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 5065 Horizon Line, an exhibition of the painters delicate watercolors. Created from her imagination, Meisels subtle landscapes and seascapes demonstrate the DC-based artists mastery of form, color, and light.
Ive been painting horizon lines for as long as Ive 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. 5065 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 Ryders marine with a continuous horizon line closely parallels Meisels 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 Phillipss 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. Meisels 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.
5065 Horizon Line is on view Jan. 23May 4, 2014.