Wadsworth Atheneum Acquires Two Major Paintings
Date: 9 Jul 2006 | | Views: 11572
HARTFORD, CT. -
Gustave Courbet, The Shore at Trouville: Sunset Effect 1866. Oil on canvas. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Gift in honor of Helene and Mark Eisner, by exchange, with additional funds provided by The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 2006.
Two magnificent and radically divergent depictions of man facing nature have been acquired by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The Shore at Trouville: Sunset Effect (1866) by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) is the second work by the French Realist to enter the Wadsworth Atheneum's European painting collection. A gifted painter of seascapes, Courbet spent the summers of 1865 and 1866 in the coastal resort towns of Trouville and Deauville in Normandy, often in the company of the American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler. This serene sunset view is the largest of the seascapes Courbet produced in that period.
According to Eric M. Zafran, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art, "the strokes of the brush and the palette knife in this work have a three-dimensional tectonic quality, lending intensity to the rugged and glistening black rocks emerging from the sandy shore and the salmon-hued horizon demarcating water and sky."
In contrast, Novaya Zemlya Still Life (2006) by the contemporary American painter Walton Ford (b. 1960) comments upon a winter-long encounter between polar bears and a expedition led by Dutch navigator Willem Barents in 1596. According to first-hand accounts, the shipwrecked crew had to fend off these majestic and powerful carnivores with whatever was at hand. Meticulously detailed in watercolor, gouache, ink, and pencil on paper, and measuring five by ten feet, the painting depicts a solitary polar bear in profile, his head turned toward the viewer. Beneath him, strewn across the snow, are a human skull and mandible, a sword, a recorder or wooden flute, an hourglass, an extinguished candle, coins, playing cards, a clay ewer, a book, and a long-stemmed clay pipe-items found in European vanitas paintings. At the lower right is Barents's ship, entrapped by azure ice.
Three intriguing pieces of furniture have been added to the American decorative arts department. A classic American settee that had belonged to Daniel Wadsworth, founder of the Wadsworth Atheneum, and a mahogany bureau, with a Wadsworth provenance by association, have been acquired from descendents of Wadsworth's niece, Frances Ellen Terry, and her husband, George Brinley, Jr. The settee was made in New York circa 1830, whereas the straight-front bureau is attributed to the Hartford makers Kneeland & Adams, and dates to 1792-1795. The third item is a remarkable rarity-a flat top high chest that combines William-and-Mary with Queen-Anne styles. Made between 1745 and 1765, this case piece, made primarily of cherry wood, is an early example of Connecticut Valley cabinetmaking. It arrives at the Wadsworth Atheneum at the bequest of Julia Spencer Thrall.