Hawthorne Fine Art is pleased to present the third installment of our annual Summer Reading: American Paintings and American Prose. This catalogue features highlights from the gallery’s exquisite inventory of landscape paintings paired with selections of writing by well-known American literary figures.
For summer 2013, we explore works by painters who found artistic inspiration in both urban and rural settings. Jennifer Krieger, Managing Partner of Hawthorne Fine Art, remarks in her introduction, “In looking at the paintings included in this catalogue and the accompanying literary excerpts, I began to see how much the experiences of these artists in an urban environment colored their perception of a rural expanse and vice versa.”
A number of recent acquisitions are featured for their depictions of the American landscape, including Charles Henry Gifford’s Near Bear Island, Maine, and Worthington Whittredge’s A Catskill Brook. Typical of his luminist marine scenes, Gifford’s Near Bear Island, Maine, features an idyllic view of the local New England landscape. Gifford grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, at the height of the whaling industry. Escaping from the bustle of the commercial port of his hometown, Gifford endeavored to paint nature with precise realism and to capture the effects of light, which created a soft glow and stillness. Gifford’s painting is juxtaposed with the words of Stephen Crane, who describes the exhilaration experienced by men at sea.
Worthington Whittredge’s A Catskill Brook takes the viewer even further from urban experiences to the depths of the Catskill Mountains. Originally from Ohio, Whittredge spent ten years living and studying in Europe and is associated with the Düsseldorf school of painting. In 1859, Whittredge returned from abroad and settled in New York City where he began painting landscapes in the style of the Hudson River School. While Whittredge produced important works depicting the American West, he also painted the beautiful Hudson Valley, as seen in this image. A Catskill Brook is reminiscent of works by leading Hudson River School painter Asher Durand, who frequently captured quiet forest enclosures. Whittredge’s composition highlights the cathedral-like structure of the trees, alluding to a spiritual resonance in nature. The reader may ruminate on this peaceful landscape with its accompanying text by Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle: “When the weather is fair and settled, [the mountains] are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.”
In contrast to traditional landscape scenes, many artists found beauty and vitality amid the urban experience. The American Impressionists Theodore Earl Butler and Paul Cornoyer, both of whom studied in New York and France, depict scenes of urban life in New York City. Butler and Cornoyer were each influenced by the famed painter and teacher William Merritt Chase, who was well known for depictions of his urban and rural experiences in New York City and Shinnecock, Long Island.
While in France, Butler settled in with the American expatriate artist community in Giverny in 1892. These artists were interested in the latest art trends in France, particularly Impressionism. Butler in fact married Claude Monet’s stepdaughter (and favorite model), Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet, and eventually became very close with the famous French Impressionist. Butler constantly experimented in the Impressionist and post-Impressionist manners, and is considered one of the first American artists to paint New York City and the Hudson River Valley using these techniques. In Brooklyn Bridge, Butler employs loose brushstrokes and an attention to atmosphere typical of Impressionism, while also using heightened and almost unnatural colors that indicate a post-Impressionistic vision. This view depicts the area of Manhattan just south of the Brooklyn Bridge (completed 1883), including the pier of the South Street Seaport. Across the river can be seen the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Dumbo, Vinegar Hill, and possibly even the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This vivid depiction of the city’s bustling commercial areas incorporates the delicate brushstrokes Butler perfected while residing in the French countryside and pairs well with Walt Whitman’s words of admiration for the spirit of New York and its citizens.
Unlike Butler’s painting of a commercial hub, Cornoyer’s New York City Park Scene captures leisurely activities in New York City’s public spaces as figures of the upper classes of society and their maids enjoy a stroll through a city park. Some spaces, such as Gramercy Park, were built as exclusive areas for wealthy citizens who lived around their perimeter, while other parks such as Stuyvesant Square (also located in a predominantly wealthy neighborhood) were intended as entirely public for all classes of New Yorkers. Mostly likely a park surrounded by an upscale neighborhood, this serene parcel of open land features strictly landscaped lawns, trees, wide paths, and benches. A typical mid-nineteenth century red brick townhouse with a mansard roof stands at the center of the composition, while to its left the artist has probably depicted an elevated railroad. This form of transportation, known as the El, was common by the turn of the twentieth century before the submersion of subway lines, and even parks catering to the wealthiest neighborhoods of Manhattan were unable to escape their shadows. Cornoyer juxtaposes a scene of leisure in this natural oasis with the surrounding evidence of modernity and urbanization. Harry Kemp’s Street Lamps: Greenwich Village accompanies Cornoyer’s painting, reflecting on the small details of city life that allow for peaceful ruminations amid the urban jungle.
We hope you enjoy the images and text found in this year’s Summer Reading catalogue and encourage you to view the full PDF on our website. We also invite you to make an appointment to view these works and others in our elegant new showroom at 12 East 86th Street, Suite 527, New York, NY 10028. Wishing you a joyful end to your summer!