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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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An evening to remember at MMAM (09/18/2013)

Alfred Stevens’ “La Villa Des Falaises A Sainte-Adresse”
Seven paintings unveiled

by Jeanine Black

The invitation to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) 2013 fall fundraiser and unveiling on September 15 indicated it would be the “largest, and perhaps most awe-inspiring fundraiser and unveiling yet,” but it is doubtful that attendees expected to be part of what John Driscoll called “an important evening for the cultural legacy of America.” Driscoll, a scholar, collector, and art dealer based in New York City, commented on each of the works of art after they were introduced by Bob Kierlin and Mary Burrichter. The invitation also provided clues about six works, but there were seven paintings unveiled on Sunday evening.

Asher Brown Durand became the acknowledged leader of the Hudson River School following the death of founder Thomas Cole. Durand painted “Landscape” in 1855, the same year that he published his “Letters on Landscape Painting.” The scene depicted in this oil painting is near Kingston, New York, and the home of Thomas Cole.

When French artist André Derain painted “Le Repos” (The Repose) in 1905, a watercolor on paper, with gouache, pencil, and ink, he knew Henri Matisse and Maurice de Vlaminck, and he was soon to meet Pablo Picasso. (Works by all three of these artists are also on display at the MMAM.) Derain’s painting was part of the 1905 annual Salon in Paris. A critic of the time (Louis Vauxcelles) said that Derain and others who used intense colors painted like wild animals, “fauves” in French, so the movement became known as Fauvism, the first modern movement in art in the 20th century.

Belgian Alfred Stevens’ painting “La Villa des Falaises de Sainte-Adresse” (The Villa on the Cliffs of Sainte-Adresse), 1884, was his largest work and was created for a patron who was a special friend. Driscoll referred to Stevens as a linchpin between the most academic and the most advanced painting in Europe.

The early work of Alfred Thomas Bricher was in the style of the Hudson River School, including the painting now on display at the MMAM. While there were some great painters who visited the Winona area during the late 1800s, it is rare to find a major painter who actually painted Winona area scenes. In 1868, Bricher painted “Shower Clearing” now also known as “On the Mississippi Near Winona, Minn.” For many years, the scene of the painting was misidentified, but locals will recognize what is now Homer in the foreground, and Perrot Park and Trempealeau Mountain in the distance. Bricher was in our area sometime between June 21 and July 9 that year, and later completed the oil painting in his New York studio from drawings in this sketchbook.

MMAM now has not one, but two watercolors by J.M.W. Turner. “Hampton Court Palace,” painted in the 1820s, depicts the palace built by Cardinal Wolsey that was appropriated by Henry VIII. The painting was considered so important, that the last time it was offered for sale, the seller published an entire book about it. From the day that Turner completed “Heidelberg With a Rainbow,” commissioned by engraver Thomas Prior in 1840, Turner considered it his finest achievement in watercolor. Driscoll commented that one might find another Turner painting that is “just as good,” but none better. While there are other, similar paintings by Turner at the Tate Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Scotland, and the Manchester City Art Gallery, all are recognized as being secondary to this painting.

MMAM adds a second work by French painter Paul Gauguin with “Nature Morte aux oignons ou coloquintes” (Still Life with Onions or Still Life with Gourds). In 1889, Gauguin produced more paintings that at any other time in his life, creating more and better paintings according to Driscoll. At the Universal Exposition in 1868, Japanese painting was introduced to the West. In this painting, which depicts one of his Japanese prints, Gauguin pays homage to the visual culture that was coming out of Asia in the late 1800s. Keeping with the theme of the MMAM, there is water depicted in that painting within a painting.

Driscoll seemed truly moved by being able to be a part of the unveiling of such a significant collection of art works, saying that bringing together a group of paintings like this was “a mystic experience.”

If you haven’t made a visit to the MMAM lately, you will want to do so soon. You may also wish to become a member or renew your membership while you are there.



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