Exhibition: A Modern Perspective

Exhibition Information

Gold 34332 web exhibition cover

Albert Gold (1916-2006)
The Carousel

On exhibition August 15, 2015 - October 31, 2015

Currently on view we have a selection of over 20 works by Modernist artists. Hung on the heels of our Boston School show, this exhibition includes two examples by artists who participated in the ground-breaking International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York City. Commonly referred to as the 1913 Armory Show, this radical exhibition debuted the trends of the Post-Impressionist, Symbolist, Fauvist, Futurist and Cubist movements of Europe, bucking the biases of the more conservative Boston School artists. At the time called ‘pathological,’ ‘psychotic’ and ‘retrogressive,’ in hindsight the show found its success in scandal, and travelled from New York to Chicago to Boston jolting artists into a new dialogue with experimental forms and bold color choices. 

Despite the show’s adversarial attention in Boston, many local artists absorbed the theories and applied the exposure to their own work with unique flair. Charles Hopkinson, one of only seven Boston artists who participated in the show, wrote a letter in 1920 in defense of the movement, "Let us look at all these (modern) pictures with an open mind, a will to put ourselves in the artist’s place and a desire for free speech in painting…We have had one kind of painting in Boston for so long that many of these pictures seem strange and acid and rude; but are not these traits preferable to prettiness which is the besetting sin of American art and which is so often mistaken for beauty?" Hopkinson, an artist lauded for his distinguished mastery of portraiture (including a series of 45 portraits of Harvard presidents and over 350 commissions) applied his abstract approach most often to his bold watercolors, two of which are included in this exhibition. The artist has shared a long history with Vose Galleries, beginning in 1915 when we exhibited seven of his watercolors within a group show.

Marguerite Thompson met her future husband William Zorach at the Académie de La Palette, where she studied from 1908 to 1911. While in Paris, Marguerite associated with some of the most innovative minds of the day, including Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso. It was during this time, circa 1909, that she painted Open Market, in which she interprets the flurry of activity amid vendors and customers clustered among the stalls. Her early works are notable for their strong black outlines and bold, chromatic palette. Marguerite and William married in New York in 1912 and became forefront advocates for Modernism, both exhibiting in the 1913 Armory Show the following year. In 1916 they started taking summer retreats in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where they experimented even further with their materials and techniques.

Provincetown became a teaching hub for Modernist-leaning perspectives, and Charles Hawthorne's Cape Cod School of Art drew artists from all over the United States to the fishing village. The teacher urged his students to define form and mass not with careful line drawing but by applying tones using a palette knife to avoid capturing unnecessary detail, saying, "Get them (the colors) true and you will be surprised how little else you will need." As seen in Henry Hensche’s Provincetown Dock and Provincetown Street Scene, Hawthorne’s students applied his process to scenes honoring the average man or woman going about their day. Hensche became an instructor of Hawthorne’s school himself in 1928, teaching "block studies" that interpreted variations of light on a block, brick or box to garner an understanding of tonal relationships. Other coastal Massachusetts towns such as Gloucester and Rockport attracted forward-thinking artists intent on capturing slices of daily life, such as the street and wharf scenes of J. Jeffrey Grant, and Martha Walter’s Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts. It was during Walter’s time in Gloucester that she started to incorporate Impressionist brushwork, but with a palette of intense colors reminiscent of the Fauve painters, more aptly seen in The Swimming Pool, Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

Marion Huse absorbed Hawthorne’s lessons and applied them to humble urban environments in the mood of the time surrounding the Great Depression, such as in her 1932 painting Quebec Marketplace. In 1936 Huse began creating works adorning the walls of public buildings in Massachusetts as a relief measure for the WPA’s Federal Art Project, working beside artist Samuel Thal, whose dynamic style can be seen in Fluen Point, Marblehead, Massachusetts. Modernism found an unexpected outlet through the FAP, and artists took part in group exhibitions at the Federal Art Gallery at 50 Beacon Street. Exhibitor Albert Gold, known for his depictions of ordinary Americans often devastated by the times, painted circus scenes such as The Carousel in defiance of their hardships. When steep cuts to the Federal Arts Project were enacted in 1939, William Zorach wrote to President Roosevelt, arguing these were regressive steps in the recognition of artists as full contributors to society.  Speaking not only as an artist but specifically as a Modernist, Zorach argued that the FAP helped breach the 'old master' market, giving Modernists a stage to fully engage with their community.

Thomas Hart Benton, who had embraced the style after encountering the work of the Cubists and Synchronists in Paris, was producing Modernist paintings while living in New York in 1913. However, after serving in World War I he abandoned Modernism in favor of a more naturalistic depiction focused entirely on America and its people, rejecting Modernism as “foreign.” Benton became a leading American Regionalist artist, and in his autobiography, An Artist in America, he stated:  “It was in Martha’s Vineyard that I really began to mature my painting—to get a grip on my emerging style and way of doing things.” Benton spent much of his time depicting the people and scenery of Martha’s Vineyard, and the vibrant, jewel-like The Bicyclers reveals Benton’s skill in conjoining his colorful brand of realism with a personal and highly intuitive response to his environment. Benton considered Roger Medearis to be his finest pupil, and Medearis’ style reflects his teacher’s devotion to capturing an environment. Describing his approach to painting, Medearis explained, “I am a slow painter and devote to each painting all the time it seems to require. The whole purpose of art is excellence, and one good painting is better than 10,000 bad ones.”  Medearis produced polychromed bronze as studies to reflect the two-dimensional paintings he was working on, and we are offering the polychromed bronze along with the painting Summer Pastoral, which capture a scene near Fillmore, California, along Highway 23, just north of Los Angeles. He worked as slowly and patiently as needed for the perfection he sought, and as a result major paintings took months to complete and are extremely scarce. We invite you to view these colorful, bold American Modernist works on the lower level of our gallery through October 31st, 2015.