Art of the Everyman:
American Folk Art from the Fenimore Art Museum
June 6 through September 21, 2014
American folk art appealed to early 20th century collectors entranced with the idea of the rural everyman as both a historic ideal and a source of aesthetic inspiration. Drawn from the renowned collections at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY, this exhibitions highlights the ways that both aspects of this character drove important collectors to pursue objects for their historical resonance—painted portraits, genre scenes, and political emblems offering insight into bygone ways of life—and their aesthetic value—useful and decorative objects reflecting the simplified forms and stylized ornament appealing to a modern eye.
Thistles and Crowns:
The Painted Chests of the Connecticut Shore
June 6 through September 21, 2014
History can be found in the objects of everyday life passed down through generations. Richly decorated with inexpensive tools, this unique group of painted chests made along the Connecticut shoreline in the early 18th century stands as a testament to the ingenuity of the craftsmen who incorporated wide-ranging stylistic influences and decorative symbols into useful furniture made of humble materials.
A concurrent series of exhibitions highlighting the contributions of three American women artists in Connecticut
October 3 through January 25, 2015
“Forever Seeing New Beauties:” The Art of Mary Rogers Williams
When she died unexpectedly in Florence, Italy, at the age of fifty, Mary Rogers Williams (1857–1907) descended into an obscurity not unlike that faced by generations of women artists. Despite an active career as a painter, pastellist, and teacher, Williams's contributions to the understanding of Tonalism in America were forgotten by all but a few who had believed in her work during her life and made an effort to preserve it after her death. This exhibition recovers Williams and her works and examines them as contributions to the American Tonalist movement as well as expressions of the artistic heritage of her native Connecticut. Williams, born and trained in Hartford, became the second in command of the art department at Smith College, serving under another Hartford artist, the landscape painter Dwight Tryon. Like Tryon, Williams viewed the landscape through a subjective lens, picking up on the subtle moods of nature. During her summers off from teaching, she also traveled extensively, visiting Norway, Italy, and England. In Europe, she sought out leading artists such as Whistler, learning from him the power of gently evocative landscapes. Back in New England, Williams translated these lessons to her students and exemplified them in the works she exhibited at venues such as the American Watercolor Society, the National Academy of Design, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. At the same time, Williams excelled at portraiture, depicting Connecticut notables such as the antiquarian George Dudley Seymour and friends, including fellow artist and Lyme Art Colony member Henry C. White, who would play a crucial role in preserving her work after her untimely death. Williams’ portraits incisively capture the spirit of her sitters and blend it with a stylistic sensibility of attenuated forms, strong contours, and unexpected colors.
Modern Figures: Mary Knollenberg Sculptures
This is the first retrospective of the work of sculptor Mary Tarleton Knollenberg (1904-1992) since her death. Knollenberg trained with sculptor Mahonri Young, who encouraged her to go to Paris, and later with animal sculptor Heinz Warnecke in East Haddam, CT. During sojourns to Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, she befriended artists such as Gaston Lachaise and Guy Pene duBois, just a couple of the many creative people drawn to Knollenberg during her life. Her friends eventually included William Zorach, Lincoln Kirstein, Reginald Marsh, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, and photographer Walker Evans.
Kari Russell-Pool: Self-Portraits in Glass
Kari Russell–Pool (b. 1967) sculpts delicate rods of glass into complex forms. Taking the shape of Greek amphorae and Victorian teapots, pet-store birdcages and sailor’s valentines, her work interweaves historic forms and everyday objects with complex ideas to represent the different facets of her life as an artist, mother, thinker, wife, and daughter.