My wife and I traveled to Connecticut the weekend before last to visit one of the galleries that carries my paintings, the Art Essex Gallery in Essex, and the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme to check out their impressive Arthur Heming painting and illustration exhibition.
We also drove over to see the just expanded Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven.
I had visited before and knew they had a real powerhouse collection (paintings by most of the great masters you can think of, which is impressive, but moreover they got good ones. Really good ones). The museum has grown significantly in size and so now there's more to see than you can reasonably take in. We're going to have to schedule another visit sooner than later. Following are a few hightlights from Yale's Collection.
Above is a wonderful small oil by Edward Vuillard (French 1868-1940), The Thread, from 1893. Vuillard is showing off his mastery of design here in a big way with the elegant rhythm of blacks in the two women's outfits. The sharp angles in the arms of the woman pulling the thread remind me ever so much of Degas' ballerinas who always seem to have their arms sharply bent to make acute triangles.
Vuillard is also showing us that as much as he's often talked about for his love of decorative patterns, he's also someone who loves dramatic tonal contrasts. Notice how he tones down the darks in the hanging canvas portrait on the wall so he can save his high contrasts for the women.
Another painting I loved is this oil by Fitz Henry Lane (Am. 1804-1865) Lighthouse at Camden, Harbor, Maine from 1851. Not wanting the lighthouse to be too dominant, he cleverly keeps its tower company with an emphasized little notch of space at the left side of the big land mass. Try covering over that small opening with your finger and you see though it's small it adds an expressive form strong enough to hold its own against the lighthouse. Lane is also a master of gradations in his colors. Can anyone express a peacefulness in the sky better than he does?
I confess while I love his small scale paintings, I'm often not too much of a fan of the huge studio oils produced by Albert Bierstadt (German-American 1830-1902). But this one, his Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail, ca. 1872, was new to me and it knocked me out with its simplicity and powerfully unified composition. Here Bierstadt pared down his focus to just a few forms and to me achieves what I feel is perhaps his best major painting. As I was leaving the museum I had to run back to this one for a last look- that sinuous shining river kept calling me.Yale also has four major oils by Edward Hopper, who I write about so often that I won't bore regular readers with his dates. They are currently all hanging together is an absolutely lovely sky lit gallery space. Below you can see his Western Motel from 1957, with the three other Hoppers hanging off to the right.
Here's me below with Rooms by the Sea from 1951, a painting that's been a personal touchstone for me since I first saw a reproduction of it when I was in high school. Probably more than any other, it's the painting that inspired me to become an artist.
I've written about this painting before on this blog (Carter Foster, the Whitney Museum's Curator of Drawing, is going to include a quote from this blog where I've written about Hopper's working methods in his notes for his exhibition catalogue for the soon to open major Hopper Drawing exhibition at the Whitney).
Alongside Rooms by the Sea are hanging Hopper's Sunlight in a Cafeteria, 1958 and Rooms for Tourists, 1945. The suite of four Hopper oils hang together beautifully, a remarkable holding for any museum.
Looking at this threesome it struck me how adept Hopper was at telling his story through evoking the feeling of light- either brilliant direct sun or the warm orange yellows of an interior lamp glimpsed from outside at night through a window. I belive more than anything that's what puts the spirit into a Hopper.