When: May 8 - July 26, 2009
About the ShowArtists have treasured the free-flowing, luminous qualities of watercolor for centuries. However, only in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth centuries did this medium come into its own with works by English and French artists. The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center has extraordinary works by many of these artists in the permanent collection, a majority of which were original gifts from Matthew Vassar, who acquired them from trustee Elias Lyman Magoon. Featured in the exhibition from this period are light-filled watercolors by J. M. W. Turner, John Ruskin, John Sell Cotman, John Webber, Anthony Vandyke Copley, Joseph Michael Gandy, Augustin Pugin, and Charles-Louis Clerisseau. Their sun-cloaked landscapes, picturesque ruins, and architectural views form poetic documents to their makers’ creative talents and to the era’s insistence on keen observation.
Watercolor also thrived in the modern period. In the late nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth century, artists, both European and American, chose watercolor to expand their expressive descriptive range in highly detailed landscapes and portraits. Sterling examples in the exhibition are by William Trost Richards, with his lovingly rendered, atmospheric scenes of England, and Hilda Belcher, in a highly polished, casual portrait of a woman in a checkered dress, perhaps a portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe. With the abrupt rise of modernism in the early years of the twentieth century, watercolor served as an expressionist means, but it also served as a way to build glowing shapes important for their own formal properties. Modernist watercolor is a rich vein in the collection, and the exhibition features vital works from this era by John Marin, Oscar Bluemner, and Charles Demuth. The exhibition concludes with later watercolors by Nell Blaine, Jim Dine, Jane Freilicher, and Andrew Wyeth.