Impressionism, Michener Art Museum

Edward W. Redfield (1869-1965), The Upper Delaware, c. 1918. Oil on canvas. 38 x 50 inches. Gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest.

Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art, Michener Art Museum

Road Trip! The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown invited DoNArTNeWs to preview Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art, an exquisite collection of paintings by Bucks County regional artists collected by Gerry Lenfest and donated to the museum as a core collection, 59 impressionist landscapes, followed by 50ish modernist paintings securing the institutions role as a cultural hotspot in the American art scene for generations. The collection is inspired, the focus on regional art and the response by American artists to new ideas about painting, how to see, the influence of artist collectives and groups, schools of thought about color and optics, and the sheer mastery of the medium of painting as the pinnacle of fine art is lucid, refined, and clear in its mission.

“Glorious examples by such luminaries as Walter Emerson Baum, Fern Coppedge, John Fulton Folinsbee, Daniel Garber, William Lathrop, Edward Redfield, George Sotter, Robert Spencer, and Walter Elmer Schofield illustrate the profound importance of art produced in this region. In 2010, the Lenfests gave another major collection of Modernist works by Charles Frederick Ramsey, Louis Stone, Charles Evans, Lloyd Ney, and Charles Rosen, and others, expanding the Museum’s ability to tell the rich story of American art and securely placing the Museum in the pantheon of significant American museums.” – Michener Art Museum

Art and friendship go a long way, I invited artist Robert Bohné to join me and thankfully he drove Laura Storck, photographer, scientist, rock star, media influencer, and I to view the collection. Bob knows a lot more about these artists than I do and his insight into Bucks County artists and galleries is deep and connected. We are also painting buddies, meeting up each week at a Philadelphia area spot to paint plein air landscapes, we’ve been steady at it for more than five years now and a core group of painters has formed a bond, a commitment to painting.

“I’ve recently had the pleasure of being a guest of DoNArTNeWs for a preview of the Michener Art Museums upcoming show, Impressionism to Modernism: the Lenfest Collection of American Art. If you’re a fan of the Pennsylvania Impressionists, you’re going to love this exhibit. If you’re a landscape painter, you’re going to love it even more. The show consists of approximately 100 paintings and one piece of sculpture by over 30 artists, displayed in chronological order. The paintings are carefully spaced and perfectly lit in a comfortable setting, and the quality of the Lenfest collection is exceptional, to the point that fans of American Art will recognize many of these paintings.

Kudos to Curator of American Art, Laura Turner Igoe for doing an exceptional job. Regional landscape painters will have an opportunity to view a large segment of their lineage, and the size of the show makes it easy to compare works, all within a few simple steps. In additional to “Impressionism to Modernism”, the Michener has a wonderful selection of their permanent collection on display, along with an exhibit of watercolors and drawings by Harry Leith-Ross and sculpture by Raymond Granville Barger.” –Robert Bohné

Hands up! How many of you have ever joined an art group, club, alliance…? Me, too. Lots. And art classes. My post on FaceBook:

The chronological, clockwise exhibition circles the square space with an undulating path of Bucks County regional masterworks, there are lots of surprises and juxtapositions that will stop you in your tracks. A painting by Henry B. Snell is at the end of the first stretch, dramatically different from the pastural landscapes, the viewer is placed in the middle of roaring rapids cascading down high ravine stone walls, mist rising, thick paint shiny and shadowy making waves.

Then Bob points out that Snell In 1899 began teaching at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, where he remained until 1943. He was an influential teacher, instructing several of the founding members of the Philadelphia Ten, also known as The Ten, a group of female artists from the United States who exhibited together from 1917 to 1945. The group exhibited annually in Philadelphia and later had traveling exhibitions at museums throughout the East Coast and the Midwest.

The connection to The Plastic Club and Moore College of Art & Design and all my artist friends tugged my heartstrings so hard I started to cry, tears of joy, happiness, gratitude for the teachers of art who change lives, culture and history. – DoNArTNeWs

Not kidding, full on tears, I get invited to the Moore Senior Show every year, I’m so honored, and I’m a member of the Plastic Club, a formerly all women’s artist club founded 1897, overlapping the timespan of the beginning of the exhibit through the mid 20th century, I draw and exhibit there all the time, my emotional reaction is authentic. Bob and I have been talking about the show all week, too, conversations about the links we have to the past through our art club connections. For example, The Philadelphia Sketch Club owns a Fred Wagner painting, I get to see it often, it was recently included in an exhibition of Philadelphia regional landscape artists at the Woodmere Museum of Art, seeing his paintings in the Michener Art Museum felt like visiting an old friend, a teacher passing down formulas and secrets, leading by example with thrilling composition, expressive color, and dynamic application of paint.

There is a Fred Wagner painting of a rail yard with billowing smoke belching from the engine stacks of rumbling trains along tracks, the elevation is high, looking down the scene of the early industrial built landscape, it reminded me of Claude Monet, The Gare Saint-Lazare (or Interior View of the Gare Saint-Lazare, the Auteuil Line), 1877. Wagner’s painting captures an American landscape in the jagged strokes of murky smoke, the color is acrid and gray, the circumambience choking, the rush of progress corrosive and dismal compared to the French view.

I wondered aloud about the connection and Laura Turner Igoe agreed about the influence of the Impressionists on Philadelphia painters. The exhibition is so well thought out they anticipated my question and had already planned The Lure of Paris: French Influences on Pennsylvania ImpressionismDecember 3rd,1:00 pm – 2:00 pm with Therese Dolan, Professor Emerita, Temple University.

$10 member | $20 non-member | $5 student
Price includes Museum admission.

1886 marked the last Impressionist group exhibition in Paris but saw the launching of the movement in America when the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel exhibited nearly three hundred Impressionist works in New York City. The show had a lasting impact on the artists and art market in America. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art’s faculty during the 1890s featured European-trained artists such as William Merritt Chase, Cecelia Beaux, and Robert Vonnoh and the Academy in Philadelphia became a leading hub of American Impressionism. Students at the Academy continued to migrate to Paris to study with French masters, visit the museums, experience the Salon, and attempt to get their work exhibited and sold. This talk will focus on the art of Edward Redfield, Walter Elmer Schofield, and Daniel Garber, all of whom studied at the Pennsylvania Academy and became known as the Pennsylvania Impressionists.

Impressionism, Michener Art Museum, Fred Wagner

Fred Wagner, Canal at Lumberville, oil on canvas, 35″x 43″, in trust to the James A. Michener Art Museum from Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest

The ambience of the exhibition is not at all daunting with a logic and clarity that is intellectually satisfying and aesthetically stimulating, the lighting is perfect allowing the eye to rest on the color palettes of each painting comfortably, a wonderfully neutral deep green with a hint of viridian (it’s not impressionist without viridian) covers the walls in a modern color that I predict will have influence on interior design. When you enter the doors you are confronted with the beginning and the end of the collection, about 100 artworks, turn right and there are bold abstracts, turn left for impressionist landscapes, this simple logic allowed the curator to focus on layout of the artwork which is as precise as the hands on a clock, yet fluid and flexible in it’s hub and spoke arrangement.

I thought it was as close to perfect as you could get. But I’m biased. I loved the art. – Robert Bohné

Me, too.

Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art, Curated by Laura Turner Igoe, Ph.D., Curator of American Art, through March 1, 2020

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DoNArTNeWs celebrating eleven years reporting on Philadelphia art and artists.

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