Twachtman Exhibition Confluence

John Twachtman, "L'Etang," ca. 1884, oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 24 inches, Spanierman Gallery, presently on view at Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut

John Twachtman, "L'Etang," ca. 1884, oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 24 inches, Spanierman Gallery, presently on view at Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut

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.

John Twachtman, "Weeds and Flowers," ca. 1888-91, pastel on paperboard, 19 x 16 inches, Spanierman Gallery, LLC, New York

John Twachtman, "Weeds and Flowers," ca. 1888-91, pastel on paperboard, 19 x 16 inches, Spanierman Gallery, LLC, New York

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.

Twachtman’s “Holland Meadows”: Whereabouts Now Known

John H. Twachtman - Holland Meadows, ca. 1881

John H. Twachtman, "Holland Meadows," ca. 1881, oil on cradled panel, 11 3/8 x 18 1/2 inches

Lisa N. Peters

A number of months ago, I received a call regarding a Dutch scene signed “J. H. Twachtman.”  On receiving an image of it, I knew immediately that it was a previously lost painting entitled Holland Meadows that John Henry Twachtman painted in Dordrecht on his 1881 honeymoon.  What was especially exciting was that the painting was a key work from this formative time in Twachtman’s career.  I had previously seen only a black and white reproduction of the painting, but that I had an image of it was due to the fact that the artist’s wife, Martha, made it available from the estate (Twachtman died in 1902) for several exhibitions from 1919 through 1923.  It was also in auction sales in 1925 and 1944, which provided enticing descriptions of it, mentioning its rich green expanse and limpid water.  Additionally, there was this vivid commentary on the work in the Boston Evening Transcript in 1919 by the eminent critic William Howe Downes:

Holland Meadows (7) is notable for its lush, moist richness of tone and its local color.  It is a veritable epitome of Dutch landscape in its depth of watery atmosphere, its suffused light, its verdant vegetation, its “fat” quality.  This admirable little picture was painted at Dordrecht on the artist’s wedding journey, in 1881.  It reminds one of the best examples of Weissenbruch, and it also has some affinity with Jacob Maris.

The painting surfaced from the estate of Himan Brown, who died at age 99 in 2010.  Brown, a creator of radio dramas, acquired the rights to fictional characters such as Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, and The Thin Man. He wrote scripts for such prominent figures as Orson Welles, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre, and was an early innovator in the creation of sound effects.  He was also a sagacious art collector, filling his New York apartment with works by artists such as Renoir, Degas, and Picasso.  In this august company, Twachtman’s Holland Meadows must have quietly spent several enjoyable decades.

When the painting arrived at the gallery, a gray film covered it.  A light cleaning brought it back to its original condition, the sparkle of the light on the water, the subtle movement of the clouds, the wet quality of the meadow evoking the contentment Twachtman felt on encountering this refreshing and naturally artistic countryside, while sharing it with his wife, also an artist, and visiting with J. Alden Weir and his half brother John Ferguson Weir, who joined the couple in a locale so popular with artists that it was known simply as the “Southern Sketching Grounds.”  Downes was accurate in pointing out a connection between Twachtman’s Holland Meadows and the paintings of Hague School contemporaries such as William Maris.  Indeed, Twachtman visited with Maris on his trip and showed him his work.  He found in Maris’s art an example of how to bring out nuances of light, atmosphere, and mood, which would remain Twachtman’s emphasis throughout the rest of his career.

There are six other known oils that Twachtman created in Holland on his honeymoon, but Holland Meadows is the one that best epitomizes this trip. With the mystery of its whereabouts now solved, the painting brings this moment in Twachtman’s art into a focus it did not have previously.

Visit the John H. Twachtman Catalogue Raisonné site

Art, Nature, and the American City, 1840-1955 at the Clay Center, Charleston, West Virginia

David Johnson - Landscape (White Mansion in the Distance), 1863

David Johnson, "Landscape (White Mansion in the Distance)," 1863, oil on canvas, 18 x 28 inches

Lisa N. Peters

Last year the Collector’s Club of the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia (Charleston) visited the gallery and a lively dialogue ensued as members considered possible acquisitions with the gallery’s associate director Gina Greer.   This interchange was the impetus for Art, Nature, and the American City, 1840-1955, an exhibition the gallery has lent to the Clay Center that opened July 16 and will remain on view through October 10.

Including over eighty paintings and works on paper, the show raises many fascinating questions with regard to attitudes, as manifested through art, about the American city and countryside. Read the rest of this entry »

John Twachtman – “Paradise Rocks, Newport”, ca. 1889

Ira Spanierman discusses one of his favorite painters, John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902), one of the group of American artists known as The Ten. Mr. Spanierman touches on Twachtman’s skillful use of negative space and subtle brushwork, which earned him a reputation as being a painter’s painter. Twachtman created an important group of works in the summer of 1889 on a visit to Newport, Rhode Island. One of these is the present painting,  Paradise Rocks, Newport, ca. 1889, which could be considered a pivotal work in his oeuvre as it both draws from the lessons of his French period and moves towards the personalized aesthetic he would refine in the years ahead.

The John Henry Twachtman catalogue raisonné, co-authored by Ira Spanierman and Lisa N. Peters, P.h.D., is currently in its final stages.

Noteworthy Events

In the Gallery and Beyond

Teo Gonzalez, Drawing 237

Teo Gonzalez, "Drawing 237," 2010, mixed media on paper, 12-1/4 x 12-1/4 inches, signed, dated and inscribed on verso: "Teo / Drawing 237 / 2010"


Spanierman Modern: From March 23 to April 24, 2010 Spanierman Modern will present Teo González, an exhibition of twenty-two new works in oil and mixed media on canvas and paper by the Spanish-born artist, who moved to the United States in 1991. While retaining his minimalist approach, González’s new work represents a conscious shift in his art. According to the artist, “After eighteen years of attempting to control weather and physics, I decided to take a year off to step back and think of how to make my work more efficient. After a few months I realized that I had to change the process. I decided to eliminate the drops and to paint them instead. This has been a fascinating twist for me.”

A catalogue accompanying the exhibition includes an interview with the artist and color illustrations of eight works in the exhibition.

Please Note: an opening for the artist will be held Tuesday, March 23 from 6 to 8 pm. Read the rest of this entry »

An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection

An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection

An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection at the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, TX is celebrating the American art collection of the Halff’s, long-time friends and clients of Spanierman Gallery.  The exhibition, An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection, will be on view from February 3-May 9, 2010. Here are a few words from the museum’s website:

We are pleased to begin the new year with a remarkable private collection of American paintings of the Impressionist era formed by San Antonians Marie and Hugh Halff. The 26 paintings in their collection are notable for both their range and quality and include superb examples by leading masters of the period from the 1870s to 1930.

Although their collection is not large, it is characterized by a surprising depth. Key artists, among them John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, and Theodore Robinson are represented by multiple works.

The collection also includes works by Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, John Henry Twachtman, and James McNeill Whistler.

Read more on the McNay’s site. And if you’re at the Annual Patron’s Party on Monday night, be sure to say hello to our very own, Christine Berry.

Re-seeing John Twachtman’s Little Giant

John Twachtman - Little Giant

Lisa N. Peters
On walking into Ira’s office the other day, I noticed John Twachtman’s Little Giant (ca. 1900) facing his desk. This made me wonder why Ira would choose this painting for this spot. We know that the work depicts Gloucester’s Rocky Neck dock, where the ferry “Little Giant” made an intermediary stop on its route between Gloucester and East Gloucester. However, aside from the fascinating history of the subject, and Ira’s longstanding admiration for Twachtman’s art, I think Ira may have chosen to have this painting meet his gaze because it captures a particular moment and mood. Read the rest of this entry »


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