Franzos (1909) next to a maquette before the placement of the sculpture Head of a Woman (1950) by Pablo Picasso. Photo: Renée Maurer

Installation of Ingres’s The Seated Bather (1826) beside Corot’s View from the Farnese Gardens, Rome (1826) and Genzano (1843). Photo: Renée Maurer

Installation view of A Modern Vision at the Kimbell Art Museum

Installation view of A Modern Vision at the Kimbell Art Museum

Installation view of A Modern Vision at the Kimbell Art Museum

Installation view of A Modern Vision at the Kimbell Art Museum

Installation view of A Modern Vision at the Kimbell Art Museum

Installation view of A Modern Vision at the Kimbell Art Museum

 

Portrait of a Portait Artist: Lydia Field Emmet

Chase_Lydia Field Emmet

William Merritt Chase, Lydia Field Emmett, 1892. Oil on canvas, 72 x 36 1/8 in. Brooklyn Museum, New York, Gift of the artist

After years of study with him at the Art Students League, in 1891, Lydia Field Emmet accepted William Merritt Chase’s offer to lead the preparatory class at the Shinnecock Summer School of Art. By this time, she was also pursuing work as a society portraitist and a designer of stained glass for Tiffany and Company. Her self-assured expression fixed on Chase’s canvas captures an image of an artist who would become one of the foremost American women portrait painters of the late 19th century.

The portrait bears the strong imprint of the 17th century Dutch portraiture tradition, sharing with Anthony van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Frans Hals an allegiance to painterly brushwork, elegant contrasts of light and dark, dramatic pose, and expressive tone. Moreover, Lydia Field Emmet highlights Chase’s skillful hand in conveying texture, as seen in the precise rendering of the lace and the variegated tones of the pink satin ribbon—signs of the enduring legacy of the artist’s Munich training.

Elsa Smithgall, William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master exhibition curator