Farnsworth Art Museum

Rockland, MN



American Twentieth-Century Watercolors from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute


The exhibition, "American Twentieth-Century Watercolors from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute," will open at the Farnsworth Art Museum on October 29, 2000 and run through February 4, 2001. This travelling exhibition will include 50 of the finest works from the Institute's permanent collection and features works by the century's most gifted practitioners. In conjunction with this show a selection of watercolors from the Farnsworth Museum's own significant collection will be on view. (left: Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), Poplar Walk, 1916, watercolor and graphite, 19 15/16 x 13 15/16 inches, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Edward W. Root Bequest, 57.103)

"American Twentieth-Century Watercolors from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute" features a wide array of approaches to subject matter and technique. Landscape artists especially prized the medium because it was relatively portable. Maurice Brazil Prendergast and Arthur Bowen Davies, for example, painted watercolors in Venice and France, respectively, while George Luks executed them at a remote campsite in Canada, and Edward Hopper used the medium during his summer sojourns on Cape Cod and in Maine. Artists such as Dong Kingman, Reginald Marsh, and Everett Shinn, who painted the urban scene, found watercolor's portability equally effective in capturing the dynamism of city life.

Traditionally watercolor is a medium of transparent washes that are layered onto dampened paper whose brilliance is allowed to shine through veils of paint. The exhibition is rich with examples of traditional techniques by Charles Demuth, Jacob Getlar Smith, Adolf Dehn, and others. In the twentieth century, however, challenges to traditional painting methods abounded.

"American Twentieth-Century Watercolors" includes numerous examples that incorporate drawing media and opaque water-based paint with transparent washes. Charles Burchfield, one of the century's most important watercolorists, was very unorthodox in the combinations of materials he used in his mature works.

As the century progressed and artists of the United States explored abstract imagery, watercolors played an important role in allowing painters to experiment with fluid forms to achieve spontaneous effects with quick-drying water-based paints. By mid-century, artists associated with the New York School (also called Abstract Expressionism) such as William Baziotes, Jimmy Ernst, Sonja Sekula, Richard Pousette-Dart, and Dorothy Dehner painted in non-representational styles with ink and wash to mine personal, spiritual and psychological subject matter.

The Farnsworth Museum's watercolor exhibition, which complements that of the Institute, includes works by some of the same artists such as Prendergast, Hopper, Marin, Davies, Zorach and Demuth. It also includes works by Frank W. Benson, Ruben Tam, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Michael Loew. However, this show focuses on the importance of Maine as a favored painting destination and inspiration for artists.

A handsome catalogue has been produced by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute to accompany "American Twentieth-Century Watercolors" and is available at the Farnsworth Museum store. It is fully illustrated with color reproductions of each work. An introductory essay by Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Mary E. Murray, documents the formation of the Institute's collection and examines the critical reception to watercolors in this century. The Farnsworth Museum's own recently published catalogue of its permanent collection, which illustrates and documents several of the museum's most important watercolors, is also available.

Read more about the Farnsworth Art Museum.in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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