American Portraits: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum
, the fourth in a series of special exhibitions drawn exclusively from the Parrishs collection, will showcase some of the truly exceptional works of art in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, and photography that illustrate the many and varied ways in which artists approach portraiture. The exhibition, organized by Alicia Longwell, Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator, Art and Education, will open October 16 and remain on view through November 27.
William Sidney Mounts Portrait of Mrs. Manice (1833) is the earliest painting in the Parrish collection and a strong example of the importance of portrait painting in the early years of the nation, assigning both status and prominence to the sitter. Mount painted many of Long Islands best known citizens, and this work, while recalling Renaissance models, remains resolutely American. William Merritt Chase made his reputation in painting in the late nineteenth century, becoming the most highly-regarded and prolific portrait painter of his day. Yet, it is the intimate portraits of his family that are his finest achievements, and the exhibition will include outstanding examples from the Parrishs renowned holdings.
Fairfield Porters mid-twentieth century depictions of his family in domestic settings often impart a psychological portrait .Their house on South Main Street in the Village of Southampton was the setting for many of these works. Photographer Dawoud Beys astonishing four-part 20 x 24 Polaroid portrait Anthony (1999), made during an artists residency at the Parrish, brings multiple facets of the sitter, a Southampton teenager, into sharper focus. And a telling portrait by Elizabeth Peyton of her friend and fellow artist Ben Brunnemer, Ben Drawing (2001), a colored-pencil sketch on hotel stationery, deftly captures the moment of artistic creativity.
American Portraits provides visitors to the Parrish with a rare opportunity to explore the context in which these works of art were created. Whether couched in the historical mores of the times, as in Avedons trenchant photographic portrait of the Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution; expressed through intimate and deeply emotional connections, such as Porters oil portraits of his wife, the distinguished American poet Anne Channing Porter; or conveyed through a more distanced, almost abstract mode, as seen in Chuck Closes drawing of his mother-in-law, Fanny, made up entirely of the artists own ink fingerprints, the collective works show how a diverse array of artists have addressed the themes and concepts of portraiture.
Self-portraits in the exhibition include wonderful examples by William King and Joe Zucker that expand in ways both revealing and droll on the nature of the creative process. The exhibition will probe the notion that every portrait is in many ways a self-portrait of the artist, revealing as much about the maker as the sitter.
Physical attributes are recorded, certainly, but what remains most telling is the artists ability to convey mood, sentiment, and emotion. Mary Ellen Marks arresting 1989 photographic portrait of a young Indian girl standing waist-deep in the Ganges is able to convey at once the personal and the political.
American Portraits: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum will explore tradition and innovation in the history of portrait painting, bringing together some seventy-five works from the Museums holdings, including, in addition to those already mentioned, works by Mary Abbott, Peggy Bacon, Tina Barney, Adam Bartos, Reynolds Beal, David Burliuk, Robert De Niro, Lydia Field Emmet, Joe Fig, Alex Katz, Frederick Kiesler, William King, Lester Johnson, Elie Nadelman, Larry Rivers, Eugene Speicher, and James McNeill Whistler, among others.