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Rivers, Sea and Shore: Reflections on Water / Sailing Wisconsin's Blue Jewel

November 17, 2007 - January 20, 2008


The Woodson Art Museum will open two exhibitions -- one comprising historic paintings, the other contemporary photographs -- on November 17, 2007, that explore the diverse roles of water in America. Both exhibitions remain on view through January 20, 2008.

The term "waterscapes" best describes the fifty paintings in Rivers, Sea and Shore: Reflections on Water, while Sailing Wisconsin's Blue Jewel features forty striking Lake Geneva boating images by Wisconsinite Bruce Thompson.


Rivers, Sea and Shore: Reflections on Water

America -- a continent between two oceans -- has had a love affair with the sea since its earliest beginnings, and Rivers, Sea and Shore delineates the changing nature of this relationship. More than a century of American life on the water is reflected in ships and boats, seascapes and river scenes, mountain lakes and industrial waterfronts, and images of life along the shore.

Three major themes define Rivers, Sea and Shore, beginning with "Ships and Seascapes, Rivers and Boats." This segment features classic examples of American maritime art, beginning with John S. Blunt's 1828 reverential depiction of the U.S.S. Constitution, which he painted shortly before it was decom-missioned, after playing a major role in the War of 1812.

Majestic ship portraits paid homage to their subject's functions in the days of exploration, building America's naval force, and our country's early transition to commerce. As settlement took precedence over exploration, artists recorded the smaller-built ships that were better suited to inland waterways. Soon busy seaports and industrial waterfronts begin appearing in paintings, such as that seen in Reginald Marsh's cathedral-like Lift Bridge, Jersey Marshes.

-This segment also explores the post-Civil War era, when artists used ships as characters in a narrative rather than as subjects for stately portraits. Soon steamboats came to dominate water transportation, and Charles M. McIlhenny's scene of a steamer making a night landing on the Mississippi "reads" like a passage written by Mark Twain. Seascapes that depict the power and motion of waves, like William Trost Richards' Reflection in the Surf, and ocean vistas in general, emerged as a popular genre in romantic nineteenth-century art.

"Seaside Towns" features stunning paintings produced in artist colonies established on the northeast coast after Impressionism crossed the Atlantic in the early twentieth century. Works by Robert Vonnoh, Guy Wiggins, and Gregory Smith represent one large colony near Old Lyme, Connecticut. Other New England artists painted seaside towns long associated with whaling or commerce, reflecting nostalgia for a pre-industrial time.

As Impressionism spread so did the radical idea that art should depict the lifestyles of ordinary people. Works in the "Life by the Water" segment show the populace enjoying the beach, engaged in water sports, and participating in leisure boating activities

By the 1930s, artists began turning to industrial scenes to explore water's impact on the American economy. In Fayerweather Babcock's Industrial Waterfront - Great Lakes, towering smokestacks, grain elevators, cranes and trains, and warehouses virtually hide the lake itself. The transportation network of ships, bridges, and trains needed to move goods to and from the docks appealed to artists influenced by the Ashcan School of realism.

Rivers, Sea and Shore is traveling under the auspices of the Trust for Museum Exhibitions, Washington, D.C., in cooperation with collector Arthur J. Phelan.

About the Trust for Museum Exhibitions

The Trust for Museum Exhibitions is a non-profit museum service organization founded in 1984 by Ann Van Devanter Townsend. Respected internationally for the unique quality of its large, richly textured traveling exhibitions, and for distinctive and sharply focused scholarly exhibitions, the Trust's hallmark on any fine or decorative arts project ensures intellectual integrity and outstanding aesthetic quality in both content and execution.
The Trust's Mission
Without cultural diplomacy, the nations of the world would lack a common language. With cultural exchange within and between nations, understanding is fostered. With these founding principles as its guide the Trust seeks to complement and expand the cultural and educational institutions of the communities it serves by offering a rich and varied spectrum of fine and decorative arts exhibitions for national and international audiences. Through its comprehensive traveling exhibition services the Trust acts as a resource for art institutions throughout the United States and around the world.
Trust Resources
All of the Trust's services are managed by highly trained and experienced exhibition professionals, supported by teams of internationally renowned specialists. The Trust provides complete traveling exhibition services to lending and host institutions, including conceptual planning and development, engagement of guest curators, scheduling and logistical planning, publications, didactic and educational materials, publicity and marketing, conservation, security, wall-to-wall insurance, packing and crating, domestic and international transportation and customs, registration and installation assistance.
Trust Partnerships
For two decades the Trust for Museum Exhibitions has served as a coordinator for consortium projects between museums, and has assisted institutions in circulating their own collections. The Trust has formed partnerships with more than 200 museums, cultural institutions, and private collections world-wide to ensure that important objects, powerful ideas, distinctive presentation and cost effective planning result in highly successful and affordable exhibitions. Currently the Trust is involved collaboratively in more than two-dozen exhibitions, either on tour or in development in the United States and abroad.

(above: Walter Clark, View of Mystic, Connecticut, c. 1895)


(above: Julius B. Delbos, Chappaquiddick Ferry, Martha's Vineyard, c. 1935)


(above: Anton O. Fischer, Summer Seas, 1945)

Please click here to view additional images from Rivers, Sea and Shore: Reflections on Water


Sailing Wisconsin's Blue Jewel

In Sailing Wisconsin's Blue Jewel, Bruce Thompson, Fontana, Wisconsin, shares his thirty-year passion for photographing the leisure and sporting activity of boats and boating on Lake Geneva. His large-format images of three distinct boat styles and the people who sail them offer a contemporary counterpoint to the historic works in Rivers, Sea and Shore.

A favorite of Thompson's is the 38-foot A-scow, a racing sailboat known for its large sail mass, lightweight hull, and need for a highly trained 5-7 member crew to keep it from tipping. Thompson frequently turns his lens to groups of these amazing vessels and will sometimes crop his A-scow images to emphasize the speed and raw power of these boats.

Come winter, iceboats powered only by the wind on their massive sails zip across Lake Geneva at speeds of over 100 miles an hour. His photographs of these winter speedsters portray both graceful beauty and dangerous speeds set against winter backdrops.

During the summer season, magnificent vintage boats cruise Lake Geneva, their exotic woods and brass detailing glinting in the sun. Thompson translates his passion for antique luxury boats through images that reveal these classics vessels in all their nautical glory.

On Sunday, November 18, at 1:30 pm, Thompson will discuss his experiences photographing the pristine beauty of Lake Geneva and the grace and character of its boat population.

Woodson Art Museum curator Andrew McGivern organized Sailing Wisconsin's Blue Jewel.


(above: Bruce Thompson, On Edge)


(above: Bruce Thompson, Close Encounters)


(above: Bruce Thompson, Eagle at Speed)

Programs related to the exhibits

The mix of nautical- and maritime-themed paintings and photographs opening November 17, 2007 at the Woodson Art Museum inspired a range of "merry-time" education programs for young and old alike.

In the spirit of the season, the Art Museum invites the community for "A Holiday Mingle & Jingle" on Sunday, December 9, from 1-4 pm. In addition to family art projects that include decorating nautical ornaments and jazzing up sailor hats, there will be knot-tying demonstrations and holiday refreshments. Musical entertainment features the D.C. Everest High School Chamber Players performing at 2:15 pm and the Newman Catholic High School Singers at 3 pm. The open house is free as is admission to the Woodson.


Youth & Family Programs

Three Toddler Tuesdays, a monthly drop-in event from 10:30 am-noon, take place during the winter exhibitions, each offering a range of hands-on art projects, stories, and short, tot-timed tours. Seasonal themes are "Turkey-fest" on November 20; "Water, Ice, Snow" on December 18; and "Maritime Adventures" on January 15.

The Museum's other toddler program, Art Time for Tots," is on Thursday, November 29, from 10:30-11:30 am. Each adult-child pair needs to call 845-7010 to reserve a spot for one-on-one fun and learning.

Building floatable boats and personalizing the sails will keep Art Buddies and Art Explorers (ages 5-12) busy from 4:30-6 pm on Tuesday, December 11. Fee; register at 845-7010. More sailboat adventures are in store on Family Night, Thursday, December 13, from 6-7:30 pm. Each family can decide whether to work on a single boat together or build a fleet. Fee. Call 845-7010 to register the family.

The Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc is a remarkable resource for Great Lakes history. Their educator, Wendy Lutzke, brings some of that history to the Woodson Art Museum for two programs on Saturday, January 5, at 1 pm and again at 3 pm. Families can enjoy tales about the life and labors of working on a Great Lakes ship, games involving shipboard equipment, try on a diving helmet, and learn about submarine construction.

The following Saturday, January 12, from 8 am-6 pm, the Museum is sponsoring a day trip to the Maritime Museum for more family adventures, including a submarine tour and activities in the Children's Waterway Room. Fee. Register at 845-7010.

During Family Night on Thursday, January 17, from 6-7:30 pm, participants will create necklaces and key lanyards using knot-tying techniques. No knot knowledge is needed for "Knots 101," a free program with all supplies provided.


Adult Programs

The roster of adult programs begins with photographer Bruce Thompson presenting "Picture That! Life behind the Lens" on Sunday, November 18, from 1:30-2:30 pm. He'll discuss his photographs of and passion for the A-scow racing boats, iceboats, and vintage luxury boats that ply Lake Geneva, Wisconsin's blue jewel, in all seasons. Refreshments follow the program.

Do you know what a chanteyman or shantyman is? Have you ever heard one sing or tell stories? To find out about the life of a shantyman, meet David HB Drake when he performs "A Sailor's Songbag" on Sunday, December 2, at 1:30 pm. Using a blend of stories, songs, and instruments, Drake brings to life a nineteenth-century Great Lakes sailor. He bases his performance on an 1850s diary of a salt-water seaman working on the Lakes and his own years working on tall ships. Drake is the shantyman aboard the Wisconsin Lake Schooner "Denis Sullivan" in the Port of Milwaukee. Refreshments follow.

Two gallery walks offer different ways of looking at Rivers, Sea and Shore. On Wednesday, December 5, from 12:15-12:45 pm, director and sailing enthusiast Kathy Foley "Shoots the Breeze" as she focuses on the masted vessels seen in the paintings, while education curator Erin Narloch uses literary "Tales of the Sea" to lead voyagers through the exhibition beginning at 12:15 pm on Wednesday, January 16.

Wausau veteran George Flynn discusses his "Life in the Navy," including tours of duty in Korea, Vietnam, and various sea voyages, on Wednesday, January 9, from noon-1 pm. Refreshments will be served.

Art specialist Beverly Limbach-Brown teaches techniques for painting winter watercolors on Saturday, January 19, from 10 am-3 pm, at Bannerman Hall at the Wausau School Forest, where Wisconsin River views invite creativity. Fee. Call 845-7010 to register.

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