Art dealer John Driscoll helped unveil MMAM’s latest acquisition — Edward Moran’s painting “Commerce of Nations Rendering Homage to Liberty.” The painting was used to help raise funds to build the base of the Statue of Liberty.
by LAURA HAYES
Although Diane Sannes is a member of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM), Sunday was the first time she attended one of the museum’s unveilings. It’s very exciting because it’s a secret, said Sannes, who’s a Brooklyn Park, Minn., native.
She watched along with others as MMAM Founder Mary Burrichter and curator Jon Swanson revealed three new paintings — Edward Moran’s painting “Commerce of Nations Rendering Homage to Liberty” that was used to raise money for the base of the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Courbet’s “Source of the Lison,” and Jane Peterson’s “Boats (Gloucester).”
This was the first time that some of the attendees had ever heard of, let alone seen a work by Illinois-native Jane Peterson, whose painting “Boats (Gloucester)” was unveiled. “She’s not as well known today as she was in the late 1930s,” art dealer John Driscoll said. “The reason Jane Peterson is interesting is she was a woman out of her time.”
Growing up in Elgin, Ill., in the late 19th century, Peterson knew she liked art, but was never exposed to it. After attending the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Peterson fell in love with art and decided to travel to New York to attend the Pratt Institute. “This is before women had the vote. This is when women didn’t travel alone. But she was so excited about this idea of becoming an artist,” he said.
She traveled around the world and met famous artists. In art history books, Driscoll said that Peterson is described as mimicking other artists’ style. “This is all wrong because she was a terribly original painter. There is nobody else who could paint like this,” Driscoll said. Her “Boats” features boats docked in Gloucester Harbor in Massachusetts, which Burrichter said was one of her favorite places.
“You could see her work from 100 yards away and always know a Jane Peterson because of that color and that brushstroke,” Driscoll said.
The second painting unveiled was French painter Gustave Courbet’s 1864 painting “Source of the Lison.” Courbet is regarded as the father of modernism. “Source of the Lison” features a rocky cliff face, covered in moss, with a cave and a waterfall and pool. Courbet, Burrichter said, created the painting in a couple hours. A friend was with Courbet when he created the painting, and Burrichter said it was a windy day and the canvas fell off the easel. The canvas went through the easel. Courbet flipped the canvas over and put some paint and paper on the hole. “‘There, no one will know,’” Burrichter recalled Courbet saying to his friend.
“You have this rocky, barren rock formation and it has all these lichens, moss, and vegetation around it. It’s this juxtaposition of the harshness of rock and softness of vegetation that is part of his sensibility about life and what life is about itself,” Driscoll said. “What could be better for the [MMAM] than an artist who believes that water is the source of life.”
The third — and largest — painting revealed was American painter Edward Moran’s “Commerce of Nation Rendering Homage to Liberty.” The painting depicts the Statue of Liberty surrounded by boats flying a multitude of different flags. Moran created the painting at the request of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who sculpted the Statue of Liberty. Moran’s painting was used to help raise money for the base of the statue.
Burrichter said that Moran’s painting complements Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” While “Washington” reflects the United States’ political freedom, Burrichter said that Moran’s painting reflects America’s economic freedom.
How will this round out MMAM’s collection? Courbet’s painting, MMAM Executive Director Nicole Chamberlain-Dupree said, will help tell MMAM’s story of early European modernism. She toyed with whether she wanted to see the paintings prior to the unveiling. Chamberlain-Dupree eventually decided to peek under the curtains. Peterson’s, she said, immediately caught her eye. “There’s something about the color and scene that draw you in in a very easy way,” she said.
Moran’s painting, similar to “Washington,” Chamberlain-Dupree said, will help show how art played an integral and vital role in the country’s early identity. “And the early patriotism. To know that this is the painting that resulted in the funds being raised for the statue that welcomes all to this country — it gives you goosebumps,” she said.