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A Century of Nature: American Paintings 1855-1955 > Additional Information

Richard York Gallery

A Century of Nature
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An exhibition of 50 oils, watercolors, and drawings illustrating the changing ways American artists have depicted nature over the century from 1855-1955.  This springtime exhibition of landscapes and still-lifes will include works by painters of the Hudson River School, Pre-Raphaelites, American Impressionists, and early American modernists.

"From the very beginning, American artists recognized that the beauty of nature was our country’s greatest treasure and worthiest subject for art," said gallery owner Richard York.  "This survey explores how American artists’ passion for nature evolved stylistically throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth."

Several of the landscape painters in the exhibition were among the first to focus on the beauty of American scenery. Among the most spectacular works is a monumental view of the Falls of Tamahaka, Cherokee County, North Carolina, c.1855-60 by William C.A.Frerichs (1829-1905). Most of Frerichs’ pre-Civil War paintings were destroyed in a fire in 1863, making this work an extremely rare depiction of the unspoiled, ante-bellum North Carolina wilderness. The Hudson River School is also represented by a serenely luminous woodland scene by William Trost Richards (1833-1905), and a crystalline Pennsylvania river landscape by Richards’ Philadelphia friend and colleague William Willcox (1831-1918).

Later in the century, American Impressionist artists such as William Merritt Chase (1848-1916) continued to focus on the landscape, but often painted on-the-spot, en plein air, as was the case with Shinnecock Hills, c. 1895. This painting displays a spontaneity and a rapid brushwork that suggest it was done as a demonstration piece for Chase’s students at his Shinnecock, Long Island summer school. By contrast, meticulous attention to detail and botanical accuracy are the hallmarks of a newly discovered triptych by Albert Herter (1871-1950) titled The Prince’s Garden, c. 1900. Probably executed as a private commission, this tour de force watercolor shows a parade of people in elaborate medieval costumes, and is embellished with rows of lilies, hollyhocks, and other flowers.

American modernists, including Joseph Stella (1877-1946), continued to find nature an irresistible subject.  Stella produced both highly stylized, monumental paintings like Fountain, 1929 and smaller, delicate metal-point drawings that express his passion for what art historian Barbara Rose has called "the organic, flowing and pulsating life-giving rhythms of the natural world." John Marin’s (1870-1953) love of nature is expressed in a more painterly style in the dynamic oils and watercolors he did of the Maine coast like Off York Island, 1922.  Ida O’Keeffe (1889-1961), younger sister of Georgia O’Keeffe, focused a reductive, modernist eye on a bunch of deep purple flowers in full bloom in Tulips, 1936.

For more information or photographs, contact Meredith Ward.

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