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Retrospective of realist painter Eugene Speicher opens at The Dorsky Museum at the State University of New York
Kingston, New York, 1935 Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite 28 x 35 3⁄4 in. Collection of Neil Scherer.

NEW PALTZ, NY.- The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz announces “Along His Own Lines: A Retrospective of New York Realist Eugene Speicher,” the first museum exhibition devoted to Eugene Speicher in nearly 50 years.

Called “America’s greatest living painter” by Esquire magazine in 1936, Speicher (1883-1962) was one of the foremost realists of his generation. He was closely associated with George Bellows, Robert Henri, Leon Kroll, and Rockwell Kent. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue, which explore this important American artist who was also a preeminent figure in the noted Woodstock Art Colony, seek to reevaluate Speicher’s place in the canon of early twentieth-century American art.

“Along His Own Lines” is organized by Dr. Valerie Ann Leeds, independent curator and scholar. Other public programs for the exhibition include a panel discussion with Leeds and catalogue essayists Tom Wolf, professor at Bard College and the leading expert on the Woodstock artist colony, and Daniel Belasco, curator of exhibitions and programs at The Dorsky. The panel discussion will be held at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum on Saturday, April 12, 2014, and public gallery talks at The Dorsky on Sunday, May 4, 2014, and Sunday, June 1, 2014. Following its presentation at The Dorsky, “Along His Own Lines” travels to the New York State Museum in Albany, where it will be on display from Oct. 18, 2014 - March 22, 2015.

Born in Buffalo in 1883, Speicher first garnered national recognition in the 1910s for his incisive portraits of actors, artists, and friends, which were collected by many prominent American museums. Splitting his professional time between New York City and Woodstock, N.Y., Speicher expanded his repertoire to include still life, nudes, and landscape. “Along His Own Lines” explores Speicher in the context of his day. The retrospective exhibition features 39 paintings and 35 drawings and works on paper. Speicher’s life and friendships are documented with archival photographs as well as the artist’s wooden palette, borrowed from the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, where Speicher was a founding member.

Notable paintings in the exhibition include Speicher’s famous portrait of Georgia O’Keefe as a young student at the Arts Students League, New York, 1908. An assured self-portrait from 1913 earned his place in the National Academy of Design. Speicher’s full-length portrait of celebrated stage actress Katharine Cornell (1926) is painted in the grand manner. Also included are portraits of Speicher’s favorite Woodstock subjects, such as blacksmith Red Moore (1933), and Jean Bellows (n.d.) and Katherine Rosen (1923), daughters of his painter friends and Woodstock neighbors George Bellows and Charles Rosen, respectively. The full range of Speicher’s stylistic output is represented with green New York landscapes and colorful still lives of flowers pruned from his fecund Woodstock garden that were painted near the end of his career.

Institutional lenders to the exhibition include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, National Academy Museum, Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, The Art Students League of New York, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and private collectors. Arthur A. Anderson, Dorsky Museum advisory board member, is lending a significant group of paintings and drawings—many of which will form the basis of a Speicher Study Collection he plans to donate to The Dorsky.

Born in Buffalo, in 1883, Eugene Speicher began his art education by taking night classes at the Albright Art School while he worked during the day. He moved to New York in 1907 and began attending the Art Students League where he studied with William Merritt Chase and Frank Vincent Du Mond. In 1909, Speicher took life classes with Robert Henri, which he found of great importance to his formative style. Through Henri, with whom he became close friends, Speicher also became acquainted with George Bellows, with whom he also became close, and with Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, Guy Pne du Bois, and a coterie of realist artists who were working in New York at this time. Speicher traveled abroad in 1910 to study and learn from the works housed in Europe’s great museum collections. When he returned, he discovered Woodstock, N.Y, and began to split his time between Manhattan and Woodstock, where he became an important and popular figure in the art colony.

Speicher was named an Associate of the National Academy in 1912 and an Academician in 1925. In addition to exhibiting at the National Academy, Speicher participated in independent exhibitions such as the MacDowell Club exhibitions, which were small non-juried shows originated by Henri. Following the dissolution of the MacDowell Club effort, he became involved with the New Society of Artists, another organization of similarly liberal views, which also held alternative exhibitions. From 1911, Speicher began to receive a steady stream of significant awards and his work was acquired by many major art museums for their permanent collections. He died in 1962 and the following year was given a memorial exhibition at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, where Speicher bequeathed his paintings and drawings.

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