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Jean Meisel's paintings demonstrate mastery of form, color and light
Jean Meisel. Untitled, watercolor, 1970s-2013.

WASHINGTON, DC.- This spring, more than 50 paintings by Jean Meisel are on view in a secluded alcove of the Phillips house. The small, intimate space offers a perfect setting for 50–65 Horizon Line, an exhibition of the painter’s delicate watercolors. Created from her imagination, Meisel’s subtle landscapes and seascapes demonstrate the DC-based artist’s mastery of form, color, and light.

“I’ve been painting horizon lines for as long as I’ve been painting,” Meisel says. She did not see the ocean until she was 22, and most of her seascapes and landscapes have been envisioned, yet they trigger viewers’ memories of recognizable places.

Since 1970s, the artist has produced hundreds of these serene watercolors, ranging from 1 1/2 inches to 6 inches. A selected number of them (c. 50-65) hang side by side so that their shared horizon line wraps around the alcove space painted in sky blue. 50–65 Horizon Line stands in direct conversation with Homeward Bound (c.1893-94), a small painting by Albert Pinkham Ryder from the permanent collection that Meisel has admired for the longest time. The serene mood of Ryder’s marine with a continuous horizon line closely parallels Meisel’s quite temper and dreamy depiction of nature.

Meisel, who grew up in a small town near Buffalo, New York, was born in Pittsburgh her father worked for several years at Jones and Laughlin Steel, the Pittsburgh company owned by museum founder Duncan Phillips’s grandfather. Her interest in painting grew once she and her husband moved to Washington, DC, but she found a lack of resources for young, aspiring artists in the area. Meisel, who has been visiting the Phillips since the 1950s, eventually formed a community of like-minded artists that greatly contributed to the development of the local art scene in the 1970s and 80s. Meisel’s other Washington art connections include study with Gene Davis and Anne Truitt. Of that instruction, she says, “it is not a matter of learning how to paint but how to see.”

50–65 Horizon Line is on view Jan. 23–May 4, 2014.

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