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.

Seeing American Stories

John George Brown - The Reluctant Bride, 1869

John George Brown (1831-1913), "The Reluctant Bride," 1869, oil on canvas, 27 x 20 inches

Lisa N. Peters

With the painting and sculpture galleries of the Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing remaining closed for renovation until 2011, the exhibition American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915 (on view until January 24) is well timed.  The 103 paintings on view, dating from colonial times to the early twentieth century, consist of both icons of American art history and some works that have rarely been brought out of museum storage.  Excluding images based on history, myth, or literature, the show includes paintings in which artists told tales about their time and considers the encoded messages within them, about culture, politics, social hierarchies, and historical contexts—such as the Civil War and the period of reconciliation that followed it.

Some paintings at the gallery can be looked at in the same way.  Among them is John George Brown’s The Reluctant Bride (1869) (left). The subject wears an elegant wedding gown, but her melancholic expression conveys her wariness about her imminent nuptials.  While a servant finishes tying the bride’s dress, she perhaps muses on the loss of her childhood.  Can a message be read into this painting of 1869?  Read the rest of this entry »

DREAMING OF NORWAY (Part I) – American Artists John Singer Sargent & Willard Metcalf

Lisa N. Peters

John Singer Sargent, A Torrent in Norway

John Singer Sargent, "A Torrent in Norway," ca. 1901, oil on canvas, 22 3/8 x 29 3/4 inches, private collection

Lately Norway has been on my mind.  I recently read Sigrid Undset’s amazing, incredible trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter (1920-22; Undset won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928), set in medieval Norway, and now my husband Jerry will be giving a talk at the Center for the Study of Mind in Nature in Oslo on November 25—the connection between the mind and nature in Norway makes sense!

Unfortunately I have not been to Norway, but I feel in a way that I have from reading Undset’s novels.  Here is a passage from the second book (The Wife), which describes Kristin’s arrival on the journey from her home in Jørundgård, in rural central Norway, to the northerly estate of her new husband (Erland) in Husaby, in Trøndelag:

They had reached Skaun. They were riding high up along the mountainside.  Beneath them, on the valley floor, the leafless forest stood white and furry with frost; it glittered in the sunlight, and there were glints from a little blue lake down below. Then they emerged from the evergreen grove.  Erland pointed ahead.  “There you can see Husaby, Kristin.  May God grant you many happy days there, my wife!” he said warmly.  (ll, 5, Tinna Nunnally translation, Penguin Books, 1999).

This takes place one third of the way through this epic tale of love, passion, heartbreak, self-examination, the struggle between impulse and restraint, and moments of happiness amid remorse, repentance, sorrow, and the unbounded emotions of parenthood.

The book has made me consider the connections that existed between American artists and Norway in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  During this time, most American artists of stature went to Europe, but few seem to have ventured to Norway. Read the rest of this entry »

John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Miss Helen Brice

Carol Lowrey
John Singer Sargent (1867-1925) was a versatile artist who painted landscapes, still lifes, intimate genre scenes and religious allegories. However, the first thing I think about when his name comes up is his activity as a grand-manner portraitist. Without doubt, he was the most successful and prolific portrait painter of the Edwardian era, producing more than 800 likenesses over the course of his career and attaining the reputation in England and the United States as the “Van Dyck” of his day. What was it that made Sargent’s work so special? It was a combination of technique––soft, buttery brushwork and a sensitive handling of color––coupled with his ability to capture the look and personality of his cultured, upper-class clients, among them such notables as Mrs. Henry G. Marquand, wife of the president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner and the architect Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes; as a Boston critic wrote in 1888, “Style is the predominant characteristic of [Sargent]; all of his pictures are permeated with it. Nothing is commonplace; nothing is conventional. There is . . . [a] palpable atmosphere of refinement, ease and––tranchons le mot––aristocracy.”

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