Reflections on Water in American Painting, an exhibition of forty-nine paintings and works on paper, opened Saturday, November 10, 2012, at the Morris Museum of Art
. Drawn from the renowned collection of Arthur J. Phelan Collection, the exhibition celebrates the United State maritime and seaside history.
Reflections on Water is a wonderful exhibition filled with images, dramatic and beautiful, that speak to the explorational instincts and ambitions of nineteenth-century Americans who crossed oceans to reach these shores and then proceeded to traverse the continent by following its rivers and, later, the canal systems that were created to connect those rivers. The present exhibition pays homage to Americas oceans, rivers, lakes, and harbors; to the ships that traversed them for exploration, trade, and pleasure; to the towns and the cities that depend on their steady flow; to the people who built their existence upon them; and to the artists who took inspiration from the beauty and timeless attraction of water, said Morris Museum director Kevin Grogan.
The works of art from the Arthur J. Phelan Collection trace more than a century of Americas maritime and seaside history, transporting us from the Eastern to the Western shores of the United States. Ranging in date from 1828 to 1945, these masterful renderings of sailboats, warships, waterside towns, waterscapes, and harbor scenes, and the playful portrayals of beach life capture virtually every aspect of life on, in, and via the water. The exhibition documents evolving trends in transportation and records economic shifts as inland maritime commerce slowly diminished in the wake of railroad expansion. The exhibition also illustrates the different artistic trends and modes of expression that shaped American art.
Highlights of the exhibition include James Bards meticulously rendered Hudson River steamboat, Frank Bensons marshland with more than thirty rising ducks, William Trost Richards breaking waves, William Merritt Chases beautiful study of the Arno River, and Reginald Marshs cathedral-like rendering of a New Jersey railway bridge.
Collector Arthur J. Phelan, a retired banker and businessman, began collecting nautical paintings in the 1960s. I have built a number of collections that started with a chance acquisition of an artwork that reminded me of something in my past, says Phelan. This group of maritime and coastal scenes arises from time spent at my familys summer home in Connecticut. Our house, between New London and the Connecticut River, was on the water. During World War II, I sailed small sloops at the point where Long Island Sound empties into the Atlantic and where large commercial sailing ships occasionally still passed by. Later, while at Yale, I was never far from the Sound.
Reflections on Water in American Painting, circulated by Exhibits Development Group of St. Paul, Minnesota, remains on view at the Morris Museum of Art through February 10, 2013.