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Reflections on Water in American Painting exhibition at the Flint Institute of Arts
Anton Otto Fischer (American 1882–1962), Summer Seas, oil on canvas, 1945, 26 x 32 inches.
FLINT, MI.- The Flint Institute of Arts will opened two exhibitions on April 6 that pay homage to America’s waterways and the vessels that navigated them. Sponsored by Citizens Bank, the exhibition: Reflections on Water in American Painting from the Arthur J. Phelan Collection includes 50 paintings, ranging in dates from 1828 to 1945, that trace more than a century of America’s maritime and seaside history.

The masterful renderings of sailboats, warships, waterside towns, waterscapes, harbor scenes and playful portrayals of beach life presented in the exhibition allow the viewer to identify with all facets of life on and by the water. Represented are grand academic-style portraits of graceful naval ships and waterscapes from the sea to the American heartland, light-flooded impressionist visions of quaint seaside towns, and modernist renderings of industrialization and every-day life.

The underlying theme of the exhibition reflects changes in American attitudes towards our most important resource, from the endless supply of water and land the first settlers found and the dominant role ships played in fostering growth and trade, to the changes that have occurred in the post-industrial age. It subtly raises the question (of particular interest to residents of the Great Lakes Region) of what will happen to this resource in the 21st century.

A second exhibition, Ship Shape: Models of Great Lakes Vessels from the collection of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit, explores the art of model ships through many examples of varying shapes and sizes. Model shipbuilding is an endangered folk art and an important part of our Great Lakes maritime culture. The ship models represent a diversity of model style and ship type, ranging from steamboats and schooners to freighters and frigates.

As a complement to the aforementioned exhibitions, the FIA will also present Great Lakes Painting: The Inlander Collection. The collection, on permanent loan from the Isabel Foundation, is defined geographically, featuring artists who worked in those states surrounding the Great Lakes Basin. The half-century of time represented in these paintings by artists such as Charles Burchfield and Edmund Brucker is arguably a period of the greatest changes to the land, its people, their work and their play. Intense observation of an evolving region combined with the personal commitment to portray the American heartland led to the creation by these artists of images with a distinct regional character.

All three exhibitions will continue through June 16.

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