Exhibitions: Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent and the American Watercolor Movement

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    Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent and the American Watercolor Movement

    • Dates: May 7, 1998 through August 23, 1998
    • Collections: American Art
    Press Releases ?
    • November 1997: Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent, and the American Watercolor Movement, drawn entirely from the Museum’s renowned permanent collection, will present for the first time in nearly fifteen years some one hundred fifty works by American masters from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The exhibition, on view March 20 through July 5, 1998, celebrates the one hundred seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Museum’s collections by highlighting an area in which the Brooklyn Museum of Art was an early pioneer. The Museum’s two landmark purchases of watercolors by John Singer Sargent (1909) and Winslow Homer (1912) established the foundation of what is today one of the largest and most important public collections of American watercolors, a collection that documents two centuries of changing attitudes toward this challenging yet accessible medium. While rich holdings of Sargent and Homer are among the Museum’s best-known treasures, they represent only a fraction of this fine historical collection, which begins in the late eighteenth century and contains representatives of every major movement into the middle of this century.

      Masters of Color and Light
      is organized as a chronological thematic survey from 1777 to 1980. Among the early watercolors to be shown are examples by topographical artists such as George Beck, William Guy Wall, George Harvey, and Fanny Palmer, who recorded American landscape and city views often intended for publication as prints. Works after 1870 will feature such prominent artists as William T. Richards, Homer, Thomas Eakins, Thomas Moran, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Sargent, who used watercolor for highly finished and often large exhibition pieces. In the twentieth century, artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, Stuart Davis, Mark Rothko, and Sam Francis have interpreted the medium as a brilliant vehicle for modernist and avant-garde interests.

      A fully illustrated catalogue written by BMA curators Linda S. Ferber and Barbara Dayer Gallati will accompany the exhibition. This will be the first major publication devoted to the history and highlights of the collection. The volume will be published by the Museum in association with the Smithsonian Institution Press. An illustrated brochure will also be available in the exhibition gallery free of charge. In addition, the Museum will host educational programs for children, families, and adults. These will include free gallery talks, studio art classes, an educators’ open house, and drop-in workshops for adults and children.

      Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent, and the American Watercolor Movement is made possible, in part, by the Ronald H. Cordover Family Foundation, the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Milberg, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Ottaway, Jr., Mrs. Hugh Tatlock, and Françoise and Harvey Rambach.

      Funds for the catalogue were provided through the generosity of The Overbrook Foundation, as well as a publications endowment created by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

      Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1995 - 2003. 1997, 157-158. View Original 1 . View Original 2

    • January 1998: Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent, and the American Watercolor Movement has been postponed and is now scheduled to be on view May 8 through August 23, 1998. The change has been made to accommodate a late addition to the spring calendar, Jewels of the Romanovs: Treasures of the Russian Imperial Court, which will open at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, where it will be the final United States venue before the 200 objects, including the Russian crown jewels, return to Moscow. That exhibition, drawn from five Russian museums, will open on March 20, 1998, and will run through July 5, 1998.

      The long-planned watercolor exhibition will include 150 seldom-seen masterpieces created between the late eighteenth and the mid-twentieth century, all drawn from the Museum’s exceptional holdings of American watercolors. A fully illustrated catalogue written [by] BMA curators Linda S. Ferber and Barbara Dayer Gallati will accompany the exhibition.

      Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent, and the American Watercolor Movement celebrates the one hundred seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Museum’s collections by highlighting an area in which the Brooklyn Museum of Art was an early pioneer. The Museum’s two landmark purchases of watercolors by John Singer Sargent (1909) and Winslow Homer (1912) established the foundation of what is today one of the largest and most important public collections of American watercolors, a collection that documents two centuries of changing attitudes toward this challenging yet accessible medium. While rich holdings of Sargent and Homer are among the Museum’s best-known treasures, they represent only a fraction of this fine historical collection, which begins in the late eighteenth century and contains representatives of every major movement into the middle of this century.

      Masters of Color and Light is organized as a chronological thematic survey from 1777 to 1980. Among the early watercolors to be shown are examples by topographical artists such as George Beck, William Guy Wall, George Harvey, and Fanny Palmer, who recorded American landscape and city views often intended for publication as prints. Works after 1870 will feature such prominent artists as William T. Richards, Homer, Thomas Eakins, Thomas Moran, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Sargent who used watercolor for highly finished and often large exhibition pieces. In the twentieth century, artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, Stuart Davis, Mark Rothko, and Sam Francis have interpreted the medium as a brilliant vehicle for modernist and avant-garde interests.

      The catalogue to the exhibition will be the first major publication devoted to the history and highlights of the collection. The volume will be published by the Museum in association with the Smithsonian Institution Press. An illustrated brochure will also be available in the exhibition gallery free of charge. In addition, the Museum will host educational programs for children, families, and adults. These will include free gallery talks, studio art classes, an educators’ open house, and drop-in workshops for adults and children.

      Masters of Colors and Light: Homer, Sargent, and the American Watercolor Movement
      is made possible with the generous support of Aetna.

      Additional support has been provided by the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Foundation, the Ronald H. Cordover Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Milberg, Mr. and Mrs. John S. Tamagni, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Ottaway, Jr., Mrs. Hugh Tatlock, and Françoise and Harvey Rambach.

      Funds for the catalogue were also provided through the generosity of The Overbrook Foundation and Furthermore, the Publication Program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, as well as a publications endowment created by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

      Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1995 - 2003. 01-06/1998, 001-3. View Original 1 . View Original 2 . View Original 3

    • February 1998: Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent, and the American Watercolor Movement presents 141 works selected from the Museum’s world-renowned permanent collection of nearly 800 watercolors. It will be on view from May 8 through August 23, 1998, in the fourth-floor galleries of the Schapiro Wing. Because of the medium’s extreme sensitivity to light, this will be the first time in fifteen years that the Museum’s watercolors will be show-cased in a major exhibition. Some of the works included have not been on public view in several decades.

      In addition to exhibiting large portions of its famed holdings of the work of watercolor masters Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, the exhibition provides a survey of artistic activity in the medium, ranging from the 1777 Narrows at Lake George by amateur painter Captain William Pierie to Paul Jenkins’ 1980 Phenomena Ever After.

      Masters of Color and Light is organized as a chronological overview highlighting major trends in the use of watercolor, tracing its rise from its initial, secondary status as the medium of choice for amateurs through the twentieth century, when, for a time, critics declared it the “American medium.” Interwoven within this chronology is the history of the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s role as pioneer in the acquisition and promotion of American watercolors, beginning with its landmark purchases of eighty-three Sargent watercolors in 1909 and twelve Homer watercolors in 1912 and continuing through its important series of watercolor biennials held from 1921 to 1963, from which significant works were purchased for the collection—among them Charles Burchfield’s February Thaw, Edward Hopper’s Mansard Roof, and Mark Rothko’s Vessels of Magic.

      The topographical tradition is featured in some of the earliest paintings on display by artists such as George Beck, William Guy Wall, and Fanny Palmer whose principal aims were to record urban and rural landscape views, which were often ultimately intended for publication as prints. The use of watercolor as a preparatory means is also explored in the context of studies by the Grand Manner portraitist Thomas Sully and small but elaborately worked compositional studies by James Brooks for his monumental mural Flight in the Marine Air Terminal at New York’s La Guardia Airport.

      Watercolor’s rise to greater stature within the arts hierarchy was signaled in the 1850s and 1860s largely by American artists’ responses to the influence of English critic and amateur watercolorist John Ruskin. This was manifested especially in the work of the American Pre-Raphaelites, among them John Henry Hill, John William Hill, W. T. Richards, and Henry Roderick Newman, whose minutely described transcriptions of nature materially demonstrate the moral value of hard work and the conviction that beauty resides in the humblest of nature’s creations.

      Watercolor activity quickly gained momentum with the 1866 founding of the American Society of Painters in Water Colors (later called the American Watercolor Society), and it is in the context of that organization’s annual exhibitions that the concept of the American Watercolor Movement evolved. During the 1880s watercolor came into its own, as witnessed by the fact that hundreds of major artists—including Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, John La Farge, and Robert Blum—were vying for wall space at the society’s exhibitions. Remarkable works by these artists and many more will be on view, testifying to the wide-ranging appeal the medium held during what may be called watercolor’s first golden age in America.

      Watercolor’s growing popularity inspired spirited debates about the relative merits of painting in oil or watercolor, which, in turn, led to a proliferation of extraordinarily large works called exhibition watercolors. Often executed in gouache (opaque watercolor) and intended to compete with oils aesthetically and on the market, these works stirred extended arguments among artists and critics about the virtues of “pure” or transparent watercolor as opposed to more liberal technical methods. Among the major players in these critical debates were Albert Fitch Bellows and W. T. Richards, both of whom are represented by outstanding examples of their work in this vein.

      Watercolor painting enjoyed a “renaissance” of sorts in the 1920s and 1930s, spurred by the creative energies of such modernists as John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Arthur Dove. In the opinion of many critics, their watercolors not only demonstrated their individual artistic accomplishments but also proved the existence of a true watercolor tradition that was based in national ideals traceable to the work of Winslow Homer. Nationalist issues often drove evaluations of watercolor production and yielded sometimes passionate declarations that watercolor was the American medium. In that atmosphere, the formerly (and currently) highly regarded watercolors of John Singer Sargent were temporarily eclipsed because of their cosmopolitan (i.e., foreign) style and subject matter.

      In addition to displaying major works by the artists mentioned above, the exhibition also examines the art of many artists whose names are excluded from the established canon or standard that currently exists for the history of twentieth-century American watercolor. Among them are Dodge Mac[K]night, whose watercolors shared the spotlight with those of Homer and Sargent in the 1920s; Leon Carroll, who was once considered O’Keeffe’s closest rival; and Waldo Mootz[k]a and Louis Lom[a]ye[s]va, two Hopi tribesmen, whose art is placed in the context of the emergence of various schools of Native American watercolorists in the American Southwest in the 1920s and 1930s.

      A fully illustrated catalogue written by BMA curators Linda S. Ferber and Barbara Dayer Gallati accompanies the exhibition and provides new scholarship on the lively and complex history of the patronage and critical reception of watercolor in America.

      Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent, and the American Watercolor Movement is made possible with the generous support of Aetna. Critical support also has been provided by the Overbrook Foundation, the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Foundation, the Ronald H. Cordover Family Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Milberg. Additional funds were provided by Mr. and Mrs. John S. Tamagni, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Ottaway, Jr., Mrs. Hugh Tatlock, and Françoise and Harvey Rambach.

      Support for the catalogue also was provided through the generosity of Furthermore, the Publication Program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, and a publications endowment created by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

      Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1995 - 2003. 01-06/1998, 076-79. View Original 1 . View Original 2 . View Original 3 . View Original 4

    • May 1998: The Director and Board of Trustees
      invite you to a
      Members Preview Reception

      Thursday, May 7, 1998
      6-9 p.m.

      Please respond by May 1
      with enclosed card


      Brooklyn Museum of Art
      Special Events Office
      200 Eastern Parkway
      Brooklyn, New York 11238-6052
      Telephone (718) 638-5000

      Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent, and the American Watercolor Movement is made possible with the generous support of Aetna.

      Leadership support has been provided by the Overbrook Foundation, the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Foundation, the Ronald H. Cordover Family Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Milberg.

      Additional funds were provided by Mr. and Mrs. John S. Tamagni, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Ottaway, Jr., Mrs. Hugh Tatlock, and Françoise and Harvey Rambach.

      Support for the catalogue also was provided through the generosity of Furthermore, the Publication Program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, and a publications endowment created by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

      This exhibition is on view until August 23.

      Membership Preview:
      Direct motorcoach service to the Brooklyn Museum of Art will depart from the northwest corner of 5th Avenue and 73rd Street at 5:30 p.m. and the southeast corner of Broadway and Houston Street at 6 p.m. Return service will depart from the Museum at 8:45 p.m. The fare is $3 one way and $5 round trip, to be paid on the bus. To reserve seating, call (718) 638-5000, ext. 327.

      Directions:

      Subway: 2 or 3 to Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum. 4 or 5 to Nevins Street, cross platform to 2 or 3.
      Bus: B71 stops in front of the Museum.
      Car: Take Brooklyn Bridge, left onto Tillary Street, right onto Flatbush Avenue to Grand Army Plaza to Eastern Parkway. Free parking in an attended lot is directly behind the Museum.

      Visitors may purchase a light supper at the Museum’s Café Prospekt, which will be open from 6 to 9 p.m.

      Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1989 - 1994. 01-06/1991, 073-74. View Original 1 . View Original 2

    Press Coverage of this Exhibition ?

    • ART REVIEW; Shaping America's Self-ImageMay 8, 1998 By HOLLAND COTTERHolland Cotter reviews Brooklyn Museum's exhibit Masters of Color and Light: Homer, Sargent and the American Watercolor Movement; photos; 140 paintings on view are all from museum's own collection (M)
    • ART GUIDEMay 15, 1998 "Here is a selective listing by critics of The Times of new or noteworthy art, design and photography exhibitions at New York City museums and art galleries this weekend. Galleries, unless otherwise noted, are in Manhattan and are open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 or 11 A.M. to 5 or 6 P.M.; gallery admission is free. * denotes a highly..."
    • ART GUIDEMay 29, 1998 "Here is a selective listing by critics of The Times of new or noteworthy art, design and photography exhibitions at New York City museums and art galleries this weekend. Galleries, unless otherwise noted, are in Manhattan and are open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 or 11 A.M. to 5 or 6 P.M.; gallery admission is free. * denotes a highly..."
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    The Brooklyn Museum Archives maintains a collection of historical press releases. Many of these have been scanned and made available on our Web site. The releases range from brief announcements to extensive articles; images of the original releases have been included for your reference. Please note that all the original typographical elements, including occasional errors, have been retained. Releases may also contain errors as a result of the scanning process. We welcome your feedback about corrections.
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