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From Winslow Homer to Edward Hopper: American Watercolor Masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum

February 22 - May 11, 2008


From Winslow Homer to Edward Hopper: American Watercolor Masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum opens February 22, 2008 at the Taft Museum of Art. The exhibition will showcase the work of some of the Nation's most celebrated artists.

The exhibition will feature 70 premier American watercolor paintings from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, who holds one of the oldest public collections of American Art in the United States. Ranging in date from the late 18th century to 1945, the works represent major movements in American art, with an emphasis on landscape and scenes of daily life. Visitors will enjoy picturesque view-painting from late 18th-century; ideal landscapes by artists of the Hudson River School; post-Civil War realism; American Impressionism; early 20th-century modernist abstractions; and American Scene painting of the 1920s and 1930s, also known as Regionalism.

Some of the greatest American practitioners of the watercolor medium are among the featured artists, including Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, Maurice Prendergast, John Marin, and Edward Hopper. With a wide variety of styles and genres, the selection constitutes a rich survey of the development of American art and watercolor practice in the United States over the course of 200 years. The exhibition has been organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art.


Wall panel texts and labels from the exhibiiton

This selection of 70 landscapes comes from the Brooklyn Museum's extensive and highly regarded collection of American watercolors. The Brooklyn Museum acquired its first American watercolor in 1906 and led institutional collecting in this field for much of the 20th century. Two stories in the history of American art and culture can be traced in this exhibition: the rise of landscape painting and its link to a national identity, and the flowering of the watercolor medium itself.
The arts of landscape and watercolor debuted and matured in tandem in the United States. From the late 18th to the mid-20th centuries, American landscape evolved first from the documentary to the evocative, then on to abstraction and to a renewed realism. Watercolor practice also developed over time. Earlier artists pursued styles marked by painstakingly detailed execution, and later generations explored Impressionist-inspired styles and modernist innovation. The status of watercolor underwent a transformation, too. It began as a medium associated with illustrators and amateurs. Later, as it was embraced by leading artists, it was elevated to a new level of prestige.
The medium's vibrant and luminous effects have long attracted artists and viewers. Rendered with a combination of expertise and intuition, these watercolors on display are intimate works that draw us close by means of their transparent washes, the vivid clarity of their colors, and the light that seems to emanate from within them.
This exhibition has been organized by the Brooklyn Museum.
Surveying the Scene
The Debut of American Landscape Watercolors
During the colonial period, watercolorists performed an important role in familiarizing European settlers and visitors with the American landscape. Some of the earliest practitioners active in North America were trained draftsmen who used this easily portable medium to document the terrain for colonial governments. They valued precise drawing much more than color, so many of their watercolors are relatively monochromatic.
In about 1800, American landscape imagery gradually began to be reshaped, with a transition away from panoramic topographical views to scenes formulated according to British theories of the picturesque. In this mode, artists sketched natural motifs outdoors. Subsequently, working in their studios, they recombined individual elements into ideal compositions, based on the model of 17th-century landscape paintings, such as the Dutch landscapes in the Taft collection.
In the first half of the 19th century, watercolor was considered an artistic practice quite distinct from oil painting. There was surprisingly little overlap between artists who did one or the other. Watercolor was generally seen as less prestigious, a "lower" form of art, partly because of its association with the utilitarian realms of printmaking and magazine and book publishing. Many watercolorists collaborated with printmakers to reproduce their scenic views in books and portfolios. Such reproductions significantly advanced the broad popularity of landscape imagery.
George Willie Beck (American, born England, 1748-1812)
Stone Bridge over the Wissahickon, about 1800
Opaque watercolor on paper mounted to canvas attached to Masonite and a wooden strainer
Like many early watercolorists in America, George Beck was born and trained in England as a topographical draftsman. He continued creating landscape pictures after immigrating to the United States in 1795. In this richly painted watercolor of a prospect in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, Beck combined the documentary imperatives of his training with a picturesque approach to nature: employing framing elements, tonal contrasts, and varied textures to enliven the scene.
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Milberg, 1991.10.1
David Claypool Johnston (American, 1799-1865)
New England Scenery, about 1850
Transparent and opaque watercolor with local glazes on light beige, moderately thick, lightly textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Milberg, 1992.213
William Pierie (active in America late 18th century)
Narrows at Lake George, 1777
Watercolor on cream, thick, rough-textured laid paperboard
The earliest watercolor in the exhibition, this work was painted during the Revolutionary War by William Pierie, a captain in the British artillery stationed in North America. Military training often included drawing lessons for the documentation of strategic terrain, in this case, Lake George in the Adirondacks region. Pierie also sought to create a visually pleasing landscape scene. He incorporated vertical elements (the rocky cliffs of the Narrows) to frame a distant view across a body of water, an established picturesque compositional formula.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 50.66.1
William Guy Wall (American, born Ireland, 1792-after 1864)
Falls of the Passaic, about 1820
Transparent watercolor with touches of opaque watercolor over graphite on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper mounted to Japanese paper
The Irish-born William Guy Wall arrived in New York City in 1818 and quickly established himself as a successful landscapist. His watercolors often served as the basis for engraved reproductions that helped to popularize American landscape imagery. This work depicts a distant view of the 70-foot-high waterfall on New Jersey's Passaic River, a landmark renowned for its aesthetic beauty and awesome force. (Hydropowered manufacturing first developed along this river.) Following the English watercolor tradition, Wall applied layers of wash to capture reflections on the river and added human figures to provide scale to the scene.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 42.108
August Kollner (American, born Germany, 1813-1907)
Rockdale, near Manayunk, Pennsylvania, 1865
Watercolor, graphite, and ink on cream, moderately thick, smooth-textured wove paper
In this watercolor, the monochromatic palette of grays (a color scheme called grisaille) recalls the German-born August Kollner's training in black-and-white lithography. Although he was employed primarily as an illustrator and printmaker after settling in Philadelphia in 1839, Kollner was also an indefatigable landscape sketcher. During his extensive travels throughout the Northeast, he recorded the scenery in drawings that he would later finish in watercolor. Here, the seated figure in the foreground might represent Kollner himself making studies for this work.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Milberg, 82.193.2
George Harvey (American, born England, 1801-1878)
Spring-Burning Fallen Trees, in a Girdled Clearing, Western Scene, about 1840
Watercolor over graphite on cream, medium-weight, slightly textured wove paper
George Harvey's watercolor activities -- like those of William Guy Wall, whose work is displayed nearby-were linked to a printmaking enterprise. Harvey created this work for an ambitious and ultimately unrealized series titled Atmospheric Landscapes of North America. One of the project's four inaugural images, each of which was set in a different season, Spring depicts pioneers in Ohio clearing "girdled" woods for settlement. Girdling is a lumbering technique in which the sawyers carve a beltlike notch into the trunk, which cuts off the flow of sap and eventually kills the tree.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 46.49
William Strickland (English, 1753-1834)
Joseph Halfpenny (English, 1748-1811)
View down the Potomack, from the Junction of the Cohongoronta and the Shenandoah in Virginia, 1795-96
Watercolor over graphite on cream, medium-weight, slightly textured laid paper mounted to paperboard
An English naturalist and agriculturalist, William Strickland toured the eastern United States in 1794-95, sketching scenic landmarks and keeping a journal. Based on an on-the-spot pencil drawing, this watercolor depicts the confluence of the Shenandoah and Upper Potomac (also called the Cohongoronta) rivers at Harper's Ferry, now in West Virginia. When Strickland published his impressions of America after his return, his landscape images helped to familiarize English-speaking audiences with American scenery and to foster tourism in the young nation.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 1991.43
W. J. Reeves and Woodyer (England)
Watercolor Paint Box, 19th century
Lent by friends of the Taft Museum of Art
The Watercolor Movement
Studying Nature in the Mid-19th Century
In the late 1850s, attitudes toward watercolor began to change dramatically in the United States. A major catalyst was the 1857 Exhibition of English Art, which traveled to several American cities and included works by leading British watercolorists. This momentous exhibition heightened the visibility of watercolor and presented it as a fine art (rather than a reproductive or amateur one), inspiring American painters in oil to experiment with the medium, too.
Newly formed professional organizations provided members with exhibition and sales opportunities. Most notable among these was the American Watercolor Society (first established in 1866 as the American Society of Painters in Water Colors). Critics, patrons, and the public expressed great enthusiasm for their efforts, launching what is often called the American Watercolor Movement. The period of sustained popularity of the medium lasted from the late 1860s until about 1885. By that date, watercolor had joined the mainstream of American art production and had become an accepted alternative mode of painting practiced by many major artists.
Organized in 1863, the Association for the Advancement of Truth in Art (also known as the American Pre-Raphaelites) was devoted to both watercolor and landscape subjects. Like the British Pre-Raphaelites, these artists embraced the theories of the critic and writer John Ruskin (1819­1900). He urged artists to rigorously observe the natural world, rendering everything with absolute truth. The American Pre-Raphaelites depicted scenes in nature with painstaking exactitude and also influenced other painters to render landscapes in more precise detail.
Francis Augustus Silva (American, 1835-1886)
View near New London, Connecticut, 1877
Opaque and transparent watercolor over graphite on beige, moderately thick, slightly textured wove paper
Displayed at the American Watercolor Society's annual show of 1877, this large-scale exhibition watercolor typifies Francis Silva's oeuvre in its marine subject matter, crystalline-clear light, and inconspicuous brushwork. The broken mast on the beach at left makes a subtle allusion to nature's destructive power in this otherwise placid scene.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 46.195
William Trost Richards (American, 1833-1905)
The Sakonnet River, about 1876
Opaque watercolor over graphite on blue, moderately thick, slightly textured wove paper
William Trost Richards achieved particularly rich color effects in works such as this one from the 1870s, the decade in which he embraced the watercolor medium. He added opaque white pigments to his transparent watercolor tones to create more vivid colors and a dense texture resembling oil paint. A devotee of outdoor sketching, Richards found seemingly infinite variations of sea, sky, and land during his extensive travels along the northeastern coast. His motif here, the Sakonnet River, is located near Newport, Rhode Island, the seaside resort where Richards summered beginning in 1874.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 74.30.3
William Trost Richards (American, 1833-1905)
Rhode Island Coast: Conanicut Island, about 1880
Transparent watercolor with touches of opaque watercolor on cream, moderately thick, slightly textured wove paper
The geological specificity of the rugged coastline depicted here demonstrates William Trost Richards's commitment to the doctrine of fidelity to nature espoused by John Ruskin and the American Pre-Raphaelites. His watercolors regularly won critical acclaim for their strong compositions, refined technique, atmospheric effects, and on-site observation. This prolific artist was a leading figure of both the American Pre- Raphaelites and the American Watercolor Movement.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Mrs. William T. Brewster through the National Academy of Design, 53.229
William Trost Richards (American, 1833-1905)
A High Tide at Atlantic City, 1873
Opaque watercolor on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
Already established as a landscape painter in oils, William Trost Richards began working in watercolor in earnest about 1870. Over the next decade, he earned acclaim as one of America's best watercolorists during the heyday of the American Watercolor Movement. Richards's turn to the medium coincided with his new focus on coastal subjects. Watercolor was particularly well suited both to sketching outdoors and to capturing the constantly shifting atmospheric conditions at the water's edge. He generally used an additive technique: laying down transparent washes of color and then applying touches of opaque paints to create body and texture.
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Milberg, 86.142
William Trost Richards (American, 1833-1905)
Landscape with Stream and Road, Chester County, about 1886
Watercolor over graphite on off-white, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Edith Ballinger Price, 1993.212.4
Francis Hopkinson Smith (American, 1838-1915)
In the Woods, 1877
Transparent and opaque watercolor and black chalk on beige, thick, rough-textured wood-pulp board
A successful civil engineer and author, Francis "Hop" Smith was also an accomplished watercolorist whose painstaking descriptions of the elements of a landscape resembled the style of the American Pre-Raphaelites. He found his subject matter in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where he made regular summer sketching excursions. Smith's pictures of old trees earned him special praise from contemporary critics who admired his almost portrait-like, noble characterizations of these forest "patriarchs."
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the American Art Council, 1994.65
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910)
Shepherdess Tending Sheep, 1878
Watercolor over graphite with touches of opaque watercolor on cream, thick, rough-textured paper
This work demonstrates Winslow Homer's remarkable ability to use watercolor as both a descriptive and an expressive medium. The dark sky, rendered with carefully modulated gray washes, casts a moody, ominous tone over the idyllic pastoral subject of a shepherdess tending her flock. Homer painted it in Mountainville, New York (an old town now about an hour's drive from northern Manhattan), where he frequently stayed at a friend's country house in the 1870s.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 41.1088
Albert Fitch Bellows (American, 1829-1883)
Coaching in New England, about 1876
Transparent and opaque watercolor with touches of gum varnish over black chalk on cream, moderately thick, rough-textured wove paper
The Brooklyn Museum began collecting American watercolors in 1906 with the acquisition of this work. Albert Fitch Bellows, a practitioner and promoter of watercolor, painted it and other large and highly finished exhibition watercolors. He took up this mode in the early 1860s to demonstrate that watercolor was as significant and as durable as oil painting. This quaint view of life in New England was among the most-praised works in the annual exhibition of the American Watercolor Society in 1877.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Caroline H. Polhemus, 06.334
Rudolph Cronau (American, born Germany, 1855-1939)
View from Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, 1881
Watercolor and black ink on cream, moderately thick, smooth-textured wove paper mounted to pulpboard
This romanticized vista of Brooklyn's famous Greenwood Cemetery at sunset features the Gothic-style entrance arch at center, the classical tomb of John Anderson (a wealthy tobacconist and philanthropist) at right, and New York Harbor in the distance. The artist rendered it in tones of black and white for reproduction in a German newspaper. Coming to America on special assignment, Rudolph Cronau was charged with documenting its cities, frontier lands, and American Indian populations for curious European audiences. His training at the Düsseldorf art academy, which emphasized careful draftsmanship, is evident.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Gerold Wunderlich, 1996.221
James Ryder van Brunt (American, 1820-1916)
Van Brunt Homestead, about 1865
Opaque and transparent watercolor and graphite on wove paper mounted to pulpboard
Throughout his career, the Brooklyn artist James Ryder van Brunt specialized in watercolors of local historic sites, farmhouses, and churches painted in a conventional, topographical style. His subject matter reflected a personal interest in the region's Dutch heritage. His own Dutch ancestors had settled there in the 17th century. This picture depicts his grandfather's homestead near what is now Third Avenue between Eighth and Eleventh streets (with Gowanus Creek at the left).
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Miriam Godofsky, 1999.112
John William Hill (American, 1812-1879)
West Nyack, New York, 1868
Transparent watercolor with small applications of opaque watercolor over graphite on cream, medium-weight wove paper with J. Whatman watermark lined to secondary paper
This tour-de-force watercolor depicts the artist's home and studio, where a circle of friends met regularly to discuss the writings of John Ruskin and plan the formation of the American Pre-Raphaelites. With delicately stippled brushwork, John William Hill articulated every botanical detail in accordance with the Ruskinian belief that God is manifest in nature's tiniest forms. This humble rural scene also alludes to the biblical passage from Christ's Sermon on the Mount: "Consider the lilies of the field. . . . And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Brooklyn Museum, Gifts of George J. Arden, Carroll J. Dickson, Mrs. Alfred T. Dillhoff, the estate of Emil Fuchs, Mrs. Willis Reese, and Dr. Ben Shenson, by exchange, and Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 2005.1
Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Whistling for Plover, 1874
Transparent watercolor and small touches of opaque watercolor over graphite on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
The hunter pictured here is whistling to attract plover, a game bird. In this scene set in the marshes of southern New Jersey, the artist used dry, tightly controlled brushstrokes to model his central figure and more fluid washes for the landscape. Eakins prepared for the watercolor by making extensive drawings beforehand, just as he would have done for an oil painting, because this was an "exhibition watercolor," one intended to vie with oil paintings in visual power and theme. As the term suggests, such watercolors were intended for display and sale rather than for private enjoyment or spontaneous exercise. Eakins chose watercolor rather than oil for this sun-drenched picture because it allowed him to paint "in a much higher key with all the light possible." He produced exhibition watercolors during a brief period of his career.
Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 25.656
George J. Tribe (American, active 1895)
Old Felt Mill on the Negunticook [Megunticook] River, Camden, Maine, 1895
Watercolor over graphite on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased in memory of former Museum staff member Jane Carpenter Poliquin (1955­1992), with funds given by her friends and colleagues, 1993.121
Samuel Colman (American, 1832-1920)
Late November in a Santa Barbara Cañon, California, about 1886­88
Transparent and opaque watercolor with touches of pastel on rose-tinted, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
An avid traveler and dedicated practitioner of the portable medium of watercolor, Samuel Colman was drawn to the arid landscapes of California and Mexico. Striking features of this watercolor are its loose brushwork and relatively bare, thinly painted areas. Sharp, bright highlights accent broadly toned areas. Coupled with the sketchiness, this technique creates a vibrant, spontaneous effect. By the 1880s, Colman and many other landscape painters gradually abandoned the careful attention to detail and finish typical of American landscape from the earlier decades of the century.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 77.102.2
Charles Henry Miller (American, 1842-1922)
The Way the City Is Built, 1877
Watercolor with graphite pencil underdrawing on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper (cold-pressed watercolor paper)
Charles Miller had a preservationist's interest in the historic buildings and landmarks that were rapidly disappearing throughout New York and Long Island. This Harlem scene represents the modern urban landscape in transition. An old cottage on a hill is being razed for the construction of more multistory tenements like the ones at right. Miller's unvarnished realism and broad brushwork reveal the influence of progressive trends in European art, which he would have observed while studying at the Royal Academy in Munich in 1867.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 50.149.2
Watercolor and Impressionism
Capturing Light in the Late 19th Century
Led by such innovators as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and the American Impressionists, American watercolorists broke new ground beginning in the 1880s as they began to exploit the potential of this essentially liquid medium. Many of these artists were members of a younger generation who had been exposed to progressive realist styles while studying in Europe. Accustomed to working outdoors and committed to an aesthetic of spontaneity, these painters found the highly portable medium of watercolor especially congenial to their interests. They employed a new freedom of approach in their watercolor practice, recording immediate visual impressions with lively strokes of pure, bright color. Unlike early 19th-century artists, they often appreciated their outdoor creations as autonomous works of art, not just as working studies or as a means to an end.
As never before, the primary subject of watercolor became natural light-the way it flickers across landscape forms and changes with shifting weather conditions. The transparency of watercolor washes proved especially well suited to this new concern. Also helpful was the technique of leaving areas of white paper blank to serve as highlights, because they could be read as spots of dazzling light. Most painters also diminished the degree of pencil work that had formerly preceded putting brush to paper, demonstrating a more exuberant directness and a determination to exceed the limits of traditional watercolor techniques.
John La Farge (American, 1835-1910)
Apple Blossoms in Sunlight, about 1870s
Watercolor and graphite on cream, thick, rough-textured wove paper
Best known for his mural and stained-glass commissions, John La Farge was an accomplished painter of landscapes and still lifes in both oil and watercolor. He found the luminosity of watercolor ideal for planning color schemes for stained-glass designs and perfect for studying sunlight and reflection. Apple Blossoms in Sunlight is such a study. La Farge rendered, in quick brushstrokes, the effects of natural light on fragile, white apple blossoms. His floral watercolors were so well received during the 1870s that a New York Times critic said in 1879, "Mr. La Farge has never done much for the Watercolor Society, but this year he may be said to have bloomed out."
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Christiana C. Burnett, great-niece of the artist, 2001.47.2
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Port of Soller, 1907­08
Watercolor, opaque watercolor, and graphite on off-white, rough, thick wove paper
Sargent painted this coastal landscape on the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain. He approached the subject from an unusual vantage point: looking through trees down to the port below. Sargent shifted his focus from portraiture to landscape in the early 20th century, when he also began exhibiting his watercolors. In 1909 the Brooklyn Museum made an unprecedented purchase of 83 of his watercolors-including those you see here-from the first major exhibition of Sargent's watercolors in the United States.
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by Special Subscription, 09.833
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Zuleika, about 1906
Transparent watercolor with touches of opaque watercolor over graphite on off-white, thick, rough-textured wove paper
John Singer Sargent painted this woman dressed in Turkish garb lounging next to a brook while traveling with friends and family in the Val d'Aosta region of the Italian Alps. He created areas of dappled sunlight with dabs of opaque white watercolor and unpainted areas of white paper, and he suggested lush foliage and flowing water with quick strokes of color. The artist produced a series of similar watercolors during summer trips between 1904 and 1908. His traveling companions, dressed in exotic costume, modeled for the paintings.
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by Special Subscription, 09.847
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
In a Levantine Port, about 1905­6
Transparent watercolor with touches of opaque watercolor over graphite on off-white, thick, rough-textured wove paper
The spontaneity and portability of watercolor allowed John Singer Sargent to work constantly during his travels throughout Europe and the Middle East. In this watercolor of boats in port, he captured the crisp, white light of the eastern Mediterranean coast, using dabs of varied color to indicate the effects of sunlight on water. Sargent also zoomed in on his subject, turning the ships' masts, ropes, chains, and reflections into an almost abstract composition of intersecting diagonal lines.
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by Special Subscription, 09.825
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910)
Maine Cliffs, 1883
Watercolor over charcoal on cream, thick, rough-textured wove paper
After Winslow Homer moved to the coastal town of Prout's Neck, Maine, in 1883, he created many pure landscape views. In this watercolor, Homer rendered the boulders as an almost abstract series of intersecting planes, highlighted with bright accents of color including the red berries in the shrubs and the blue streak of ocean in the distance. The high horizon line, high point of view, and consequent flattening of the illusory space betray the artist's familiarity with Japanese prints, which were then becoming popular in Europe and America.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Sidney B. Curtis in memory of S. W. Curtis, 50.184
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910)
The Northeaster, 1883
Watercolor over graphite on cream wove paper
Owing in large part to the income generated by the sales of his watercolors, Winslow Homer was able to quit working as a magazine illustrator in 1875. Once he had settled in Prout's Neck, a rocky peninsula off the coast of Maine, the artist became increasingly preoccupied with the dynamic interactions of sea, sky, and weather-often extreme weather-at the water's edge. Reduced to economical yet expressive elements, this composition reveals Homer's strong sense of design, honed during his early career in illustration.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Sidney B. Curtis in memory of S. W. Curtis, 50.185
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910)
Homosassa River, 1904
Watercolor with additions of gum over graphite on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
Winslow Homer was and still is considered one of the greatest masters of watercolor for his intuitive understanding of this liquid medium. He produced a large body of works in watercolor (about double the number of his oil paintings), many of which remain unrivaled in their expressive power. In this picture of remote fishing grounds in Florida, he captured the tropical landscape on an overcast day with a complex combination of freely brushed, liquid washes and dry strokes of paint (to articulate palm fronds). He also scraped paint off the paper to create the white curve of the angler's line.
Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund and Special Subscription, 11.542
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910)
Bear and Canoe, 1895
Watercolor with touches of gum varnish over graphite on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
In 1893, Homer and his brother Charles, both enthusiastic sportsmen, traveled for the first time to Canada. The brothers had a cabin built in the woods near Lake Tourilli in Quebec, where they stayed on subsequent visits. On their trip in 1895, one of them took a photograph of the cabin and a large overturned birchbark canoe, which probably became the source for this watercolor. Homer embellished the subject, however, by introducing an amusing narrative with several black bears, an episode most likely based on an actual incident.
Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund and Special Subscription, 11.541
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910)
In the Jungle, Florida, 1904
Transparent watercolor with touches of opaque watercolor over graphite on off-white, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
Winslow Homer often combined his hunting and painting excursions, traveling to remote destinations such as the Adirondacks and Canada in the summer and Florida and Bermuda in the winter. This tropical landscape epitomizes his extraordinary range and facility in the watercolor medium. In addition to wet and dry washes, Homer deployed more experimental techniques such as blotting areas of pigment and rubbing the paper (to create texture with dislodged paper fibers), as seen in the whitish fronds in the center of the picture.
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by Special Subscription and Museum Collection Fund, 11.547
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910)
Jumping Trout, 1889
Watercolor over graphite on cream, medium-weight, moderately textured wove paper
Fly fishing was one of Homer's life passions. He once said that he would rather fish than paint. He would often combine both activities on summer trips to the Adirondacks or Canada with his brother Charles. On their 1889 expedition, Homer painted several remarkable close-up studies, including Jumping Trout, of Adirondack game fish. He depicted the fish in action because, when caught and dead, trout almost immediately lose their superb coloring. Homer accentuated the fish's powerful, silvery body by positioning it before a velvety background of browns and blues that suggests a shaded woodland pool.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 41.220
Winslow Homer (American, 1836--1910)
End of the Portage, 1897
Transparent and opaque watercolor with graphite underdrawing on off-white, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
Portage means to carry a boat over land from one body of water to another. One of Winslow Homer's many watercolors of sportsmen in action, End of the Portage depicts two fishermen carrying their canoe over fallen trees in a dry riverbed.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Helen Babbott Sanders, 78.151.1
Gerald H. Thayer (American, 1883-1935)
Emma Beach Thayer (1850­1924)
The Cotton-Tail Rabbit among Dry Grasses and Leaves, 1904
Opaque watercolor over graphite on cream, smooth-textured paper/surfaced pulpboard
The artist-naturalist Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849­1921) used assistants, including his wife, Emma, and his son Gerald, to help illustrate his book on animal camouflage, Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (1909). This meticulously rendered watercolor demonstrates "countershading," by which an animal such as the cottontail rabbit seems to disappear against the background of its natural habitat. Although many of Thayer's theories sparked controversy within the scientific community, some were applied to military camouflage during World War II.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, 20.645
Gordon Stevenson (American, 1892-1984)
Catskill Stream, about 1932
Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite on cream, thick, rough-textured wove paper
In direct emulation of the painter John Singer Sargent, whom he had met in London, the society portraitist Gordon Stevenson adopted the practice of painting landscapes in watercolor during his summer travels. Sargent's innovative approach and technical freedom in the medium were widely influential during the first two decades of the 20th century. On this sheet, Stevenson follows Sargent in his manipulation of liquid washes and use of vivid colors.
Brooklyn Museum, John B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 33.483
Thomas Pollack Anshutz (American, 1851-1912)
Untitled (Man in Boat), 1894
Watercolor over graphite on cream, moderately thick, slightly textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Ruth Bowman, 1999.143a­b
Thomas Moran (American, 1837-1926)
Chicago World's Fair, 1894
Transparent watercolor with opaque white highlights and graphite on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
In this view of the lagoon and central buildings constructed for the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893-an extravagant, nationalistic salute to the westward advance of "civilization"-the artist bathed the scene in the glowing colors of a vivid sunset and violet shadows that might have seemed extreme if rendered in oils. Watercolor, which allows easy blending of colors, was the ideal medium for the late 19th-century landscape painter Thomas Moran, a follower of the British painter J. M. W. Turner, whose works can be seen in the Taft collection. Moran most frequently painted dramatic natural features in places such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Clara L. Obrig, 31.194
Arthur Parton (American, 1842-1914)
Niagara Falls, about 1880
Transparent and opaque watercolor on cream, thick, moderately textured wove paper
Depicting one of America's most sublime and popular landscape subjects, this picture provides a good example of an exhibition watercolor in its ambitious scale and fully realized execution. Its highly textured surface- created with opaque paints-approximates the material and atmospheric effects Arthur Parton achieved in his oil paintings. Little is known about Parton's watercolor activities, although he did exhibit regularly with the American Watercolor Society beginning in 1880.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Henfield Foundation, Inc., 70.174
Watercolor Technique
Watercolor is a technique of painting in which pigments are ground with a water-soluble binder and then diluted with water. The painter applies them with a brush to white or light-colored paper. "True" or "classic" watercolors are transparent: they remain translucent and allow light to penetrate and be reflected from the underlying paper. Highlights can be achieved by adding white or light-colored paint, reserving portions of the paper as white spaces, or subtracting applied color using techniques of blotting or scraping. Opaque watercolor, or bodycolor, which is much less transparent than true watercolor, is made by adding lead white or zinc oxide (both opaque) to ordinary watercolors. Transparent and opaque watercolors are often used together.
Watercolor paints were first commercially made in the late 1700s, at first as hard dry cakes that resembled those found children's watercolor sets today. "Moist colors," introduced in the 1830s, incorporated glycerin, making the colors easier to work into washes and facilitating large, broad applications of transparent color. Many watercolors are sold in tubes today. Working with this essentially liquid medium, painters can achieve a wide range of artistic effects by varying the dilution of the paint, the manner of application, and the texture of the paper.
Paul Dougherty (American, 1877-1947)
Cedar Grove by the Sea, about 1916
Watercolor and charcoal on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
This Brooklyn-born artist moved to California, where he became known for his coastal views.
Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund and the Frederick Loeser Fund, 17.46
Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)
The Gorge, Appledore, 1912
Transparent watercolor with touches of opaque watercolor on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
The broad, liquid strokes and vivid transparency of color in this image demonstrate the success with which Childe Hassam transposed his Impressionist oil-painting style into the medium of watercolor. In 1912, while in his full maturity as an artist, he painted a series of watercolors at his favorite coastal setting of Appledore (one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire). In these works, Hassam gave his full attention to the play of light and color on the rocks. His compositions are spare, reduced to a few dramatic elements, and his application of washes is intuitive and liberated.
Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 24.103
Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)
Sunday Morning, Appledore, 1912
Watercolor over graphite on cream, thick, moderately textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 24.104
Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American, 1858-1924)
Sunday on the Beach, about 1896­98
Watercolor on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
One of the first Americans to use watercolor in a modernist manner, Prendergast allowed passages of unpainted paper to play a role in the description of summarily described forms. his style and subjects were largely inspired by the French Post-Impressionist art he had encountered as a student in Paris during the early 1890s. His best-known theme was the modern pursuit of leisure by the middle classes, at parks and beaches such as this one near Boston.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Daniel and Rita Fraad, Jr., 65.204.9
John Wenger (American, born Russia, 1888-1976)
Coney Island, 1931
Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite on off-white, moderately thick, slightly textured wove paper
John Wenger's view of the amusements at Coney Island (painted his first year as a watercolorist) is extremely lively, owing primarily to his nervous line and the play of light and color patterns. Born outside of Odessa, Russia, Wenger immigrated to the United States in 1903. By the 1920s, he had established himself as a theatrical painter. In his work for the Ziegfeld Follies and the Metropolitan Opera, the artist honed his skills in designing scenes and infusing them with dramatic energy.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the artist, 67.238
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
Deer Isle, 1914
Watercolor on white, very thick, rough-textured wove paper
This watercolor dates from 1914, the year in which John Marin made his first trip to Maine. There, he was captivated by the sea and coastline of Penobscot Bay, in which Deer Isle is located. That year, he purchased his own small island in the bay, where he camped and painted during subsequent summers. In this image, Marin used abstract "framing" lines set at angles around the central motif both to contain it and to convey the vibration of natural energies within it. He derived this modernist device from the Cubist abstractions pioneered in the early teens by the European painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Mrs. Carl L. Selden, 1996.150.3
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
Pine Tree, 1917
Watercolor and charcoal on cream, thick, rough-textured wove paper
A devoted modernist, landscape painter, and watercolorist, John Marin created compositions of partial forms-the essential elements of a view-using a rough charcoal sketch and passages of directionally applied watercolor washes that together suggest light and movement. He routinely allowed substantial areas of the paper support to remain unpainted-a technique that was usually less successful in his oils, in which he left areas of unpainted canvas exposed.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal, 70.147
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
Barn in the Berkshires, 1925
Watercolor and black conté crayon on off-white, thick, rough-textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund, 28.15
Arthur G. Dove (American, 1880-1946)
Untitled, about 1938
Watercolor washes and black ink on cream, moderately thick, rough-textured wove paper
Beginning in the late 1920s, Arthur Dove created abstract compositions inspired by natural forms and forces. He believed the viewer would understand them intuitively. By the 1930s, he was executing this type of small-scale watercolor outdoors as preparations for his oil compositions. His process was unusual in that he first applied the colored washes and then executed his ink drawing over them, clarifying and structuring the abstract areas of color. Here, a white form with a black mark suggests a dwelling near a wooded shoreline.
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given in memory of Priscilla Crosby Lewis and gift of the American Art Council, 1992.112
Charles Demuth (American, 1883-1935)
Roofs and Steeple, 1921
Watercolor and graphite on textured wove paper
After encountering French Cubism in Paris, Charles Demuth produced a large body of still-life and architectural watercolors that rendered three-dimensional forms as splintered, shifting planes. he was particularly drawn to the small-town American architecture of his native Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he regularly spent time. There, Demuth transposed architectural volumes into two-dimensional designs, with selected planes set off by precisely ruled lines. Within these compositions, the tones and density of his washes suggest spatial depth, while areas of unpainted paper reassert the two-dimensional surface.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 50.159
Watercolor and Modernism
Abstraction in the 20th Century
In the early 20th century, watercolor practices in the United States took divergent paths. A significant number of painters continued to employ Impressionist techniques that suggested visual immediacy and evoked the action of light on landscape. Meanwhile, other painters, modernists, began to experiment with abstraction in watercolor. They were aided by the activities of the prominent art impresario Alfred Stieglitz (1864­1946), who mounted many watercolor exhibitions at his New York gallery between 1905 and 1917. He shaped tastes by exhibiting European watercolors by Auguste Rodin, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso-all of whom played freely with colors, shapes, and lines, breaking with realistic depictions. These exhibitions influenced the young generation of American artists.
Some leading American modernists associated with Stieglitz, including John Marin and Arthur Dove, adopted watercolor as a primary tool for modernist experimentation. Inspired by French abstract painters, some Americans used non-naturalistic colors and simplified shapes to express intuitive perceptions of places. Others took advantage of watercolor's transparency to create shifting planes of color, working more analytically in a style influenced by Cubism, with its emphasis on the structure of landscape. As Americans increasingly assimilated European modernist trends, a wider group of artists adopted watercolor, including Oscar Bluemner, Charles Demuth, Marguerite Zorach, and Milton Avery. For them all, watercolor provided an opportunity to create abstractions in which bare paper, fluid shapes, and layered, translucent forms proved highly suggestive. The originality of these early 20th-century works led many critics to suggest that this first American artistic avant garde achieved its greatest originality in the watercolor medium.
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
Movement, Nassau Street, No. 2, 1936
Black ink and watercolor with graphite pencil underdrawing on medium-weight wove paper with textured surface
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Edith and Milton Lowenthal, 1992.11.26
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
Street Movement, New York City, 1932
Transparent and opaque watercolor, black conté crayon, and graphite on off-white, thick, rough-textured wove paper
In a group of New York City street scenes from the 1930s, John Marin used the language of Cubism, fracturing solid forms into geometric components. This approach was in fact better suited to views of urban architecture than to Marin's other favorite subject, coastal scenes. In these works, drawing and watercolor are almost equally balanced: heavy outlines of planar forms, including the stylized shapes of moving figures, are enhanced by earth-toned washes that lend them relative depth.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Edith and Milton Lowenthal, 1992.11.25
Oscar Bluemner (American, born Prussia, 1867-1938)
Loving Moon, 1927
Watercolor, possibly with a surface coating, on cream, medium-weight, slightly textured wove paper mounted to thick, black wood-pulp board
A modernist landscape painter, Oscar Bluemner believed that individual colors embodied specific meanings. Red, for example, directly expressed a powerful life force. When the death of his wife in 1926 left him in despair, Bluemner found solace in painting a group of watercolors of vividly toned landscapes with suns and moons that signified the ecstatic transformation of matter into spirit. The atmospheric quality of his watercolor washes infuse his nocturnal subjects with an air of mystery.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Mrs. Carl L. Selden, 1996.150.9
William Zorach (American, 1887-1966)
Tree-Yosemite, 1920
Watercolor over graphite on white, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper mounted to wood-pulp board
This magical image reflects William Zorach's experiences during a five-month sojourn in Yosemite. Exploiting liquid watercolor washes to create soft-edged forms in gemlike colors, he conveyed the transcendent quality he experienced in that landscape, which he described as "the garden of Eden." Zorach developed his modernist approach after studying at the progressive Paris art school La Palette. He gave up oil painting in 1922 to pursue sculpture but continued to work in watercolor throughout his career.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Ettie Stettheimer, 45.123
Marguerite Thompson Zorach (American, 1887-1968)
Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, California, 1920
Watercolor over graphite on off-white, moderately thick, slightly textured wove paper mounted to off-white wove paper
Zorach and her husband, William, belonged to the same generation and circle of artists in New York as Georgia O'Keeffe. This group of painters pioneered the introduction of avant-garde painting styles to the United States in the teens of the 20th century.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Tessim Zorach, 66.234
Kai Gotzsche (American, born Denmark, 1886-?)
Deer and Cactus, about 1926
Watercolor over graphite with some gold paint on moderately thick, moderately textured, cream, handmade wove Whatman paper
This image employs elements from the American Southwest, which Kai Gotzsche abstracted in a decorative manner by simplifying forms and repeating a few key shapes. The Danish-born modernist painted it while staying in New Mexico with art patron Mabel Dodge. Dodge hosted the writer D. H. Lawrence and many other cultural luminaries at her home in Taos during the 1920s. This sprightly and elegant composition is typical of the art deco style that was internationally popular by the mid-1920s, particularly in architecture, decorative arts, and graphics.
Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 29.1389
New American Scenery
Urban Realism between the Wars
Watercolor continued to be widely used in the period between the two world wars. In all forms of painting during the 1920s, many artists gradually shifted from the abstract experimentation of the teens to various forms of realism by around 1930. Some historians link this change to a crisis in the American self-image following World War I, while others connect it to the Depression that began in 1929. Whatever the reasons, after opening wide to European influences during the first two decades of the century, many painters now wished to create a specifically American tradition. To many people, abstraction now seemed frivolous, foreign, and decadent. Realism, which was legible to all people, appeared more democratic, serious, and American.
After 1930, many artists chose to focus on identifiably American subject matter, a tendency that earned the name the American Scene movement. In particular, the early 20th-century cityscape attracted many painters seeking quintessentially American images. They identified urban growth, the new skyscrapers, bustling street life of the modern city, and crowds at public amusements as evocative of American energy and the American spirit. The art of watercolor, long regarded as a practice accessible to all, seemed a perfect complement to their new democracy of vision.
Marguerite Thompson Zorach (American, 1887-1968)
Manhattan Landscape with View of the Queensboro Bridge-Brooklyn Landscape, about 1937
Watercolor and graphite on off-white, moderately thick, slightly textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Professor and Mrs. Sidney Hook, 77.147
Chaim Gross (American, born Austria, 1904-1991)
Sheepshead Bay, 1941
Watercolor and ink on beige, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
A New York sculptor who began to gain recognition for his work in the 1930s, Chaim Gross produced innumerable figure studies in ink and wash, which formed the basis of his figurative wood carvings. This more developed landscape scene, done independently of his sculptural work, still reveals his primary interest in a sculpturally minded outlining of forms. Color, as watery wash, is added as a secondary element.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Daniel and Rita Fraad, Jr., 65.204.4
Reginald Marsh (American, 1898-1954)
Girl on Fourteenth Street, 1939
Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite on cream, thick, rough-textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Friends of Southern Vermont Artists, Inc., 39.414
Reginald Marsh (American, 1898-1954)
Train, 1930
Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite on cream, thick, moderately textured wove paper
The urban realist Reginald Marsh depicted modern New York life-burlesque theaters, crowded subways, popular beaches-in a variety of media. Watercolor allowed him to work quickly, a manner that he had developed as a newspaper and magazine illustrator. In this picture, he masterfully employed wet washes: he conveyed the sense of the train's velocity as it speeds through the landscape by letting wet paints bleed into each other, blurring the outlines.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Estate of Felicia Meyer Marsh, 79.85.1
Watercolor and Rural America
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, some artists turned to an almost reactionary realism, believing that art should treat recognizably American subjects and affirm traditional American values. It should be unpretentious, wholesome, even moral, and easy to understand. The Regionalists, artists who consciously left the cities to seek their subjects in rural America, shared a distrust of urban life, foreign influence, and industrialization. Following a centuries-old agrarian myth, they believed that life in the country-contact with nature and local customs-was healthier and happier.
Like many of the American Scene painters who depicted city life, Regionalists rejected traditional 19th-century modes of landscape as well as most modernist ideas and devices. Instead, they preferred unvarnished American subjects, recorded with an exaggerated sense of plainness. Drawn to rustic views, agricultural or ranching scenes, and dated small-town settings, they sought to embody an essential American simplicity. Thomas Hart Benton, for instance, turned his back on the abstract styles he had mastered as a young man and returned to the Midwest in 1935. He settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where he devoted himself to depicting everyday American life.
When these artists employed watercolor, they were deliberately aligning themselves with what many critics considered the tradition of Winslow Homer: art that was "vigorous, sturdy, natural, truthful, vital, and fresh." In fact, no one style of watercolor can lay claim to being more truthful or vital than another. These words simply fit the stereotype of American national identity during the 1930s. The apparent simplicity of many watercolors of this period, however, can be deceptive, because great skill was often required to achieve it.
Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967)
House at Riverdale, 1928
Watercolor with graphite sketch on white, medium-weight, rough-textured wove paper
Edward Hopper must have sketched this Victorian house in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. He studied art in New York and began his career there. Hopper's watercolors brought him his first acclaim in the early 1920s, particularly his brightly lit but stark images of the Victorian houses of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Deceptively simple, these works demonstrate Hopper's talent for spare compositions as well as his exceptional control of the washes with which he suggested the action of light on buildings and landscapes. In 1923, the Brooklyn Museum was the first institution to purchase a watercolor by Hopper.
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Anita Steckler, 2003.1
William Starkweather (American, born Scotland, 1879-1969)
Gulls at Shipwreck Bay, about 1927
Transparent watercolor with touches of opaque watercolor over graphite on white, thick, rough-textured wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 27.191
John Whorf (American, 1903-1959)
The Cabin-Tennessee, 1928
Watercolor over graphite on cream, thick, moderately textured, heavily sized wove paper
John Whorf developed as a watercolorist under the powerful influence of John Singer Sargent, whose works were often exhibited in the United States throughout the first decades of the 20th century. In this image of a sun-dappled cabin in rural Tennessee, Whorf emulated Sargent's use of freely brushed washes to describe the colorful tints of shifting shadows. Sargent apparently approved of Whorf's direction, because he purchased a watercolor from the young man's first solo exhibition in Boston in 1924.
Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund, 29.68
Adolf Arthur Dehn (American, 1895-1968)
Sea and Rocks, 1938
Watercolor and black medium (chalk, soft pencil, or conté crayon) on cream, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
Although best known as a lithographer who made caricatural figure subjects, Adolf Dehn also worked with other media and subjects, including watercolors of landscape. His primary experience with lithography, a black-and-white print medium, may have led him to emphasize strong contrasts of light and dark, enhanced here by areas of drawing with a soft pencil or chalk. This work is most impressive for Dehn's dynamic control of the dark washes that broadly but forcefully define the jutting rock cliffs.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 39.103
Milton Avery (American, 1893-1965)
Rider in Central Park, early 1930s
Watercolor with charcoal underdrawing on cream, moderately thick, rough-textured paper mounted to pulpboard
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Ivor Green and Augusta Green, 1992.271.9
Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975)
Lassoing Horses, 1931
Watercolor over graphite on cream, medium-weight, slightly textured wove paper mounted to a secondary paper
One of the leading figures of American Scene painting, Thomas Hart Benton traveled throughout the United States seeking what he perceived to be authentically American subject matter. After watching a rodeo in Wyoming, he made this watercolor. Its undulating lines and loose brushstrokes convey the energetic struggle between the horses and cowboys. This image served as the germ of one scene in Benton's The Arts of Life in America, a monumental mural cycle installed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1932.
Brooklyn Museum, John B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 35.948
Clarence Holbrook Carter (American, 1904-2000)
Sommer Brothers, Stoves and Hardware, 1928
Watercolor over graphite on off-white, thick, smooth-textured wove paper
Clarence Carter's "portrait" of the Sommer Brothers Hardware Store in Portsmouth, Ohio, exemplifies the rise of American Scene painting in the 1920s. Like other artists associated with this trend, he focused on images of rural or small-town locales. He described them in a deliberately simplified form of realism related to American folk art, which was then becoming popular. In this image, Carter commemorated a thriving commercial block-well-known throughout southern Ohio-that was later damaged beyond salvage in the 1937 Ohio River flood.
Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund, 29.65
William Sommer (American, 1867-1949)
Two Cows in the Farmyard, late 1930s
watercolor with ink and graphite on medium weight, smooth, wove paper
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of William and Bette-Ann Spielman, 1989.4.6
George Grosz (American, born Germany, 1893-1959)
Across the Lake, 1939
Watercolor on slightly textured, moderately thick, beige wove paper
By the time he immigrated to the United States in 1932, George Grosz had spent a decade painting shocking images that indicted the dissipation and moral corruption of Weimar Germany. These led to his condemnation by Hitler's Nazi government. Once in the U.S., Grosz began to paint landscapes and took up watercolor, experiencing the pleasure of painting without a political agenda. The liberated cursive touches of his watercolors differ significantly from the lurid tones and laboriously worked surfaces of his earlier oil paintings.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 41.515
Milton Avery (American, 1893-1965)
Road to the Sea, about 1938
Transparent watercolor with small touches of opaque watercolor over charcoal on off-white, moderately thick, rough-textured wove paper
In this view of the rolling coastline of Canada's rugged Gaspé Peninsula, parallel charcoal lines and strokes of blue wash together indicate the trees on a hillside. Like the modernist John Marin before him, Milton Avery described landscapes in a spare and summary way using a variety of precisely placed touches to suggest the key details of a place. Unlike Marin (whose work is on view nearby), however, Avery always anchored his shorthand details within a stable overall composition, given with a few simple outlines that extend to the edges of the sheet.
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection, 43.104
Edmund D. Lewandowski (American, 1914-1998)
Industrial Composition, 1939
Watercolor over graphite on off-white, moderately thick, rough-textured wove paper
In this watercolor, the artist reduced the factory structures of the Allis-Chalmers complex (an agricultural machinery manufactory outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin) to a flattened, abstracted arrangement of geometric shapes. Despite its limited palette and lack of a human presence, Industrial Composition evinces a sense of vitality through the syncopated patterns of lines and planes. Edmund Lewandowski celebrated the industrial landscapes of his native Midwest.
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 41.513

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