Everett Shinn: American Realist Painter

Text by Taylor Wilson, Gallery Attendant

Dance is an art in and of itself, but the ability to catch the beauty of it in a piece of art is even more special. Dance has been a common theme for centuries with artists like Degas attempting to capture moments on stage. In our collection at the Forsyth Galleries, we have a pastel drawing from the American realist painter Everett Shinn, who is often described as an American Degas. Shinn is able to portray the power, grace, and beauty of ballet through fluid strokes of the wrist.

Everett Shin was born in Woodstown, New Jersey to rural farmers. He attended the Spring Garden Institute in Philadelphia to study mechanical drawing and eventually moved on to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. By his late teens he was a staff artist for the Philadelphia Press, which he considered the beginning of his art career. Shinn traveled to Europe during his young adulthood to study other painters and was extremely influenced by the Impressionist movement and, it is believed, specifically depictions of the stage by Degas, Manet, and Forain. While in Philadelphia, Shinn was a member of the Charcoal Club, established by fellow artists Robert Henri, John Sloan, and Joseph Laub, which eventually became the origin of the Ashcan School. Shinn was also later a member of The Eight, a group of artists named from a 1908 exhibition. Although others focused on a more idealistic outlook on upper class leisure, Shinn chose to paint realistic depictions of urban life, which often included gritty scenes of tenement life, social and economic diversity, and forms of urban entertainment.

Infatuated with the theatre, Shinn’s depictions were generally of unusual angles, often with the audience as the backdrop. He also liked to take up an aerial perspective or one from the orchestra pit. No matter the angle, Shinn would capture the excitement from the movement on stage. In the pastel drawing On Stage, from our collection at the Forsyth, the viewer is given an aerial perspective with the orchestra conductor in view in front of the stage. The dancer is mid-jump which is evident, not only from the obvious position, but the way Shinn imagines the skirt in movement. By including the conductor, the viewer is left with a sense of anticipation. If the dancer were by herself in the shot, it would seem as if she were frozen in time, but by including the conductor there is the expectation that the music is continuing and you are waiting for her to land. The position Shinn chose for the dancer exhibits not only her grace, but her strength as visible in the delicate placement of her arms juxtaposed with the musculature of her legs.

Though influenced by the Impressionist movement, which strove to capture snapshots of everyday activities, Shinn was not afraid to make a bolder statement with his subject matter. While it is easy to capture moments in the theatre as fantastical, idealistic split seconds of true beauty, Shinn did not shy away from reproducing the scene in a way that allowed the viewer to connect with society at the time, which was riding the rollercoaster of the Great Depression. This set Shinn apart from his peers and allowed him to become a truly wonderful artist.

Everett Shinn, N.A.  On Stage, c. 1918 pastel on paper, Bill & Irma Runyon Art Collection, 988.001.0203
Everett Shinn, N.A. On Stage, c. 1918 pastel on paper Bill & Irma Runyon Art Collection 988.001.0203

Monthly Artist Highlight – Richard R. Dick” Davison

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Text by Krista Osborne

Richard R. Davison Jr, a Professor of the College of Architecture faculty at Texas A&M University, was born in Marlin, Texas in 1953. He received a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from Texas A&M in 1975. After graduation he pursued his career in art, obtained a BFA and MFA from the University of California at Irvine in 1976 and Washington University in 1979, respectively.

Davison has established himself as one of the major artists in the state and distinguished himself nationally by having been featured in several national exhibitions, including “Superficial: An Exhibition About the Surface of a Painting” at the Art museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi; “Oil Patch Dreams: Images of the Petroleum Industry in American Art”, a five museum touring exhibition curated by Francine Carraro; “Texas Art for Russia”, Invitational Group Exhibition, organized by Art League of Houston, curated by internationally known artist, Frank Williams.

Davison has also been a recipient of several awards, both as an artist and as a teacher. Most notably, he received the Texas A&M association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement award in Teaching and honorary induction into Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society, Alpha Alpha Chapter, Texas A&M University. Furthermore, his work has been featured in solo exhibitions, including, recently, an exhibition titled “Heavenly Architecture” at The Museum of Biblical Art, Dallas.

Commenting on his work, Davison says, “My recent work has taken two unrelated directions. One is about monuments or memorials–how they stand against time (i.e., as compared with our own lives or the ephemeral nature of a reflection in water) as well as how we create them to assuage our own longings, regrets, etc. The other direction falls into the category of landscape, with homage to artists whose work is at once regional and visionary in character, such as that of Charles Burchfield and Samuel Palmer, and to the purpose of reiterating the argument of “natural religion”, that nature herself is the clearest evidence of God.”

Davison’s scholarly interests include design communication, drawing, painting, and color theory.
Five of Davison’s newer works are now on display at the College of Architecture Art Faculty Biennial Exhibition at the J. Wayne Stark Galleries. Moreover, the Stark Galleries hold, both in the permanent collection and as long term loans, nearly twenty original works from Davison.

Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2

One of the most unique paintings in the Forsyth Gallery’s collection was a gift by the Texas A&M Class of 1985 endowment.  Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2, was painted by Austin-based artist Nina Beall in 1991.  Ms. Beall has been exhibiting her artwork since 1980 and has participated in solo and group shows around the country. 

The Class of 1985 purchased Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2 for its Texas-centric subject of a field of bluebonnets in Spring.  Hills full of royal blue, pale blue, and the extremely rare red bluebonnets rise to the middle ground, where an old, fenced cemetery appears on the viewer’s left.  Skeletal trees line the ridge of hills in the background and the setting sun reflects on the clouds in shades of yellow, peach, and pink.  The painting is currently on display on the first floor of the Memorial Student Center.

beall_ninaThe large painting is an example of the use of the impasto technique to create artworks where the paint appears to be rising from the canvas itself.  The characteristic look of impasto is typically created by applying the paint to the canvas very heavily with the aid of a pallet-knife or brush, though some artists may also choose to use rags, pastry bags, or even their hands.  The word “impasto,” originally derives from the Italian word for dough, and some speculate that the Italian verb “impastare,” meaning “to knead” (as in kneading dough for bread), influenced the modern use of the word. 

Both oil and acrylic paint can be used in the impasto technique. Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2 consists of acrylic paint, as this medium dries faster than oils.  Artists typically use the technique to add an expressive quality to the painting, create more surfaces upon which light can reflect, and give a 3-dimensional sculptural quality to the work.  Impasto was first used by the Dutch and Italian masters of the 16th and 17th Centuries, where it was contrasted with smoother work to give greater interest to folds of cloth and the surfaces of jewels.  Later, during the Impressionist era of the 19th Century, painters like Van Gogh created entire canvases using the technique, as seen in The Starry Night, 1889.  The impasto technique was also extremely popular with the American post-World War II Abstract Expressionists, including Hans Hofmann and Willem de Kooning.  

Ms. Beall states that, “…I am obsessed with the pure physicality of the paint and the process.  Therein lies the mystery for me; and I suppose a rather Taoist philosophy in regards to art, nature, and life.”  A selection of Ms. Beall’s current past works may be viewed on her website: http://www.ninabeall.com/

 

 

What A Workshop!

Text by Kenya Hadnot, Gallery Attendant for the Forsyth Galleries

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The Forsyth Galleries collaborated with an on-campus student organization, Artistic Expressions, in order to host a mixed media art workshop. Glenda Hoon Russell instructed a number of students with diverse artistic backgrounds, showing examples of her work and guiding artists to perfection as they learned her medium of expertise. This non-traditional collage class was like no other; individuals were free to do whatever they pleased with the supplies available. Glenda encouraged artists to experiment and nurtured creativity as she constantly offered new ideas and compliments for unfinished pieces, and encouraged starting over if a student grew tired of the piece on which they were currently working.

Participants were allowed to use art supplies such as watercolor, ink, pastels, charcoal, glue, exacto knives, crayons and much more. Glenda explained that the purpose of the non-traditional collage was to enhance the element of discovery. While some images or text were superbly obvious, others were contrasting or even camouflaged. Artists tore apart books, newspapers, and magazines in order to form the foundation of their art pieces on a cardboard square. With access to a variety of mediums, each piece produced was one of a kind. While some participants worked patiently with blow dryers to melt crayons for cool coloring effects, others used paints and color pencils to enhance their paper findings. Working with cardboard squares and blow dryers in one setting was rather eclectic, but it got better.

Glenda carefully explained several techniques, making sure that each participant understood the vast amount of directions they could go. Instructions included tearing away from their piece with an exacto knife, using paper towels and glue to ball up for texture, painting with fingers and napkins instead of the traditional paint brush, and using tape to hide parts of the piece so other parts could stand out more. In a two hour time frame, some participants worked in detail on one piece, while others were able to produce two or three. For such a learning experience, Glenda Russell’s mixed media art workshop was fun, and simple to duplicate. Inspired by her teachings, Artistic Expressions will allow their members to recreate this experience.

Forsyth Guest Lecturer Violet M. Showers Johnson

Text by Lynn C. McDaniel, Communications Specialist for the University Art Department

This past Thursday, February 21st, at our monthly brown bag lunch and lecture, Professor Violet M. Showers Johnson presented an extremely interesting lecture which she called Ambivalent Aesthetics: West Indians, Garveyites and the “New Negro Art” of the 1920s and 1930s.

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The Forsyth Learning Gallery was filled with guests, who listened as Professor Johnson discussed the emergence of the “New Negro”.  She explained that, following the Civil War, the failure of Reconstruction, and the black migration to the Northern States, black people began questioning who they were.  Were they African?  Many black people came from places other than Africa (such as the West Indies), and many were born in America—a generation or two away from Africa.  Were they American?  Technically, yes, but they were culturally undervalued in a nation deemed to be “white, Euro-American.”  Were they slaves?  No, they had their freedom, and yet they were still looked upon as inferior and were segregated in society, even by the Northern black people, who considered them trouble-makers.

Photo of Professor Violet M Showers Johnson
Professor Violet M Showers Johnson

The 1920s and 1930s represented an age of vibrancy, energy and change.  It was the era of The Cotton Club and similar clubs in Harlem, where largely white audiences enjoyed shows performed by black entertainers.  Called “the Harlem Renaissance,” this period represented a time of growth and self-reflection for black people who asked themselves, “Who am I? What does it mean to be black?”  The “New Negro” discovered a newfound self- and racial-pride, and expressed that confidence through music, literature, theatre, dance and the arts.

In her description of what her presentation would be about, Professor Johnson stated, “The diverse creations of the New Negro Art validated and highlighted the African past of African Americans while situating them at the center of contemporary American life and culture.  At the same time that African American artists, scholars and activists were advocating this hybrid art movement, immigrants from Caribbean British colonies (the West Indies) were grappling with their multiple identities as British subjects and Blacks in America.  Nevertheless, as staunch adherents of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), founded by Jamaican Marcus Garvey, many West Indians were in the forefront of Black Nationalism and the celebration of black aesthetics. This presentation will describe, discuss and illustrate the immigrants’ conflicting encounters with American ‘New Negro Art’ while balancing imperial belonging and the Black immigrant experience.

Loïs Mailou Jones’ painting, Les Fetiches, 1938
Loïs Mailou Jones’ painting, Les Fetiches, 1938

Professor Johnson offered two examples of visual art which depicted the energy, vibrancy, and conflict of the “New Negro” movement.  The first, Loïs Mailou Jones’ painting, Les Fetiches, 1938, is a powerful painting of an African mask, which was a perfect symbol for this time of self-evaluation, question and discovery.

Aaron Douglas’ Study for Aspects of Negro Life: The Negro in an African Setting, 1934
Aaron Douglas’ Study for Aspects of Negro Life: The Negro in an African Setting, 1934

The second example was Aaron Douglas’ Study for Aspects of Negro Life: The Negro in an African Setting, 1934, again, a vivid portrayal of dynamacism, joy and life that was evident in the “New Negro”.

Without question, the cultural impact of this movement–on all forms of the arts–was significant, and helped give a mighty voice to black people that they had never had before.  In the two decades that it lasted, the New Negro Art movement inspired significant changes in numerous other aspects of society as well, slowly contributing to the breaking down of racial barriers and integrating society, proving that art truly is the universal language.

Guests of the brown bag lunch and lecture series, which is held from Noon to 1:00 every third Thursday, are always encouraged to bring their lunch to enjoy during the lecture, and then participate in a lively discussion afterward.  The Forsyth invites you to join us and learn more about art and how it affects our world.

Violet M. Showers Johnson is Professor of History and Director of Africana Studies. She is the author of The Other Black Bostonians:  West Indians in Boston, 1900-1950.  For more information about the Africana Studies Program, please contact Ms. Johnson.

Caffey Eying Rare Homer Painting from Forsyth Gallery Collection “Winding the Clock,” by Winslow Homer.

Written by Guest Author Richard Nira

Photo of Dr. Stephen Caffey
TAMU College of Architecture art historian Stephen Caffey

A rare work in Texas A&M’s Forsyth Galleries by Winslow Homer, a preeminent figure in U.S. art history, is receiving its first-ever scholarly attention from Stephen Caffey, assistant professor of architecture at Texas A&M.

“His work captured the complexity of American identity in the late 19th century because, beginning with the Civil War, he was able to represent the conflict between North and South and changing gender roles without taking a stand,” said Caffey.

Photo of Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer

The largely self-taught, Homer (1836-1910) was a versatile artist who worked in a wide range of subjects, styles and mediums.

Last year, after being asked to participate in the Forsyth Gallery brown bag lunch and lecture series, Caffey learned of a Homer piece in the collection and opted to make the painting his lecture topic.

Caffey, who studied Homer’s work extensively in graduate school and is familiar with his catalog, was expecting to see a watercolor from Homer’s Adirondacks series, which depict deer hunting and fishing scenes created for businessmen who felt disconnected from nature because they were working in office buildings on the East Coast.

“As soon as I saw the piece in the Runyon collection my heart leapt because I knew no one had done any scholarship on it at all,” said Caffey. “I didn’t even know it existed.”

Winslow Homer's painting "Winding the Clock"
Winslow Homer’s “Winding the Clock” (click to enlarge)

Caffey has since learned that the piece, “Winding the Clock,” was published only once, prior to an 1881 New York watercolor exhibition.

The painting depicts a single woman in a claustrophobic interior space standing on a stool, blowing the dust off a key she’s holding to a grandfather clock.

“In addition to being technically astonishing because it shows a woman in a white dress with a lot of detail, which is almost impossible to do in a watercolor, it also presents a woman in a way we’d never seen before in American painting,” said Caffey.

Among the topics “Winding the Clock” addresses, he said, are single women in wealthy and well educated households, the potential symbolic meaning of winding the clock and the passage of time.

“The fact that it’s part of the Runyon collection is like finding the Titanic in terms of its potential to improve scholarly understanding of Homer’s work and also to draw attention to the fact that Texas A&M owns this really important and little-known Homer painting,” he said.

Caffey and Nan Curtis, who was director of the Forsyth Galleries at the time, agreed to collaborate on a journal article  which would  detail the painting’s place in the broader series of Homer’s work and do research, partially funded by the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, investigating its path in private ownership to the Runyon collection.  Since Curtis’ departure, Caffey has continued his research alone.

Caffey‘s effort will involve a trip to the Harvard University library, where the family papers of a Union Civil War officer who originally acquired “Winding the Clock” from Winslow are housed, the Boston Public Library, where a portrait of the officer is located, and Homer’s papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

After the Civil War, the Union officer told Homer he wanted to buy “Winding the Clock” after seeing it at Homer’s studio, where he was arranging a portrait session. Homer agreed on the condition the sale was completed after the 1881 New York watercolor exhibit.

Caffey said Homer began to attract attention internationally with a painting called “Prisoners From the Front,” displayed at the 1867 World’s Fair in Paris, which drew raves from French art critics.

“It depicts a Union commander with a group of Confederate prisoners,” he said. “In precise and nuanced ways he conveys the complexity and the ambivalence of the lingering tensions inherent after the Civil War.”

Homer’s not saying, continued Caffey, that the Confederate side is “right” or the Union side is “right”.

“What he’s saying is ‘this is a really complicated situation, so let me articulate that complexity in a way that’s permeated with ambivalence,’” said Caffey. “In his work,” he said, ‘I’m not advancing any sort of argument about it, I just want to observe it and present it to you.’”

Many in the U.S. are unaware of Homer’s stature in art history —a reflection, Caffey said, that’s characteristic of the field.

“Art history emphasizes the most obscure, the most esoteric, and most isolated,” he said. “It’s an interesting distortion we really don’t experience in any other type of history, where you always look at what was most popular, most influential, most widely understood.”

Because Homer was working in a traditional academic style, he wasn’t highly regarded by the intelligentsia, the avant-garde,” said Caffey.

The piece was recently on display,  during the grand opening of the newly renovated Forsyth Galleries, located on the 2nd floor of the MSC.

The research project was noted in the Museum Education Monitor, which tracks and records research and resources in museum education with an aim of enhancing the development of theory and practice in the field by academics and museum professionals.

Posted September 2, 2011 in ArchOne: The Newsletter for the Texas A&M College of Architecture. Reprinted with edits by permission of Phillip Rollfing.

Website:  http://one.arch.tamu.edu/news/2011/9/2/homer-painting/

Twelve Days Countdown–12/8/2012.

Text by Lynn McDanielrev1

Reveille VIII, Texas A&M’s beloved official mascot, is the subject of day eight in the twelve days countdown. She is the first lady of Aggieland, and, as Cadet General and the only bearer of five diamonds awarded by the U.S. Army, she is the highest ranking member of the Corps of Cadets.

The first, original “Reveille” was a small black and white dog of unspecific breed that was accidentally hit as a group of cadets came back to A&M from Navasota in January of 1931. They rescued the injured dog and brought her back to school so they could care for her. Her barking response to the bugler’s early morning “Reveille” resulted in her name. She was named the official school mascot at the following football season when she led the band onto the field at halftime. Reveille I was given a formal military funeral when she died on January 18, 1944. She, and all the Reveille mascots who served after her, was buried at the North Entrance to Kyle Field, facing the scoreboard so she could always watch the Aggies outscore their opponents.

For several years, the mascots who followed Reveille I were other dog breeds and did not carry the name “Reveille.” Some of the other mascot names included “Tripod,” “Spot,” and “Ranger.” Reveille II was a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie), which looks similar to a Collie but is a smaller breed. Reveille II was donated by Arthur Weinert (’00) after the student body was unable to raise enough money to buy a new mascot. Sam Netterville was Reveille II’s primary care-giver, and it was he who persuaded the University’s student senate to pass a resolution to allow A Quartermaster Company the honor of providing Reveille’s care. “Miss Rev” went everywhere with Netterville, including classes, beginning the tradition of Reveille being escorted at all times.

rev2Reveille III was the first purebred Rough Collie who served as the A&M mascot. A Rough Collie has a long, flowing coat, whereas a Smooth Collie has a short coat. According to the American Kennel Club website, “… the Collie is both elegant and graceful, appearing to float over the ground as it runs. Loyal and affectionate, the breed is naturally responsive to humans. Marked characteristics include the beautiful coat of the rough variety and the breed’s lean wedge-shaped head. The coat can be rough or smooth and the four accepted colors are sable and white, tri-color, blue merle and white. The best-known Collie is, of course, the famous Lassie” (followed closely, of course, by Miss Rev)!

Reveille IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII (current mascot) all played their part in establishing new traditions at Texas A&M. Their stories were documented in a book by Rusty Burson and Vannessa Burson called, Reveille: First Lady of Texas A&M, which can be purchased on Amazon by clicking here.

The sight of Reveille brings excitement to all Texas A&M students, who typically whip out their cameras and ask if they can have their picture taken with the popular mascot. She is frequently the portrait subject of local artists and photographers, proudly representing her school with grace and dignity.rev3

Reveille Art and Portraits
1. Reveille I Portrait
2. Reveille ready for her SEC debut
3. Tech commissions painting of Reveille for new A&M president
4. Benjamin Knox Gallery

Works Cited

American Kennel Club. Website: http://www.akc.org/breeds/collie/index.cfm. Date updated: 2012. Date accessed: December 10, 2012.

Burson, Rusty; Burson, Vanessa (2004), Reveille: First Lady of Texas A&M, College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press. Wikipedia. Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reveille_%28dog%29. Date accessed: December 10, 2012.

Texas A&M. Website: http://aggietraditions.tamu.edu/symbols/reveille.html. Date accessed: December 10, 2012.