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Indepth Arts News:

"American Impressions: An Arcadian Vision, Paintings from the Akron Art Museum"
2004-12-18 until 2005-02-27
Appleton Museum of Art
Ocala, FL, USA United States of America

The Appleton Museum of Art announces the opening of American Impressions: An Arcadian Vision, Paintings from the Akron Art Museum, on December 18, 2004 and continuing through February 27, 2005. Featuring 35 paintings from the collection of the Akron Art Museum, this exhibition examines American art at the end of the nineteenth century when many American artists retreated from the realities of the early modern era –with its burgeoning industry and crowded cities- and envisioned instead an American Eden.

They often employed European impressionistic techniques to convey pastoral beauty, rather than embracing the bustle and pollution of their industrializing nation. They painted tranquil landscapes and dreamy portraits of women, aiming to fulfill the widely held belief that art should delight the senses and elevate the spirit.

American Impressions: An Arcadian Vision opens December 18 at the Appleton and continue on an exclusive tour to 5 cities throughout the United States. The tour will close at the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH (December 16, 2005 – March 19, 2006).

Despite the nation’s growing political and industrial power, American artists and collectors at the turn of the last century believed Europe to be the standard of cultural achievement. Nearly every artist featured in this exhibition traveled to Europe for instruction and inspiration, although they occasionally had difficulty finding the latter. In 1877, artist Julian Alden Weir described an exhibition of French impressionists as “worse than a Chamber of Horrors.” Many American artists found the high-keyed colors and forceful brushstrokes of artists such as Monet and Renoir unsettling. Instead, Weir adopted small brushstrokes, subtle hues and crisp forms in delicate landscapes such as White Oaks.

After initial resistance, many American artists did employ impressionistic techniques. Childe Hassam, in Bedford Hills, used diagonal strokes of green, blue and yellow paint to capture the play of sun and wind over a lush field in upstate New York. Frederick Frieseke’s dazzling Through the Vines depicts dappled sunlight with brilliant flecks of primary color falling across a woman and her parasol drifting leisurely below.  Six artists represented in this exhibition —Weir, Hassam, Willard Metcalf, John Twachtman, William Merritt Chase, and Thomas Wilmer Dewing— exhibited together as part of a group called the Ten American Painters, which was dedicated to promoting newer styles such as impressionism. American impressionist works appealed greatly to urban-based collectors who saw in them evidence of the restorative power of nature.

Other American landscapists sought instead to express mood and subjective feelings through their images and drew inspiration from the Barbizon painters, a group of French artists who lived and worked in a rural community outside of Paris. Their technique, called tonalism, is characterized by simplified compositions, blurred forms and a limited range of colors. By merging figures with the landscape, tonalists expressed their belief in humankind’s essential spiritual connection with nature, an idea introduced into nineteenth-century American culture by authors/naturalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Tonalist artists were never organized as a formal group, but most who painted in the style knew one another and shared similar points of view.

The core of this collection comes from industrialist Edwin C. Shaw – who amassed over two hundred works. Shaw, like other members of Akron’s elite, benefited from a booming U.S. rubber industry that allowed them to assemble beautiful turn-of-the-century landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. While industrialist executives embraced cutting-edge technology and urban living, they also sought to uphold America’s cultural history. They collected and in turn donated these paintings to the Akron Art Institute (now Akron Art Museum) when it was founded in 1922. The patrons of the Akron Art Museum understood that the paintings’ lyrical expressions of beauty and refinement would provide pleasure to visitors through the industrial age and beyond.

William Merritt Chase (American 1849-1916)
Girl in White
circa 1898-1901
oil on fabric
84 3/8 by 40 inches

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