Minnesota Marine Art Museum members and docents waited with bated breath for nearly a week, pondering vague clues describing the four new pieces added to the museum’s already prestigious Burrichter/Kierlin collection of marine inspired works of art. A crowd of art enthusiasts gathered in the hallowed museum halls Sunday evening to witness the unveiling of what Curator of Collections and Exhibits Jon Swanson called welcome additions. But, on an even bigger note, it was revealed that museum was donated the funds to build a new wing.
Maurice Prendergast painting titled "Crepuscule," 1912.
The museum and its many curators were seeking works of art that included bodies of water and were exceptionally exquisitely pieces from the artists’ collections. “These had to be significant works of art,” Swanson said. “Not half finished, not stenciled, but high quality, the best.”
The first piece revealed to an impressed crowd was a large, attention grabbing Arthur Parton piece depicting a serene fall scene with a swirling composition of fall foliage in the foreground and the beautifully crafted Adirondack Mountains nestled in the background.
Parton was an American impressionist hailing from Hudson, New York in 1842. The prominent member of the Hudson River School became part of a group of artists trying to make their mark in the centennial year of the nation. “It was really one of the first works of art during the marine movement that depicts the beauty of nature,” Swanson said. “If you stand back from the painting, it almost looks three dimensional.”
The second work of art unveiled was created by fellow Hudson River School artist, Sanford Gifford. Instead of drawing inspiration from the towering mountain range, Gifford turned his focus toward the ocean in his 1864 seascape painting “Beach at Cohasset.”
Described as an intimate size, 50/50 split composition piece, Gifford paid extreme attention to detail and cast a bright light over the water with delicate colors. Swanson said these two additions to the 19th Century American Collection were quickly becoming visitor favorites.
Halfway through the unveiling program, curators revealed a third piece, a modern painting by prominent Canadian/American Ash Can painter Maurice Prendergast. The work now on display titled “Crepuscule,” meaning twilight or dusk, plays to the artist’s well known power of suggestion of his color and brush strokes.
The painting, created in 1912, was exhibited in New York’s Armory Show the following year and was part of the pivotal art exhibition in modern American history. The joyful piece depicts a leisurely holiday at the beach.
The fourth painting revealed was a Marry Cassatt masterpiece and garnered much praise by those in attendance. Cassatt, an American artist who spent much of her time in France, became widely known as one of the most influential and important artists of the last 200 years. Most notably, Cassatt delicately crafts paintings detailing the private lives of women in the late 1800s. Swanson said collectors Bob Kierlin and Mary Burrichter had the challenge of finding an exquisite Cassatt piece that drew inspiration from a water setting. The piece up to the challenge is titled “Françoise in a Round-Becked Chair, Reading.”
“She painted less than 150 oil paintings in her career, most of which are still under construction,” Swanson said. “This one is not only completely finished but also has in the background an impression of water. This piece is just exceptional.”
An adolescent Françoise is depicted reading a book inside a riverside residence. The stream in the background fulfills the gallery’s marine criteria and ties into the blue book the girl is seemingly gazing over.
All four works of art were placed into their semi permanent homes Thursday afternoon, but will be moved in the future as the museum has revealed plans to expand. After the acquisitions were revealed, Mike and Matt Slaggie, of the Slaggie Foundation, surprised event goers with the news that they are providing the necessary funds for the museum to expand.
“With this gallery getting full, having an additional wing will allow us to accommodate more excellent pieces,” Swanson said. While the museum is keeping specific details under wraps for now, Swanson said the new wing will likely house their collection of European art, giving the American and European pieces their own galleries. “This is great news. Everyone here at the museum and the foundation is totally on board. We see the value of adding on to the museum as benefiting the visitors and the local businesses that visitors go to. Everybody wins.”
All four paintings are currently on display at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in the building’s back gallery, also know as the blue gallery. For more information about the upcoming exhibits, events and programs, visit the museum website. www.minnesotamarineart.org