HANOVER, NH.- The Hood Museum of Art
is very fortunate to have on loan for the coming year eight superb American paintings from the collection of a Dartmouth parent. Currently installed alongside highlights from the museum's American art collections, these works dramatically enhance the Hood's presentation of key developments in the history of American art and culture. All of the paintings are masterful in execution and each provides an enlightening window onto a particular time period and sensibility. This remarkable group of American paintings will remain on view in the Sack Gallery through November 2010.
Four magnificent Hudson River School landscapes suggest the reverential attitude toward the American land held by some of our best-known nineteenth-century painters. These works include Thomas Cole's Schroon Lake, 1835-38; John Frederick Kensett's Landscape (Reminiscence of the White Mountains), 1852; Sanford Robinson Gifford's Mount Mansfield, 1859; and Albert Bierstadt's Haying, Conway Mountains (Peace and Plenty, North Conway, New Hampshire), 1864. Appropriately for our Upper Valley audience, three of these large-scale, mountainous landscapes are set in Vermont or New Hampshire. Each of them celebrates the inherent promise of the American landscape at a time when the nation's pristine wilderness was already becoming a thing of the past.
William Harnett's meticulously rendered Mr. Hulings' Rack Picture, dating to 1888, reveals a Victorian fascination with trompe l'oeil or "fool the eye" still lifes. Commissioned by Philadelphia dry goods merchant George Hulings, it depicts a letter rack--an arrangement of tapes or ribbons fixed to a wall in order to display letters, calling cards, and mementos. Although at first glance the vividly painted envelopes addressed to Hulings appear to be casually placed on the rack, Harnett clearly positioned them to create an artful balance of shapes and colors, as well as to suggest Hulings' social relationships.
In contrast to the nineteenth-century landscapes on view, two of the early-twentieth-century paintings reflect an enthusiastic embrace of everyday life in the modern city. In his exuberant Little May Day Procession, 1905, set in New York's Central Park, William Glackens evokes the joys of childhood and the arrival of spring. Childe Hassam's Up the Avenue from 34th Street, May 1917 is an impressionist tour-de-force depicting Fifth Avenue adorned with the flags of the Allies. It captures the dynamism of the modern city and the patriotic fervor on the home front during World War I.
John Singer Sargent's brilliantly colored and boldly gestural Siesta, 1905, captures four men and women napping together on a sun-dappled Italian hillside. The rhythmically linked angles and curves of their bodies, broadly rendered in thick, lush brushstrokes, form an almost abstract composition. Here we sense Sargent's break from both social and artistic convention and his pure delight in the painting process itself.