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"Picturing Winter: Paintings by American Artists" on view at the Arkell Museum
Gari Melchers (1860–1932) Winter, ca. 1880-90, Oil and pastel on canvas, Gift of Bartlett Arkell, 1934.


CANAJOHARIE, NY.- We have not had much snow in Upstate New York this year – but visitors can enjoy winter at the Arkell Museum by viewing remarkable paintings by notable American artists in the exhibition Picturing Winter on view through January 3, 2015. The exhibition includes nostalgic views of the season by Grandma Moses and Edward Redfield. The Mailman Has Gone (1949) by Grandma Moses captures the excitement that came with the arrival and sending of letters during long winter months. Redfield’s Sleigh Bells (ca. 1925) depicts the snowy street in New Hope, Pennsylvania complete with a horse drawn sleigh. Walter Launt Palmer’s bright painting of a tree lined winter road portrays the beauty of winter with shadows of light on snow that range in color from pinks to greens and purple.

There are also paintings in this exhibition by Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer that depict other sides of the season.. Andrew Wyeth stated in a Life magazine interview that he preferred “winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape-the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” Winslow Homer’s painting Watching the Breakers (1896) shows winter along the coast of Maine long after all the summer tourists have returned to their city homes.

Highlights included in the show are:

Charles Harold Davis (1856-1933), Snow on the Hillside, ca. 1928. Oil on canvas. Gift of Bartlett Arkell, 1929
Davis lived in France for 10 years where he was exposed to the work of Academic painters as well as the Barbizon artists. The Barbizon artists continued to influence his paintings when he first returned to America. This painting is a good example of Davis’ later style influenced by both American Impressionism and Tonalism. His paintings in the 1920s show the seasons he experienced in Connecticut. The subject and subdued palette is meant to evoke a feeling of the season rather than a narrative story.

Gari Melchers (1860–1932), Winter, ca. 1880-90. Oil and pastel on canvas. Gift of Bartlett Arkell, 1934
Melchers’s interest in Dutch genre subjects is evident in this depiction of young skaters. Melchers was born in Detroit to German immigrant parents and studied in Dusseldorf. In 1884, he settled in the remote Dutch fishing village of Egmond where he co-founded a school of art that attracted American artists who were studying in Paris. Melchers and his students were drawn to the picturesque subject matter of fisher folk in this region. Students usually came to Edmund during the summer—but Melchers continued to work there during the winter months.

Melchers later painted another version of this work titled The Skaters ca. 1893 (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). This painting was exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and later lent to the White House where it was displayed outside President Jimmy Carter’s study.

Edward W. Redfield (1869-1965), Sleigh Bells, ca. 1925. Oil on canvas. Gift of Bartlett Arkell, 1926
Redfield began to paint winter views of the city while in France in the 1890s. He worked in an Impressionist style and a bit later in a somber tonalist manner. His style changed by the time he painted Sleigh Bells in Pennsylvania. The thick pigments and distinct brush strokes of unblended color are characteristic of his painting style that was influenced by his friend Robert Henri. Redfield, like Henri, chose to reject the French Impressionist style as too genteel to capture the rugged American landscape.

Redfield painted winter views of the Parry Mansion on South Main Street, New Hope, Pennsylvania many times. New Hope, ca. 1926 (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art) shows the same street from a slightly different angle with different people in the road.

Ernest Lawson (1873-1939), Winter Twilight, ca. 1920. Oil on canvas. Donated to the museum through Macbeth Gallery, by the artist, 1934
Lawson often painted snow-covered winter views of the city and countryside. This night view of the Brooklyn Bridge differs from his other snow scenes by showing snowflakes falling in evening light without the bright white accumulation of fallen snow.

Like the French artist Monet, Lawson often painted a single subject several times under various conditions of weather and light. Lawson was not just concerned with the different times of day—he was interested in the contrast of seasons. From the time he first settled in Manhattan in 1898, Lawson painted the city’s waterways and bridges during different times of year. This painting of the Brooklyn Bridge is similar to Lawson’s painting Brooklyn Bridge, 1917-20, (Tarra Collection). The Tarra painting, however, shows an evening scene without snow.

Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932), Morning Light, 1926. Oil on canvas. Gift of Bartlett Arkell, 1932
Walter Launt Palmer was the son of Albany sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer. He began painting winter scenes about 1875, but it was not until the 1880s that he developed his notable style that included shadow colors. The reflecting shadows of light on snow range in color from pinks to greens and purples–but blues are most dominant in his works.

More than fifteen years before Palmer painted this work he wrote an article for Palette and Bench titled “On the Painting of Snow” where Palmer advised:

…to tackle this problem of white and light…paint from memory if you can, from nature if you must. Make endless sketches from nature with all possible fidelity and accuracy, then put them all out of sight and paint your picture from the facts that have been the most vividly recorded in your mind.

Winslow Homer (1836-1910), Watching the Breakers—A High Sea, 1896. Oil on canvas. Gift of Bartlett Arkell, 1935
Winslow Homer painted Watching the Breakers—A High Sea at his home in Prout’s Neck, Maine, in the mid-1890s. More than a decade earlier, Homer had transformed a carriage house at Prout’s Neck into his studio and home, and the surrounding views of the shoreline and ocean waves became the focus of his paintings. He often stayed there during the winter months after the hotels had closed and seasonal residents—including Homer’s relatives—had returned to city life. Winter encouraged the artist’s muted palette of whites, green-gray, brown, and black.

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), February 2nd, 1942. Watercolor on paper. Gift of Bartlett Arkell, 1943
This work depicts the Wyeth home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The solitude of winter is shown in the great expanse of snow with foot prints—but no people—heading toward the house.

Wyeth’s watercolors reflect a deep interest in the observation and recreation of texture and form. His eye for detail can be seen here in the prominent tree trunk in the foreground.

More than 25 years after this work was created Wyeth was quoted in Life magazine saying:

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.

Grandma Moses (1860-1961), I’ll Mail the Letter, 1950. Oil on pressed wood. Museum purchase, 1952
Grandmas Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) painted many nostalgic wintertime scenes portraying life in the country. This painting and an earlier work The Mailman Has Gone (1949), show the excitement that came with the arrival and sending of letters that connected families and friends during long winter months.

A selection of Moses’s winter scenes was first made into holiday cards by the Hallmark Company in 1947. Hallmark sold sixteen million of her bucolic winter views that appealed to a public eager for images that celebrated America and looked back to what many people believed to be simpler times.






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