American Art Awards recently named Stanford Fine Art the “Best Gallery in Tennessee” and one of the top 25 in the nation. We are excited to have earned this accolade for our years of service providing quality, time-tested art to our clients in the Nashville area and Southeast region.
As the end of summer nears, I thought that this painting by Max Silbert would be a fun one to take a second look at. It’s of a French peasant girl, sitting on the coast. She is absorbed in the task at hand, likely weaving wildflowers, while her dog watches the grazing sheep. The scene is scattered with soft dappled light, and our gaze is easily drawn into the not-so-distant sailboats. This peasant girl is at her day’s work, but Silbert has created an overwhelming sense of leisure. A perfect painting for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend!
This painting is also an ideal one for pointing out what the right frame can do to enhance an already-enchanting piece. “A Summer Day by the Sea” is housed in a carved, gilded, French frame replete with shell motifs at the corners and cartouches and a sweeping, curved silhouette. It even gives a lace-like effect, with open spaces at portions of the carving. The lightness and delicacy of this frame help to accentuate the dappled lighting in the scene, the soft hillside of wildflowers, and even the curly fluff of the sheeps’ wool. Edgar Degas was right when he said “the frame is the reward of the artist”!
You know how a good book can take you to an entirely different world? I’d like to think that a painting can do the same. Like with literature, that place can be imagined, or like with history writing, it can be one person’s perspective on real events. Today’s conversing paintings interact with each other in an artistic sense, but they also take us, the viewer, to specific places.
Charles Neal’s “View to Cerney House” and James King Bonnar’s “Emily Post’s Home,” both show us the garden that sets the stage for the home behind it. Both use the horizontal lines of the fence – stone or white picket – as compositional elements. In most other ways, though, these paintings are very different.
Neal’s is awash with vibrant color, subtly leading us along a garden path to the house in the distance. His technique in this picture is almost pointillist. Bonnar’s garden is tame, it is bounded by the fence and the house behind. The scene’s depth is cut short by the presence of the whole house. It’s a very proper painting, as would be fitting for a rendering of Emily Post’s house! These two artists have chosen to paint their landmark home and garden in very different ways.
Both saw fit to include a signifier of the landmark in the title, though, allowing us to use our imaginations and this visual aid to take an adventure to another place. While researching these paintings, I was delighted to find this video of Cerney House gardens, and this article on Emily Post’s home on Martha’s Vineyard. Enjoy the links and come into the gallery to see the paintings firsthand!
We’ve recently put up a new exhibition in the gallery: “Impressions of Spring.” It has been fun to discover the themes in Stanford Fine Art’s collection that have come to light in the hanging of the exhibition. My intention on the blog for the next few weeks is to highlight a few of these themes, or as I like to say these “conversations” that paintings have with one another when they “hang [out]” together.
This week’s pairing is John Franklin Stacey’s “Summer Afternoon” and James Topping’s “Windswept Landscape.” Interestingly enough, both artists lived and exhibited in Chicago around the same time in the early twentieth century. We do not know for certain if they knew each other, but since both concentrated in landscape painting and exhibited regularly at the Art Institute of Chicago, we can guess that the artists themselves may have had a conversation or two.
What I find so intriguing is that while both of these are distinctively landscape paintings, they are not remiss of details of human civilization. A home and stone fence hide in the foreground of Topping’s painting, and the intersection of a man-made bridge and a lush, green tree is actually central in Stacey’s work. The haystack in Stacey’s painting and the fence in Topping’s are subtle reminders of agricultural work. These are grand scenes of nature, enhanced by both artists’ use of loose, impressionist brushwork. And, the small signs of civilization tell us that this was a nature enjoyed by real people, and not just our artists. How wonderful that these works have made it into the 21st century for us to enjoy as well!
This week I want to take a closer look at Charles Jean Agard’s Mere et Fille dans le Jardin. Women in the garden inspired countless European and American paintings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. What I find so charming about this one is the inter-generational connection. We see what appears to be a mother and daughter picking flowers.
Springtime and its characteristic blossoming flowers are of course a symbolic reminder of new life. Agard has compositionally reinforced this by turning the mother away from us. While we can tell that she is still young, she stoops and picks flowers, foreshadowing the day when she will be elderly. Furthermore, her bright pink dress causes her to blend in with the flowers. The star of the show, the new flower in bloom, is the young girl who faces us. Her white dress stands out against strong pinks and greens. She stays near to her mother, though, almost completely in her shadow, reminding us of the coadjuvant relationship between the old and the new.
Agard was a French painter, friend, and fellow-exhibitor of several Impressionist and post-Impressionists. He was active in the 1880s and 1890s, a time when American artists were flocking to Paris and the French countryside for experience and inspiration.
Robert Vonnoh painted a similar subject in Grez-sur-long during his time in France in 1890. The painting, now in the Terra Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, features a peasant woman and her young child reaching up to admire the blossoms on a tree. Vonnoh, too, gives us a structural reference with the building in the background, but focuses on the lively spring garden and the relationship between mother and child. Read more about his painting here.
Impressionist painters are known for their adherence to plein-air painting. They first took the opportunity to practice this technique in the suburbs of Paris starting in the 1870s and 1880s. Growing efficiency of rail travel and secularization of Parisian life were two factors driving city-dwellers out to the suburbs for a weekend day-trip to socialize, stroll through nature, and go boating. Rowing is a favorite subject among late-19th century French paintings. Some of the most famous that first come to mind are Monet & Renior’s docks at La Grenouillere, Morisot’s Summer Afternoon, and Renior’s Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Stanford Fine Art recently acquired Leisurely Boating by Gustave Mascart. It has a traditional composition, but adopts this very modern subject of a day on the water on the outskirts of Paris. We see men of varied classes occupying two boats in the foreground, enjoying the sunshine and hoping for a bite on their fishing lines. A fashionable couple walks along the riverside path to the left. They face us, but as we follow the path we imagine they took, we pass another woman and a pair on horseback before seeing the village they’ve come from in the distance. Mascart gives us just enough cues to make any number of stories about this scene. Come by the gallery and let us know what you think of it!