Winonan Nathan Gill examined Théodore Rousseau’s “A Panoramic View with a Bridge Over the Seine, Near Paris” on Sunday night at MMAM.
by SARAH SQUIRES
The Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM), along with its collecting partners Bob Kierlin and Mary Burrichter, unveiled four new works on long-term loan to the museum on Sunday, delighting the crowd with paintings by artists Newell Convers “N.C.” Wyeth, Théodore Rousseau, George Luks and Arthur Dove.
The first painting drew audible excitement from attendees as Burrichter drew back the curtain to reveal Théodore Rousseau’s “A Panoramic View with a Bridge Over the Seine, Near Paris,” a small but brilliant painting depicting the Seine reflecting the sky and clouds above, a bridge not unlike Winona’s wagon bridge looping through the trees.
“This may look very small, but I’m just thrilled,” Burrichter told attendees of the painting that once hung in the hall of French President Sadi Carnot. “We don’t collect by artist, we collect by quality.”
Rousseau founded a movement that became known as the Barbizon school and is known as a pioneer in making landscapes the subject of his work. Dr. John Driscoll, scholar, collector and art dealer based in New York City told those gathered at the museum that his work is featured in the best museums across the globe. He painted several dozen small landscapes in the 1820-1830s, Driscoll explained, though “This is the best one,” not just among Rousseau’s work, but landscape painting worldwide. “We have looked at countless Rousseaus,” he stated, but they wanted to find just the right work to complement the museum’s collection.
“You can feel the power of nature within Rousseau’s scenes,” stated MMAM Executive Director Nicole Chamberlain-Dupree. “He’s a tremendously important linchpin in art history, and we are very lucky to have one of his works. He’s not a household name for everyone, but was influential to artists like Monet and Impressionists as they turned to nature for inspiration.”
Rousseau was followed by “Snow on Ice, Huntington Harbor” (1930) by American artist Arthur Dove.
“He probably just painted it out the window looking at the harbor,” explained Burrichter of the abstract overview of the frozen Long Island Sound harbor. “This is just a little slice of nature that he’s giving to us.”
The original frame is peppered with tiny holes, and Burrichter told the crowd that there was a reason the holes had not been filled in and repaired. The lacey wood represents a period between 1905 and 1935, during the great chestnut tree blight, when a prominent framer used the wood to make ornate frames.
Driscoll said Dove is considered to be the first American to paint an abstract painting and became “one of the real giants of American Modernist painting.” However, “This is not, actually, an abstract painting, it’s a realist painting, but painted as seen, it looks abstract.” While Dove is represented in every major public collection in the U.S., Driscoll said, they are not all as good as “Snow on Ice,” which was obtained from the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller.
The Dove painting will be displayed at a future exhibition, while the three others are available for viewing now.
The third painting unveiled was N.C. Wyeth’s “Landscape Study in the Woods” (1916), which depicts his daughters as they play in a stream at their family home in Chadds Ford, Penn. Made famous for his illustrations in books such as “Robin Hood” and “Treasure Island,” Wyeth was the father and grandfather of two of the most well known American artists — and “Landscape Study in the Woods” now hangs beside his son Andrew’s “Little Caldwell Island” (1940) and grandson Jamie’s “The Warning” (2007) at MMAM.
What drew me to the picture is the way the streams of light draw your eye down the painting, Burrichter explained, and by the time your gaze reaches the bottom, “you didn’t even know he was playing a trick on you.” She said conservators cleaned the painting, which brightened it considerably and brought out the delicate pastels used to shade the idyllic scene.
Driscoll called the piece of a “style central to his career and central to his heart,” adding that the depiction of his daughters playing by the stream was the only image that included a full-page plate in an article he was asked to write about artwork for a magazine in 1916. “It never left his possession in his lifetime,” added Driscoll. “It is one of the most important pictures that he painted.”
Lastly, American artist George Luks’ “The Swan Boats” (c. 1904) was revealed, a colorful portrayal of urban Boston’s Public Gardens. Luks was part of an art movement known as the Ashcan school and his work depicts city life. He painted “The Swan Boats” while visiting a friend in Boston just after studying in Europe, and Driscoll said he’d only seen one other Luks’ painting of the city, and that one depicted a nightscape. So, to have a bright, colorful Luks at MMAM is “a real rarity.”
Driscoll said “The Swan Boats” was on the list of the painter’s best 25 paintings, and described the artist as a “larger-than-life figure … Boastful, a drinker, he died in a fist fight. But he was a heck of a painter.”
MMAM is located on Riverview Drive in Winona. It is open on Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free for members and $7 for adults and seniors, $3 for students, $20 for a household, and free for children ages four and under and for students on Tuesdays. Every second Saturday of the month, the museum hosts MMAM Second Saturdays with admission just $1 and special programming and activities. Learn more at mmam.org.