Lisa N. Peters
As we received notices of exhibition openings this fall and winter, we realized there are presently several shows—including one of our own—featuring the work of John Twachtman (1853-1902). Whether it’s a coincidence or a spirit in the air, we felt this confluence was worthy of notice.
The first to open is American Impressionism: The Lure of the Artists’ Colony, on view at the Reading Public Museum, Pennsylvania, from September 24, 2011 through January 29, 2012. Twachtman’s The Coast Scene (1879), in the museum’s holdings, is accompanied by other works from this significant collection of American Impressionist painting that is rarely on view with this breadth, and that is less well known than it should be.
On view from October 22, 2011 through January 22, 2012 is Seeing Colors: Secrets of the Impressionists, an exhibition of more than forty works from the collection of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, that is being held at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Committed to using its museum as a teaching tool, the Muscarelle has involved the students at the college in every stage of organizing the show (the most important in the history of the museum, according to director Dr. Aaron De Groft) and in studying the art, which includes iconic paintings such as Claude Monet’s Houses of Parliament in the Fog (1903), and work by other French artists Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, and Cézanne, as well as by Americans, including Cassatt, Sargent, Hassam, Chase, and Twachtman, who is represented by the very still, quiet snow scene, Along the River, Winter (ca. 1885).
The third exhibition is Divided Light and Color: American Impressionist Landscapes, on view at the Bruce Museum of Art, Greenwich, Connecticut, from October 29, 2011-January 29, 2012. The show features two dozen works, including many by artists who were part of the local Cos Cob art colony. Jewel-like in the low light of the galleries, the paintings capture a celebratory feeling for the refreshing beauty of the American countryside and coast. Among the works by Twachtman on view are two lent by the gallery, L’Etang (ca. 1885), an abstractly composed poetic image from Twachtman’s French period and Greenwich Garden (1890s),* a vibrant Impressionist image, in which the artist transformed his home and garden into a totality, expressive of his love for a place that was an extension of his creative and personal identity. The gallery also lent William Merritt Chase’s Sunset at Shinnecock Hills (Long Island) (ca. 1895); as the painting given the key position just beyond the entryway, it sets the tone for the show.
Last, but not least in the confluence, is Seeing Abstractly: Works on Paper and Small Oils by John Twachtman, the exhibition we are holding from December 15, 2011 to January 14, 2012. The twelve works included—ranging from throughout Twachtman’s career—reveal his consistent ability to express the artistic qualities in his everyday experiences, demonstrating an awareness of abstraction that was far ahead of his time. The show is accompanied by a pdf catalogue that is available online.
*Twachtman painted Greenwich Garden, with the assistance of his son Alden, whose signature appears on the work. Nonetheless, the painting bears little evidence of the artistic approach of Alden, leading to the conclusion that he played a very small part in its execution.