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

New Terrain: Chase as Plein-Air Painter

Chase_Washing Day

William Merritt Chase, Washing Day—A Backyard Reminiscence of Brooklyn, c. 1887. Oil on wood panel, 15 1/4 x 18 5/8 in. Collection of Lilly Endowment, Inc.

During the 1880s, William Merritt Chase became active in New York’s artistic avant-garde through his affiliation with two progressive arts organizations: Society of American Artists (president 1880–81; 1885–1895) and the Society of American Painters in Pastel (co-founder, 1883). A natural-born orator and marketer, Chase led the charge of a younger generation of American artists determined to transform their country’s provincial cultural landscape by introducing a new modern spirit in American art. While continuing to work from his Tenth Street studio, the artist increasingly turned his eye and brush to capturing nature’s passing beauties. Regular visits to Europe between 1881 and 1885 inspired him to investigate the varying effects of natural light and atmosphere in plein-air paintings in oil and pastel.

In the Netherlands during the summers of 1883 and 1884, Chase produced several works that capture the region’s cool, moist light cast upon its coastline or grassy terrain. To translate the brilliant effects he observed, the artist lightened his palette and loosened his brushwork, turning away from the loaded brush and dark colors of the Munich style. A devoted pastel painter, Chase began to exploit the possibilities of the pastel medium to further expand his technical and expressive range.

Chase_A City Park

William Merritt Chase, A City Park, c. 1887. Oil on canvas, 13 5/8 x 19 5/8 in. Art Institute of Chicago. Bequest of Dr. John J. Ireland

By 1887, after several summers abroad, Chase settled in Brooklyn with his new wife, Alice Gerson, where he discovered new aesthetic possibilities in the urban parks and coastline in and around Brooklyn and Manhattan. Carrying small panels and a portable easel, Chase worked with ease to capture the immediacy of his surroundings in dazzling strokes of color. These small jewel-like pictures of Tompkins, Prospect, and Central Parks marked a dramatic turn in Chase’s development of his own distinctly American Impressionist style. Boldly executed, the compositions prefigured the light-filled Shinnecock landscapes that defined his work in the following decade.

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