Homer, American (1836-1910), oil on canvas, Cooper Union Museum,
NY, reproduction print.
- Sunlight and Shadow,
| Winslow Homer, born in Boston in
1836, grew up in nearby Cambridge. After a brief period at
Bufford’s Lithography Shop, in Boston, he moved to New York and
was hired by Harper’s Weekly for which he would produce designs
until trips to the front of the Civil War. On his return to New
York after the war, he concentrated on oil painting. He was
elected National Academician in 1865. From 1866-67, he traveled
abroad. On his return. Homer settled in New York. He spent his
summers producing idyllic images of Americans at leisure. In 1873,
Homer’s first watercolor series was done at Gloucester, MA. He
traveled to England in 1881 to paint near Tynemouth, a fishing
port on the North Sea. His first works produced there were
narrative and picturesque. They soon became more iconic and he
arrived at the subject which would concern him for the rest of his
life: man’s struggle with his environment. He settled permanently
at Prout’ s Neck, ME. He often traveled with a fishing fleet to
Nassau, Bermuda and the Bahamas. In 1908 he suffered a paralytic
stroke and died two years later at Prout’s Neck.
Woman with Dog,
, Mary Cassatt, American,
(1845-1926),oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC,
| Although Mary Cassatt was an expatriate, she
was instrumental in bringing the Impressionist style to the U.S.
Her most noted work was done in Paris under the advice and
influence of Degas. Originally, she came from Pittsburgh, but in
1851, was taken to Europe with her parents. In 1858, she returned
to Philadelphia where she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of
Fine Arts in 1864-65. She then returned to Europe, first to Spain,
then to Paris, in order to further her art education. Other than
two brief sojourns in America, Mary Cassatt passed her adult life
in Paris. There she found fertile artistic
soil and recognition.
For the most part, Cassatt's paintings were tender, emotional, and
intimate. Many revolved around the mother-child theme. Most of
Cassatt’ s models were members of her family, especially her older
sister, Lydia. However, each oil, no matter how personal the
subject, possessed an individual color sensitivity, figural
restraint and forthright reality of the sitter. About 1910, her
eyesight began to fail, and by 1914, progressive blindness forced
her to stop painting.
The woman in this painting is not Lydia, but it does demonstrate
Cassatt’s preference for painting women in their natural
environment. At the time, most artists depicted men sifting inside
looking out. Cassatt liked to paint women outside, or near a
window, looking inside at the domestic scene. Woman With Dog was
included in the eighth and last group exhibition of the
Impressionists in 1886.
Mary Cassatt, American, (1845-1926), oil on canvas,
The Art Institute, Chicago, IL, reproduction
Bodieson and Riley,
c.1944, Edward Weston, American
(1886-1958), black and white photograph, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,
MA, reproduction print.
painting is typical of many of Cassatt’s works. It shows a mother
and her child in a domestic setting. Like many of her paintings, the
scene is candid, not posed. Cassatt painted in an era when such
things as washing your child and nursing it were just ceasing to be
taboo. For many years, parents with money left these activities to
nurses and nannies. Cassatt liked to show the bond formed between
mother and child and used this sort of scene to demonstrate it.
| Edward Weston was one of the first
photographers to be accepted as an artist.
This was in part due to his association with Alfred Stieglitz, who
showed his work in a famous New York gallery. Weston started out as
a portrait photographer in Glendale, CA. His early work was in the
style of the Pictorialists. He used a soft focus that had the feel
of an Impressionist painting. He later rejected that style and
focused on realism to the point of obsession. He wanted his photos
to be a crisp and clear as possible. He is most famous for his
studies of green peppers. Weston also photographed many landscapes
of sand dunes and Point Lobos, CA.
House and Grape Leaves,
Alfred Stieglitz, American (1864-1946),
photograph, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, reproduction print.
| Stieglitz was the first
photographer to have his work exhibited in American art museums. He
was very supportive of modem art. After being educated in New York,
the German, he lived in New York City where he founded the
Photo-Secession group in 1902. The group opened a gallery in 1905
that became known as the 291 because of its location at 291 Fifth
Avenue in New York City. The gallery was a showcase for both
American and European artists. One of the artists featured there was
Georgia O’Keeffe, whom Stieglitz married in 1924.
Aside from the gallery, Stieglitz also edited and founded several
magazines devoted to photography. Amongst his many accomplishments
as a photographer, he developed new technological processes that
allowed photos to be taken in rain, snow, or at night.
Ram's Head, White Hollyhock and Little Hills,
c.1935, Georgia O'Keeffe, American
(1887-1986), The Downtown Gallery, N.Y., reproduction print.
Seven A.M., ,
Edward Hopper, American (1882-1967), Whitney Museum of Art, NY,
|O’Keeffe was born in Wisconsin and raised on her
family’s farm. In 1904, she left home to study at the Art Institute
of Chicago. She also studied at several other schools in America.
Early in her career, she supported herself by teaching art in
various schools in the South and Texas. After 1918, she devoted
herself entirely to painting. Her early paintings were abstract, but
in the early 1920’s, she began painting large flowers and animal
bones. She said, “I’ll make them big, like the huge buildings going
People will be startled; they’ll have to look at them.” She also did
scenes of New York and the East River. A 1929 trip to New Mexico led
her to the semi-abstract paintings for which she became famous.
After her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, died in 1946, O’Keeffe traveled
more widely. A round the world trip inspired a series of paintings
based on her views of earth, sky, and clouds.
Dawn, Lake Louise, Banff National
Park, Alberta, CAN,
Neill, American ( - ) altered photograph, Museum Poster.
| Edward Hopper was one of Robert
Henri’s most talented pupils. He sold a single painting at the
Armory show, but continued to work at his own brand of Realism
despite a trip to Europe and the increasing importance of
Abstractiomsm in America. He was sensitive to human emotions and was
acutely conscious of the loneliness of life in the big cities. He
painted America from the inside out, concentrating on its feelings
rather than the visibly evident. He closely observed the sadness of
cheap hotel rooms, empty diners, cool nights, lonely people, and
cheerless houses. Hopper traveled from place to place and made
mental notes of what he saw, later to put them together to express
his feelings on American life. Most of his carefully structured
designs deal with American cities but are treated in a different way
from those of Sheeler or Mann. He had no love for the Manhattan
skyscraper world that so excited them. The massive and simplified
forms of houses and buildings take on a monumental quality and the
large open spaces are strongly suggestive of emptiness and
loneliness. His strong light is always garish and piercing as it
exposes its subjects as if putting them under a glaring spotlight.
Hopper also did some monumental landscapes and at times would try
subject matter very remote from his usual interests, such as his
picture of Union soldiers resting by a roadside before the battle of
Gettysburg; this is probably his only painting on an historic theme.
His figure draftsmanship tended to be awkward and heavy and except
for a few self-portraits and studies of his wife, he seems never to
have attempted a portrait.
Seven A.M presents a storefront where there is no early morning
activity, juxtaposed with the menacing but beckoning woods beyond.
Here, the woods may have suggested to Hopper an escape from the
day’s trials, his longed for solitude.
| Neill is a
landscape photographer concerned with showing the deep, spiritual
beauty he sees and feels in Nature. He has traveled widely through
India and the Himalayas, taking photographs of people, architecture,
and religious sites. In 1997, a collection of photographs, entitled
Landscapes of the Spirit, was published in a book by the same name.
Dawn was included in that collection. It includes images taken over
fifteen years, mostly in America and Canada. It is an affirmation of
the human spirit and its place within the natural world. William
Neill writes, “Seeing and feeling beauty is
more vital to me than any resulting imagery.” Neill doesn’t rely
solely on what the camera captures to evoke the desired emotion.
Once in the developing process, he will use modem technology to
manipulate the image for the desired effect. Neill, through these
pictures, invites the viewer to contemplate scenes of immense beauty
and experience emotional renewal.