The Clark Institute Receives a Donation of Sixteen Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings


1. George Inness (1825–1894)
Road to the Village, Milton, 1880
Oil on Panel - 55.9 x 86.4 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

4/9/13 - Acquisitions - Williamstown, The Sterling and Francis Clark Institute - A couple of private collectors, Frank and Katherine Martucci, recently donated sixteen late 19th and early 20th century works to the Clark Institute. Among these, eight paintings by George Inness join the two canvases once acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, Gathering Wood. A Fall Afternoon and House in Montclair. One dates from 1891 and reflects Corot’s lingering influence ; the other is from 1892 and shows the artist’s home in New Jersey covered in snow, a subject often found in his paintings.
The ten paintings are currently hanging together in the same room until 8 September. Produced between 1880 and 1894, they all belong to the artist’s late period and illustrate his evolution toward a more spiritual approach of nature, marked by the writing of the Swede Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).


2. George Inness (1825–1894)
Elm Tree, c. 1880
Oil on Canvas - 30.8 x 25.4 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

3. George Inness (1825–1894)
Autumn in Montclair, c. 1894
Oil on Canvas - 73.7 x 91.1 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute


The artist stayed several times in Milton, Massachusetts (ill. 1), as well as in Montclair, New Jersey where he finally bought a house where he settled down permanently in 1884, while still keeping his studio in New York. The motifs of the elm and the white house are recurring themes in his work, and appear in fact in two of the paintings donated to the Clark Institute, one was quickly brushed in (ill. 2) and is no doubt a study done in the painter’s studio, while the other is a fall landscape which is almost hazy and dreamlike (ill. 3), executed about 1894.
Inness liked to travel and took many trips throughout his lifetime, visiting the United States and Europe, particularly Rome and Florence, as well as France, where he was influenced by the Barbizon school. He was in fact considered one of the leading figures of Tonalism.


4. George Inness (1825–1894)
New Jersey Landscape, 1891
Oil on Canvas - 76.2 x 114.3 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

5. George Inness (1825–1894)
Green Landscape,1886
Oil on Canvas - 76.8 x 102.6 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute


However, in the last years of his life, he attempted to convey an atmosphere, rather than a real landscape, despite the titles of the works which often give a specific nameplace. The spectator is encouraged to contemplate the scene, not identify it. Inness himself said that reality should be suggested but that it can never be shown.

6. George Inness (1825–1894)
Pastoral, c. 1882–1885
Oil on Canvas - 76.2 x 114.3 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

His misty landscapes (ill. 4), the soft shapes, the subtle shading of the colors (ill. 5) strive to evoke the harmony of the real and the spiritual worlds. Pastoral (ill. 6) illustrates a boy in a boat taking his cattle down a river, while an ethereal woman in white appears in the distance, in contrast with the everyday reality of the cowherde and his animals. Inness interprets here the traditional pastoral theme, adapting it to the English countryside, found in Scene in Durham (ill. 7), The Road to the Village (ill. 1) and also Green Landscape (ill. 5).
The artist sometimes redid work on his canvases years later as indicated by the different dates inscribed on the paintings. Thus, it took him three years to finish Scene in Durham, changing the moment represented during the day ; to go from early to late afternoon, he added orange to the horizon, darkened the rocks, enlarged the shadows of the leaves. This play on shadows and theatrical lighting is even more obvious in Sunrise in the Woods (ill. 8), where the details of the composition emerge only after close observation : a silhouette on the left is leading some cattle, the bark on a tree trunk is outlined by the direct sunlight.


7. George Inness (1825–1894)
Scene at Durham, and Pastoral, 1882–1885
Oil on Canvas - 101.6 x 76.2 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

8. George Inness (1825–1894)
Sunrise in the Wood, 1887
Oil on Canvas - 50.8 x 76.2 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute


The other works donated by Frank and Katherine Martucci are mostly genre scenes which all reflect the evolution of the painters in the Naturalism current : some emphasize it more, others distance themselves from it.
Prisoner of State by Jonathan Eastman Johnson (ill. 9) was exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1874. Johnson trained in Boston under a lithographer before leaving for Düsseldorf in 1849 where he met the American painter Emanuel Leutze, then went on to The Hague where he studied the old masters and notably the Dutch genre scene. He then stayed in Paris, alongside Couture, before returning to the United States in 1855, concentrating on typically American genre scenes - peasants, Indians, the black community - though not forgetting the bourgeoisie in private moments, thus becoming a chronicler of American culture. In one painting, he shows a prisoner looking out the window with a bird, the symbol of freedom, perched on the edge. A literary reference thus makes its way into this canvas, inspired by Richard Lovelace (1618-1658) in some of his most famous lines : To Althea, from Prison : "Stone walls do not a prison make/ Nor iron bars a cage. Minds innocent and quiet take/ That for an hermitage."


9. Eastman Johnson (1824–1906)
Prisoner of the State, 1874
Oil on Panel - 67.3 x 55.9 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

10. Gaston La Touche (1854–1913)
The Suitor, 1900
Oil on Panel - 80.6 x 76.2 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute


Another artist, Gaston La Touche, seized a fleeting moment in a canvas entitled The Suitor [1]. (ill. 10) : a woman with her back turned is holding out her hands to a male figure who is kissing them, barely visible through a half-open door. The natural grace of this young woman - the nape of her neck and her nude shoulders, the fluid whiteness of her robe - is enhanced by the rich interior in which she appears, entirely gilt, and for which the mirror does not reflect any distinct image. La Touche, who initially painted realist scenes, at times dark and of a social nature, changed his manner following the advice of Félix Bracquemond, choosing livelier colors and lighter subjects ; some of the compositions which made him so popular were inspired directly by Watteau’s "fêtes galantes" or Boucher’s genre scenes.


11. Mosè Bianchi (1840–1904)
La Capraja Gignese
Pencil and Watercolor on Paper - 55.2 x 34.9 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

12. Mosè Bianchi (1840–1904)
Mother and Child, c. 1885
Watercolor on Paper - 61 x 43.2 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute


The donation includes an Italian, Mosè Bianchi, with four works on paper and a preparatory study on wood (ill. 11 to 15). They give us an idea of the artist’s "oeuvre", first of all thanks to the diversity of the techniques - watercolor, charcoal, crayon - and by the subjects, mostly dominated by female figures. Bianchi, who studied at the Brera Academy in Milan, began his career in a more academic style and with history paintings then turned to the genre scene, producing works comparable to those of Domenico Induno and the Macchiaioli. During a stay in Paris in 1869, he saw the works of the realist painters, particularly those by Meissonier. After this, he illustrated many descriptions of the lagoon in Venice and its visitors, as seen in the study Crossing the Lagoon, preparatory for a painting in Milan today.


13. Mosè Bianchi (1840–1904)
Girl Reading, c. 1880
Pastel on Paper - 48.3 x 38.1 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

14. Mosè Bianchi (1840–1904),
Model with Headdress
Black Chalk on paper - 31 x 21.9 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute


Finally, a watercolor by Mondrian dating from 1905 (ill. 16) represents a farm near a river, hidden behind some trees. This is the Gein, which flows south of Amsterdam, as pointed out in the inscription left by the artist on the back of the sheet. An early work, it was produced before the artist left for Paris in 1911.


15. Mosè Bianchi (1840–1904)
Study Crossing the Lagoon, c. 1885.
Oil on Panel - 34.9 x 50.8 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute

16. Piet Mondrian (1872–1944)
Farm Near a River, Hidden Behind Some Trees, c. 1905
Watercolor on Paper - 53.7 x 74 cm
Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Photo : Clark Institute


His somber palette and his naturalist approach of the landscape still place Mondrian in The Hague School whose leading figures were notably Jacob and Willem Maris. The painter used this motif several times, hesitating between a traditional style recalling Barbizon and a more modern manner, tempted by the simplification of forms. The artist would later criticize these early works which he found capricious ; and yet, in this watercolor he was already synthezising the tree motif ; their frail silhouettes, extended in the reflection of the water, trace a grid on the sheet, a first step towards abstraction.

Version française


Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mardi 10 septembre 2013


Notes

[1] 5/9/13 : Mr. Franck Paquotte pointed out to us that the room represented in the painting by La Touche corresponds to the "salon doré" of Madame Adelaïde, at the château in Versailles. Furthermore, we also catch a glimpse of two folding stools brought to the château by Louis-Philippe, probably those of the salon of the Duchesse de Berry at the Tuileries palace.



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