Maurice Braun (1877-1941)
As Maurice Braun’s children we find it important to record our observations and memories that are relative to issues of current interest among students, collectors of his paintings, and art historians. The history of his art education in New York City and subsequent successful exhibiting of his paintings throughout his lifetime has frequently been presented. Meanwhile, the current interest in his aesthetic and philosophical values deserve presentation that is as reliable as possible. These topics have been represented with insight and sensitivity by several art historians. Too frequently, however, mistaken assumptions in the literature require corrections to do justice to our father. Together we provide confirmation from our observations, memory, and our father’s own records.
Maurice Braun (1877-1941) is known as an important American/California Impressionist artist. (1) He was born in the small town of Nagy-Bittse, Hungary. (2) His family came to live in New York City when he was preschool age. Braun’s formal art education was at the National Academy of Design in New York City, followed by a year of study with the distinguished New York artist and teacher, William Merritt Chase. Braun traveled in Europe for a year in 1902, visiting museums primarily in Eastern Europe. It is unclear whether he visited France or England.
On his return to New York, Braun painted there for several years. He became known as a portrait painter, although he also painted landscapes in New England. In 1909 he left New York to establish his home in San Diego. (3) He would make his home in San Diego until his death in 1941.
In June of 1911, Braun presented his first one-man exhibition with 75 paintings and drawings of San Diego city and countryside, a few portraits, and New England landscapes. (4) The exhibition took place in Braun’s studio on B Street where he had also opened the San Diego Art Academy. Shortly after this exhibition, he learned that one of his paintings had been accepted for a November exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. (5) Braun continued to exhibit paintings in the East throughout his life. There were galleries across the country that carried his paintings as well.
When Braun was awarded top honors, a gold medal, for a painting at the San Francisco Panama Pacific International Exposition held in 1915, he became more widely known on both West and East coasts. It is noteworthy that paintings showing at this exposition included some of the outstanding group of Eastern artists, known as The Ten. (6)
Braun’s landscape paintings of scenes in and around San Diego are especially well known. Although he remained strongly associated with Southern California, he intermittently painted, sketched, and exhibited in many sections of the country. He returned annually to paint in New England and upper New York State during the 1920s, as he especially enjoyed painting the color and textures of the seasonal landscapes of the East Coast. During the 1920s he also started his studies of the New England harbor scenes. In the 1930s he painted a series of still-life paintings.
Throughout his life one can see Braun’s independent spirit. An early indication of this can be seen in his consistent interest with painting, following a childhood and early youth in which he spent much time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He eventually won all the available scholarships to the National Academy of Design in New York City despite parental disapproval. Following his formal art education and several years as a portrait painter in that city he was convinced that he would prefer landscape painting and that it was essential to find his own way of doing so and in an area distanced from the major art centers of the time.
A move far from the East appealed to his independent spirit. He welcomed an opportunity to meet the challenge of an entirely new environment in which he could respond in his own way. Also, in the city Braun was tiring of conflicting views among leaders in the art communities of the East Coast. (7) After arriving in San Diego, Braun started to sketch and paint and he enjoyed the challenge of new surroundings. He then felt that he was developing in his own way.
Braun loved Nature. His aesthetic orientation in San Diego was two fold: first, he wanted to get acquainted with the San Diego countryside and understand how to portray it in form and color, then play with it. He used elements of it in the process of creating the composition of a painting. Braun’s strategy for getting a strong understanding of the content of the landscape he wanted to paint was the careful sketching of important details of the landscape-grasses, rocks, trees, the nature of washes in hillsides, and the form and color of receding hills and mountains.(8) With this understanding of the countryside, Braun then felt free to carry out his concerns with the composition of a painting, with creation of space and color relations, with balance of composition, and ultimately with communication of the fundamental essence of nature’s structures.
It was through the study of these elements of the landscape that Braun was able to capture the qualities that communicated their essential beauty. William H. Gerdts, in his catalogue for the 1991 exhibition Masterworks of American Impressionism presented at the Villa Favorita in Lugano, Switzerland quotes Braun as remarking, “Landscape should not be taken too literally. It is what we visualize and the interpretation we give the fantasy of our mind that counts.” (9)
A training in the National Academy of Design in New York City could lead some to assume that Braun was in all respects an academician. That view could be emphasized by his having started the San Diego Art Academy when he first arrived in San Diego. Academic art traditionally refers to literal renditions of a subject, nature as well as the human figure. Braun pointed out that the landscape should not be taken literally. Did he or could he transcend the literalism? His inherent aesthetic sensitivities proved to be the more driving force.
Braun’s independent spirit in pursuing his own inclinations remained characteristic throughout his career. He was nevertheless an apparently responsive student of William Merritt Chase, with whom he undoubtedly studied both portrait and landscape painting, and quite possibly certain techniques that Chase could have learned during his studies in France. It was characteristic of Braun that the range of his interest and enthusiasm for many art forms did not lead to adopting their style of work himself. He felt that there were always challenges in his own work. He never considered adopting stylistic trends of others. However, in the early days of his career in California he explored painting by moonlight on several occasions. This venture can be compared to some paintings of the Tonalist movement among Impressionists.
Our father’s aesthetic perceptions seem to have grown from an inherent sensitivity and enthusiastic response to color and nature. Since there has been much speculation about the source of Braun’s interest in painting landscape we find it interesting that his parents and extended family described his enthusiasms at a very young age. We remember that he recounted his great excitement when he first saw the typical fields of red poppies in the European countryside. He described similar excitement when he first became aware of stars in the night skies.
The art historian John F. Kienitz recognized Braun’s sensitivity and respect for nature. Writing in the 1954 exhibition catalogue of Braun’s work at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, Keintz said:
“Maurice Braun’s serenity before the vexations of life and the complexities of nature impressed all who knew him. He was an artist of deep philosophical conviction for whom all expressions of life were divine. So it is natural that in the look and feel of his work you should find pastoral peace. This peace is born of his sense of wholeness. Through an interplay of religious respect and esthetic resolve he found equilibrium and this was for him, as it can be for us, the secret of life itself. In his own yet distinctive way Maurice Braun was able, out of a comparable largeness of vision, to create space and color relations not unrelated to the superb formal clarity reached by Cezanne.
Through all his years our artist was partial to the desert. He wove his heart and mind through the tangled fabric of appearance with such zeal as to make a touching entrance to its core. In his San Diego back-country scenes you may find that he rivals the dry lands themselves in the perfection with which he unites a wonderfully golden light with the stateliness of elemental forms, every part of which is major. Braun paints the desert’s natural force. In such desert, light has its most lasting brilliance and forms rest secure in ageless strength. His love lets him see its devastatingly precise geometry of alkali flat and sage, of mountain and sky, as harmonies of color in untroubled light. And so his pictures of it have as little falsehood and as much to cherish as a Nevada morning.” (10)
It would have surprised our Father if he had known that his paintings would eventually be perceived as that of an Impressionist. He never associated himself with that art movement, although he enjoyed the painting of many great Impressionists. He was enthusiastic about the Impressionist’s great achievements with light and color. He welcomed Claude Monet’s studies of color in relation to changing light.
In 1886 the famed art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, organized the historic presentation of close to 300 French Impressionist paintings in New York City. Repercussions from that exhibition reverberated in the American art community and controversies revolved around Impressionism for many years. Artists differed in their acceptance or rejection of Impressionism and in the degree of that acceptance. Although Maurice Braun was only nine years of age at the time of the exhibition, he would have observed later the strong contradictory positions taken within the art community as an impressionable young art student.
Meanwhile, the Impressionist art movement in Europe was developing in diverse ways. Many art students as well as mature artists studied in Europe. New perspectives were being introduced to the American art centers by artists returning from these studies. There were visits from some leading European artists. James McNeill Whistler brought his own variations of Impressionism that sometimes showed a strong influence of Chinese painting and Japanese prints. Some of Whistler’s paintings contributed to the important trend of Tonalism within the Impressionist movement.
Braun felt that there were important differences in aesthetic objectives between the Impressionists and himself. In part this was due to the Impressionist’s intense focus on method. He would shake his head over Whistler’s often repeated saying, “Art for Art’s sake.” While Braun was at once concerned with creation of space, color relations, and with balance of composition, ultimately he was concerned with communicating the fundamental essence of nature’s structures. He felt that it is in the harmony and peace of a painting that the fineness of nature communicates. Hence, a painting may serve to enrich the lives of those who live with the paintings.
There is currently interest among students and collectors of Braun’s paintings to know more about how he went about painting and what elements in his work can be regarded as Impressionistic. Responding to this interest, there is an especially useful analysis of the Impressionist’s methods of obtaining brilliant light and color in a book by Floyd Ratliff. (11) In his book, Paul Signac and Color in Neo-Impressionism, Ratliff, a scientist, provides students with an account of theory and research relative to the Neo-Impressionists uses of color and light and brings to this analysis his understanding of the visual effects of contrasting colors and color interactions.
Ratliff found a progression in the understanding of these effects among Impressionists. Their understanding appeared to have guided their selection of paint and how they could optimally use it to obtain their goal of achieving intense brightness of color and light. The work of the artist Georges Seurat was further progress in what Ratliff called “the cause of color.”
Maurice Braun may have been unaware of how the Impressionist’s understanding of light and color influenced their selection and use of oil paint. Possibly he had learned about some aspects of this endeavor from Chase, or possibly he had figured some of it out himself. We recall his selection of pure colors and large amounts of white paint on his palette, similar to Ratliff’s description of the preferred palettes of the Impressionists. The mixing of different colored paint was carried out judiciously to avoid muddy grays. Braun and the French Impressionists sometimes found the use of bright pure yellow “touches” against deep blue tones useful. We can see in Kientz’ comments of how remarkably Braun captured the radiant light and subtle colors of Southern California and the desert. His work is low key by comparison to much of the Impressionist’s work.
Ratliff recognized that the modifications in broad size and spacing of brush strokes relative to color that some Impressionists employed were demonstrating scientific laws of color/light interactions. How much of this sophisticated insight had reached our father we do not know. However, for interested students we suggest careful examination of his paintings. We have observed these techniques in some of his paintings. Detailed examination of Braun’s painting of grasses in foregrounds and leaves of trees reveals rich brushwork that deeply enriches texture. Braun used broad brush strokes which varied in form. He sometimes used the standard Impressionist wide horizontal brush stroke for water in a river or a bay.
An especially interesting historical insight is provided by Ratliff in his accounts of the methods used not only by some of the Impressionists, but among some artists of the earlier 19th century. These included use of outdoor sketching recommended by the French Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix (1798-1861). Claude Monet kept colorful plants in his garden for students to paint outdoors when the light was bright. His famous lily pond was created for use in outdoor painting. Hence, we can think of some simple yet sophisticated methods of painting as having roots in earlier times.
Braun is described as a Plein-Air artist, a trend that suggests that he painted exclusively outdoor. As with these early artists, the outdoor sketch was a study. From these studies there may or may not have ultimately come a painting. Both painting and sketching outdoors was enjoyable for him, but certainly not routine. When sketching he used color pencils on paper and sometimes oil paint on canvas or board. We remember one time, when he was recovering from an illness, the family stayed for a week or two in a cottage at Mesa Grande. Here we recall seeing him walking off to a site he had located earlier carrying a canvas, easel and a box containing a palette and tubes of paint. Sometime there was a folding camping chair as well, although often he stood before the canvas for hours.
His inclination to come to San Diego was not only motivated by his interest in exploring his own artistic talents far from the concerns of the East Coast but also by his interest in the philosophical orientation of Theosophy which he encountered in New York. During his years as an art student and for a number of years thereafter, the interests of Theosophy in humanitarian causes such as child poverty received considerable attention in New York. Theosophists also had a major interest in the world peace movement and the group sponsored the periodic International Peace Congresses in Europe. An international center for the organization, promoting concepts of international peace, had recently been established in San Diego at Point Loma. (12) All of this was of great interest to Braun as it was also to many artists and other professional people in Europe and elsewhere.
Braun was responsive to the International Peace Movement of the Theosophical organization as well as their recognition of art and philosophy of ancient civilizations and multiple ethnic cultures. During this period there was minimal awareness or understanding of these concerns, though it is now taken for granted that the cultures of many ancient and current ethnic civilizations are of great significance.
While Braun had thought of living in the Theosophical Community, he was persuaded to give his full time to his art. Space was provided for a studio in downtown San Diego in a building that was owned by the Theosophical Society. Eventually Braun built a studio home on Point Loma that overlooked the bay and city of San Diego with ranges of mountains in the distance. His home was located near the Theosophical Community and artists and writers living in the Community sometimes gathered there socially.
Among these friends who had been attracted to and visited the Point Loma Community were some major figures from Europe. The Swedish art historian, Oswald Siren, working at that time with the King of Sweden to create a great museum and leading center for the study of Chinese and Japanese Art, was a periodic visitor. Reginald Machell, an important artist, moved to the Point Loma center from England where he had been active in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Machell brought this distinguished style to the buildings of this Point Loma community. He painted remarkable decorative murals on walls of the buildings, and carved furniture and doors for several major buildings.
The cultural climate was enriched by weekly concerts open to the public given by the Conservatory of Music. The plays of Shakespeare and the Greek dramatists were presented in the outdoor Greek Theater. These are only some of the cultural elements of this center that had a great appeal to Braun. Having grown up in New York City, cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Museum of Art had been important to him. The achievements of this group who participated in the Point Loma center are significant. The talent assembled at this center was prodigious and made exceptional contributions to art, literature, sociology, and San Diego history.
While Braun’s paintings become increasingly admired and more critics look for a different perspective on his work, it is perhaps understandable that the art world would believe that there is a connection between his painting and Theosophy. At no earlier time had his art been equated with his personal interests. Essentially Braun sought out the Theosophical Society because of the compatibility between their concerns and his own, but what he expressed in his painting was his own sensitivity to the fineness of nature. Braun was not hesitant to credit Theosophy with sharpening his insight into nature. (13) Some writers have attributed Braun’s achievements, not to his disciplined ability as an artist, but rather to assumed mysticism or to mistaken assumptions of religious convictions or influences. We, the family, find these hypotheses erroneous and unjust to our father’s work and are confident that these notions would have been quickly rejected by Braun himself. (14)
In the last years of his life Braun made a number of automobile trips through many states. He did the driving, yet the next morning before starting out again he made sketches of some aspect of the country through which they drove. There remain a large number of sketches of California and some forty-five sketches made in eleven states that include Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, and Washington State. These sketches are often studies of arid and remote areas. (15)
For Maurice Braun there was always a quiet enjoyment of painting. He was a man of few words, yet despite his manner there was deep feeling and strong enthusiasms. As art historian John Kienitz observed:
It is impossible for [Braun] to look at what was small or large in nature, or among man’s things, without translating what he saw into lucid harmonious arrangement. Here, as elsewhere in his art, delicate relations of line, form, and color are simply signs of an even more exquisite fineness which he knew to be basic in nature. In the art of this man you may well find an oriental, even peculiarly Chinese bent. You may agree that he paints as an apostle of resignation whose spirit is like those men of Sung who could see the tragic in the turn of an autumn leaf and still, somehow, never be defeated by it.
Ernest Lawson (1873-1939)
Ernest Lawson, one of the most important American impressionist* painters in the beginning of the twentieth century, produced a number of significant paintings during his last years in the Sunshine State. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 22, 1873 and moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1888. He began his art studies at the Kansas City Art Institute*, a private, independent college specializing in the fine arts and design founded in 1885. Today, The KCAI is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
Lawson continued his art studies after he moved to New York where he enrolled in the Art Students League*, an art school created to provide reasonably priced classes along with flexible schedules to students from all social classes and levels of artistic accomplishment. The Art Students League placed a large focus on innovative art such as American incarnations of French Impressionism, German Expressionism*, Ash Can* and Regionalist* art. There, he studied under American impressionist artist John Twachtman where Lawson was taught how to accurately capture the qualities of light found in ordinary subject matter as a crucial element of human perception.
Lawson’s next studied in France to enhance his artistic skills. In 1893, he traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian*, a private art school for painting and sculpture. The Académie Julian provided accessible classes for all students and helped perfect Lawson’s unique impressionist art style. After some time, Lawson left classroom study for the south of France where he discovered his interest in plein air or painting outdoors.
Greatly influenced by French impressionist Alfred Sisley, Lawson did not incorporate large amounts of French influence in his work. He stated, “French influence kills if taken in too large a dose — witness most of our best artists who have become to all intents and purposes Frenchmen in work and thought”. Ernest Lawson’s work slowly began to reflect an interest in his development of an American perspective in highlighting the landscape and scenes of everyday life instead of the French romantic style of painting.
By 1894, American impressionist William Merritt Chase labeled Lawson “America’s greatest landscape painter.” He made his debut in America in 1897 at the National Academy of Design*, the most important art institution in America at the start of the 19th century. The NAD set national art standards based on classical art styles rather than contemporary art styles.
In 1908, Lawson joined a group who called themselves The Eight*, an influential and innovative group formed by eight American artists who shared the common goal of rebelling against the classical genre scenes of popular American painters and were interested instead in more eccentric and contemporary subjects.
Lawson’s interest in Florida began with his love for the city of Coral Gables. Lawson was first introduced to Coral Gables when Katherine and Royce Powell, his close friends and patrons introduced Lawson to this exotic Florida city. He would frequently visit them in Florida and eventually permanently moved to Coral Gables. Most of his works were completed within 100 miles of the city where he enjoyed capturing the beauty in the city in all of its incarnations. Lawson’s interest in the area stemmed from the various species of wildlife and the exotic native vegetation and natives.
His painting at this time consisted of strong, bold jewel-like colors applied in an energetic impressionist style of painting as he worked to capture the true beauty and atmosphere of Florida. Lawson is also known for his application of paint with thick strokes, often applied with a palette knife. These characteristics can be seen in his “Approaching Storm, Matheson Hammock, Coral Gables, FL, ca. 1930 in the Brown Collection at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida and in Florida River Scene with Seminoles of 1920, in the Sam and Robbie Vickers Collection, Jacksonville, Florida.
In December of 1939, Ernest Lawson committed suicide in Miami, Florida after years of alcoholism and personal problems. His Florida experience is captured in Celebrating Florida 1995 and in Reflections : Paintings of Florida, both by Gary R. Libby.
Jean Dufy (1877-1953)
Jean Dufy was born in 1888. He was born into a family of artists and was the brother of the famous painter Raoul Dufy.
Dufy only gradually discovered his passion for painting, whilst attending exhibitions of works by the French avant-garde artists in his hometown of Le Havre. After his military service, he moved to Paris in 1912, where he met Derain, Braque, Picasso and Apollinaire.
Two years later, his first watercolors were exhibited, with which Dufy enjoyed great success. Numerous exhibitions, e.g. at the Salon d’Automne and even in New York, followed.
His preferred subject matter included flowers, animals, and circus scenes in compositions featuring an incredible array of colors. In addition, Dufy worked as a porcelain painter in the workshops of Théodore Haviland in Limoges for over 30 years.
In 1925, he was awarded a gold medal for a service at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs. On the occasion of the Exposition Internationale in 1937, he collaborated with his brother Raoul on a fresco for the Pavillon de l’Electricité.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Dufy traveled extensively through Europe and North Africa, where he found new motifs for his works. Again and again, he also portrayed the city of Paris, its city gates, streets, squares, coaches, as well as the Eiffel Tower and the Seine.
Often he was inspired by music and theater. Dufy’s works are held in numerous museums worldwide, including the Musée National d’Art Moderne and Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Albertina in Vienna, the Art Institute of Chicago and the MoMA in New York.
Leon Kelly (1901-1982)
Leon Kelly, born in 1901, studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Awarded a traveling scholarship from that institution in 1924, he studied in Paris, France at the Grande Chaumiere. Other teachers included Arthur B. Carles, Jean Auguste Adolphe, Earl Horter and Alexandre Portinoff.
Essentially a Surrealist painter, Kelly did wide-ranging work that went from painterly to meticulous Surrealism, Cezanne-inspired watercolors, and Cubist painting. In the 1940s, Julian Levy, the Surrealist dealer, handled Kelly’s work in New York City.
Kelly also exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art Annuals (1933-34, 1939-46, 1966); Corcoran Gallery Biennials, Washington, D.C. (three times from 1935-47); Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; had a 1965 retrospective exhibition at the International Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland; Long Beach, New Jersey (1968); Richard Feigen Gallery, Chicago, Illinois (1968, 1970); Newark Museum, New Jersey (1969); and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Kelly’s paintings are in the collections of three New York city museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; and Museum of Modern Art; as well as Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; Sara Roby Foundation Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska; Newark Museum, New Jersey; and the Tel Aviv Museum, Israel.
Martha Walter (1875-1976)
Martha Walter was a well-known Philadelphia-born Impressionist who specialized in light hearted, colorful beach scenes especially of Gloucester, Coney Island, Atlantic City and the French Coast. She went to Girls High School, and from 1895 to 1898, studied at the Pennsylvania Museum & School of Industrial Art, now The University of the Arts College of Art and Design. Her recognitions at the school included the following:
1895/96: Received Certificate A in Industrial Drawing. Received honorable mention for the Henry Perry Leland Prize given by Mrs. John Harrison for work in Pen and Ink; $20 second prize for best set of drawings in the Course of Industrial Drawing.
1896/97: Received John T. Morris Prize of $10.00 for drawing of Details of the Human Figure; Jacob H. Weil Prize of an outfit of Oleo Water-Colors for best sketch in water-colors from Life.
1897/98: Honorable mention for the Mrs. George K. Crozer Prize offered for the best work in drawing; Caroline Axford Magee Prize of $20.00 for group of designs introducing decorative use of the human figure.
At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, she studied with William Merritt Chase, and at his insistence, she entered competitions for various student awards. She won the Tappan prize in 1902, and was one of four artists to win the first two-year Cresson traveling scholarship in 1908, which afforded her the opportunity to go to France, Holland, Italy and Spain.
She attended the Grande Chaumiere in Paris where she had the advantage of the critical counsel of both Rene Menard and Lucien Simon, but eventually she felt their strictly classical approach too restrictive to her progress, so she enrolled in the Academie Julian. Once again she grew weary of the boundaries of tradition and so established her own studio in the Rue de Bagneaux with several other young American women artists. It was at this point that she developed her infatuation and skill for plain-air subjects.
Walter’s early work, 1900-1908, shows the very strong influence of William Merritt Chase. Her use of rich saturated colors, combined with her adept application of black paint was very successful. Black was a pigment extraordinarily difficult to master, and often omitted in the general course of American Impressionism.
The quietude of Martha Walter’s Paris period lasted until about 1912 when she began to vivify her palette and concentrate on light and shadow. Upon her return to America, around the beginning of World War I, she favored the use of bright and intense colors as highlights in her beach scenes of Bass Rock, Gloucester and Atlantic City. Her works had more spontaneity, as she concentrated on hues rather than subjects. In this sense she was once again in league with the French Impressionists who were frequently more concerned with the color recorded than with the form drawn. The subtle dissolution of forms tended to accentuate the predominant central theme in her works. Her figures did not suffer; they merely became more elusive.
Walter’s influence throughout her career was chiefly derived from the work and teachings of William Merritt Chase. She journeyed to the very places where Chase had painted – Shinnecock, Carmel, Paris, Holland, etc. Martha Walter had a studio in New York, taught at Chase’s New York School of Art and had a studio in Gloucester, and even taught in Brittany. She was continually traveling back and forth to Paris.
While she was in France, Eugene Boudin proved to be another strong source of inspiration for her. Many of Walter’s beach scenes exhibit varying tones of gray, which are reminiscent of the atmospheric quality achieved in Boudin’s work. Many of Walter’s canvases are obviously distinct reflections of French Impressionism. Through it all though, she developed a style of painting, which was a uniquely Martha Walter, with bold dashing brush strokes in conjunction with total color control, and well organized composition. Her style reflected the sensitivity of her European predecessors, but maintained a vigor, which was definitely American. Cecelia Beaux offered favorable criticism of Walter’s work by saying that the beach scenes seemed as if they were blown onto the canvas.
Walter visited Chattanooga, Tennessee, many times from 1903 to 1910, where she painted commissioned portraits and landscapes during the summer. Her ability to contrast her light and vibrant palette to the harsh reality of life in the mountains of Tennessee as expressed by the children that she saw and portrayed make the poignancy of the moment even more heart wrenching. Some of the children that she portrayed were so under-privileged that they didn’t even know the meaning of the word mountain.
In 1922, Martha Walter was given an exhibition of her paintings at the Galleries George Petit in Paris. The French government purchased a painting entitled The Checquered Cape from this exhibition, for the Musee de Luxembourg. This picture was a study for a larger painting of the same name.
In the 1930s, Martha Walter was represented by Milch Galleries in New York, and it was then that she began to travel to North Africa to paint her chromatic impressions of Tunis, Tripoli and Algiers. The harsh African sun lent the cafe scenes, camel markets, and souk transactions an intense but different color sense than her American and French subjects. The broad flat planes of the local architecture, combined with the flowing Arabian robes worn by the inhabitants, gave her renderings of sharply defined areas of color a new dynamic quality. From Africa, Walter traveled to the Dalmatian coast where she settled for a long enough time to paint dozens of bustling market scenes.
Although well advanced in years, Martha Walter continued to paint until a few years before her death in 1976.
She has been represented in the Museum collections of Musee de Luxembourg, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Art Institute of Chicago, Detroit Institute of Arts, Milwaukee Art Center, Toledo Museum and the Woodmere Art Center, Philadelphia.
H. Claude Pissarro 1935-
H. Claude Pissarro, grandson of the 19th century French impressionist Camille Pissarro, is the third generation standard bearer of the Pissarro line of painters.
Camille Pissarro was recognized not only for his artistic talent, but for his innate teaching abilities as well. Among his many pupils were his own five sons and Paul Cezanne. Lucien and Paulemile Pissarro, H. Claude’s uncle and father, both became important figures in the post-impressionist school of painting.
H. Claude Pissarro was born in 1935 in the fashionable western section of Paris, Neuilly-sur-Seine, and began to draw and paint as a young child under his father’s tutelage. During his adolescence and early twenties he studied the works of the great masters at the Musee du Louvre and the Musee du Jeu de Paume under the supervision of his father and uncles. Guided by their skill and knowledge, young Pissarro gradually developed and refined his own style and technique.
Now, after more than four decades, it has become obvious that Claude Pissarro has not only accepted the challenge that his forefathers legacy presents, but has also become a painter in his own right.
He currently resides in France’s Normandy region, and devotes his time to painting in oil or pastel his French homeland; landscapes, scenes of country life and harbor settings.
One of the earliest French plein-air painters, Eugéne Boudin became known for his marine scenes, especially people and boats along the shores, and for the expansive skyscapes of these canvases. He worked in oil and pastel.
Boudin was born in Deauville, Honfleur, Normandy. His father was a sailor, and as a young man, he worked as a cabin boy on a steamer that sailed on the Seine River between Havre and Honfleur. However, he lost interest in making that activity his life’s work, and became especially interested in art when in 1835, his father gave up being a sail and became a frame-maker. Boudin became an assistant in his father’s shop, and in that capacity met numerous artists working in the area including Jean-François Millet, Thomas Couture and Constant Tryon. Couture was especially encouraging to the young Boudin to become a dedicated artist, which he did at age 22 when he started painting full time and left the job with his father.
Boudin began traveling around France, and in 1850 when he was age 26, he received a scholarship that allowed him to move to Paris. He became much influenced by 17th Century Dutch masters. Meeting the Dutch painter, Johan Jongkind (1819-1891), regarded as a forerunner of the Impressionism of Claude Monet, Boudin was exposed to plein-air painting and encouraged by Jongkind to pursue it. With Jongkind as his friend, Boudin entered a circle of artists including Gustave Courbet, who, in turn introduced him to Charles Baudelaire, highly influential critic who began publicly praising Boudin and reinforced him in 1859, when Boudin made his debut at the Paris Salon. He became a frequent Salon exhibitor, winning a third-place medal in 1881 and a Gold Medal in 1889 at the Exposition Universelle. Three years later he was made a knight of the Légion of Honor.
Two years earlier, Boudin met Claude Monet, who then worked with Boudin in his studio and became a life-long friend. In 1874, Boudin joined Monet and other Impressionists in the first exhibition of works in that style. However, Boudin did not consider himself nor did others consider him to be as radical as Monet and some of his followers.
As Boudin’s career evolved, he traveled extensively beginning in the 1870s, and made frequent trips to Venice, Belgium, the Netherlands and southern France. Towards the end of his life, he suffered ill health and knowing the end was near, returned to his hometown of Deauville to die within view of the water he loved so well.
Charles Sheeler (1883-1963)
Born in Philadelphia, Charles Sheeler created paintings, a few lithographs, and photographs that reflected his aesthetic interest in industrial scenes of the early 20th-century American landscape. He became the major exponent of Precisionism, a style of painting that emphasizes clean-cut lines, simple forms and large areas of flat color—creating a sense of order and ‘precision’, and a suggestion that the lines of those industrial structures cut through people lives psychologically.
Sheeler was born in Philadelphia and studied there at the School of Industrial Art, from 1900/01 to 1901/02. He was awarded Certificate A in Industrial Drawing in 1901, and Certificate B in Decorative Painting and Applied Art in 1902. He then studied with William Merritt Chase at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1903 to 1906.
He made several trips to Europe, several times traveling with Chase, and from 1908 to 1910 with Morton Schamberg. On this trip, his interest in modern art, especially Fauvism, was awakened. He spent the next decade trying to shake-off the more representational style of Chase, who became so irritated with his former student’s rebellion that he quit speaking to him.
In 1917, Sheeler’s signature work began with the exhibiting of a painting, Barn Abstraction. Striving for precision and simplification, he was much influenced by Shaker artifacts and by his interest in commercial photography that had begun in 1912. His mature paintings are abstractions of facades with details isolated in space. He also pioneered in using sharp-focus techniques in response to the parallel precisionist movement in photography.
In the 1930s, the objects in his paintings were more realistic but more abstract in arrangement, and in the 1940s, his work showed disembodied planes and forms suggesting industrial shapes.
Much influenced by Paul Cezanne and Cubism, Sheeler was very much a part of the early-20th century New York avant-garde art world that included Charles Demuth, Joseph Stella, and Louis Lozowick. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he focused on American and not European subjects.
He died in Dobbs Ferry, New York in 1965.
Edward Redfield (1869-1965)
Born in Bridgeville, Delaware, Edward Redfield moved to Philadelphia as a youngster and lived much of his life near New Hope in Bucks County, an easy distance north of Philadelphia. There he became the leader of the colony of artists known as the New Hope Impressionists. In modified Impressionist style and methods, he did many landscapes, especially panoramic snowscenes of the area, and used thick paint applied to large canvases with long brush strokes instead of the feathery strokes of true French Impressionism.
He usually finished his paintings in “one go” meaning plein-air, sometimes strapping his canvas to a tree on blustery days and standing knee-deep in snow. In the summers, he painted at Boothbay Harbor, Maine. He was also a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy and a skilled craftsman who built his own house, cabinets and restored antiques.
Redfield took his early training from a Mr. Rolf in order to pass the examination at the Pennsylvania Academy, where he studied from 1885 to 1889 under teachers including Thomas Anschutz, James Kelley, and Thomas Hovenden. A fellow student was Robert Henri, with whom he developed a strong friendship, and with whom he traveled to Paris in 1889.
In Paris, he studied at the Academie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux Arts and his teachers were Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. However, he wearied of the pervasive academic styles at these schools, and spent much time painting landscapes in the Forest of Fountainbleu outside of Paris. He also painted at Barbizon and Pont-Aven.
Married, he and his wife returned to Pennsylvania in 1898 and decided to settle in Center Bridge in Bucks County near New Hope. His presence in Bucks County was enough to lure many younger artists to the region making it a nucleus for the American Impressionist movement. Holding a special affection for this man, author and fellow-Pennsylvanian James Michener wrote that Redfield “had a cluttered workshop on the canal in which he did large landscapes, especially snow scenes, and made furntiture and delightfully desinged hooked rugs. I liked his work, and I liked him, a big Russian-bear kind of man.” (Folk 10)
He exhibited extensively throughout the country and abroad, and won an impressive array of awards, including a Bronze medal, Paris Exposition (1900); Bronze Medal, Pan-American Exposition (1901); Temple Medal (1903), Jennie Sesnan Gold Medal (1904), Gold Medal of Honor (1907), Lippincott Prize (1912), and Stotesbury prize (1920), all from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Silver medal (1904), St. Louis Exposition; Fischer Prize and Gold Medal (1908) form the Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Honorable Mention (1908) and Third Class Medal (1909), Paris Salon; Palmer Gold Medal (1913), Chicago Art Institute; Hors Concous Prize (1915), Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco; Carnegie Prize (1918), Altman Prize (1919), and Saltus Medal (1927), National Academy of Design.
His paintings are included in numerous museums and public collections throughout the country, such as the Boston Museum of Art, Brooklyn Art Institute, Carnegie Institute, Chicago Art Institute, Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Towards the end of his life, he burned hundreds of paintings that he regarded as inferior. He died in 1965 in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania, and his work received little attention during the decade following his death. However, he has come to be regarded as a key American Impressionist and appreciated for his influence at New Hope.
Hugh Bolton Jones (1848-1927)
H. Bolton Jones was an award winning landscape artist of the late nineteenth century, whose paintings of pastoral scenes were widely exhibited in the United States around the turn of the century.
Born in 1848 in Baltimore, Jones began his formal studies at the Maryland Institute. In 1865, he studied under Horace W. Robbins in New York City, and two years later exhibited at the National Academy of Design.
From 1865 to 1876, Jones painted many landscapes of well-known scenes of the Eastern United States, from Maryland and West Virginia north to the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts. In style and subject matter, his paintings of this period tend to reflect the dominant influence of the Hudson River School.
In 1876, Jones traveled to Europe with his younger brother, eventually joining former Baltimore acquaintance Thomas Hovenden in the artists’ colony at Pont Aven, Brittany. Here he painted his first mature plein-air works, depicting scenes of winter light, as in Edge of the Moor, Brittany, (1877). The painting was acquired by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 2001.
In 1880, Jones returned to the United States, where he continued to paint American landscapes in a manner emphasizing the effects of seasonal light or time of day on his rural subjects. He was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1893; he received awards at the Paris Expositions of 1889 and 1900 and the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. He continued to paint until his death in 1927, in New York City.
James Hope (1818-1892)
James Hope was born on November 29, 1818/19 in Drygrange, Roxboroughshire, Scotland. After moving to the United States he became a noted portrait, landscape, and historical genre painter.
After the death of his mother, he was brought to Canada by his father, who died of cholera about 1831. According to tradition James Hope was fifteen when he walked from the Canadian farm where he had spent his boyhood to Fairhaven, Vermont, to begin his five-year apprenticeship to a wagon-maker. With the money he saved, he was able to spend a year at Castleton Seminary. Apparently an accident to his ankle, which temporarily confined him to his home, gave him the leisure to try his hand at portraiture, and his first efforts were successful enough for him to set up as a professional artist at West Rutland in 1843.
Hope married Julia M. Smith of West Rutland on September 20, 1841. Four of their children survived to adulthood: Henry F.; J. Douglass, who became a photographer; Jessie; and Addie, who married George A. Stearns and died in Argentina in 1871.
From 1844 to 1846, he painted portraits in the more lucrative market of Montreal and then returned to Castleton, where he built a house in 1851 and supported his family by teaching painting and drawing at the Seminary. Landscape painting soon began to occupy all his spare moments, combining as it did his love for the country with his newfound talent. The catalogue of his paintings sold some years after his death mentions that at this period “two famous landscape artists- one great through color-power, the other through majesty of line, came into his life with most grateful results to him and them.”
The first in this reference was Frederick Church, who in the summer of 1849 visited the spa at Clarendon Springs, Vermont, only a few miles from Castleton, and exhibited two Vermont scenes at the Academy the following year. It seems likely that he influenced Hope to focus his attentions on New York City, and may have exerted a strong influence on the Vermont painters career. In the early eighteen-fifties Hope abandoned teaching entirely and took a studio in New York, where he painted during the winter, returning to Castleton in the summer.
Hope sent a Castleton landscape to the 1849 exhibition of the American Art Union, and by 1854 had work accepted by the National Academy of Design. Thereafter, for more than twenty-five years, he was a frequent contributor to the exhibitions there and at the Brooklyn Art Association. There are paintings of the Yosemite Valley by Hope, probably after Bierstadt sketches, and of Jerusalem, the sea of Galilee, and Joppa after photographs by Bierstadt (in this case presumably Edward Bierstadt, the photographer and brother of the painter). An occasional exhibitor in Boston, Hope also sent paintings to shows in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Detroit, Utica, Chicago, and St. Louis.
Hope was among the group of artists who saw active duty in the Civil War, participating in eleven battles. After the war he acquired popularity as a painter of battle scenes. He served in the Union army and sketched many battle scenes, which he later converted to large paintings that he exhibited throughout the country. One example is his work, In Search of General Sumner.
After living much of his life in Vermont, he moved in 1872 to Watkins Glen, New York where he built a studio and art gallery. There he spent the last twenty years of his life as artist laureate of the water and wind-hewn geologic formations found in the vicinity, especially Rainbow Falls. He was also one of the many artists who painted in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Hope was elected an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design in 1871.
Adolphe Piot (1850-1910)
Adolphe Piot was born in Dijon, France in 1850. He traveled to Paris as a young man and was a student of Leon Cogniet during the late 1870’s. Cogniet instilled within Piot a love for the human form. As a genre painter, or rather a painter of the female face, Piot had few equal. Piot’s debut at the Paris Salon came in 1880. Three years later, he had an exhibition at the Societaire des Artistes Francais. His work is part of the collections at the Brooklyn Museum, in New York, and at the Rouen Museum, in France.
Francois Gall (1912-1987)
Francois Gall, Hungarian by birth, became a naturalized French citizen in 1942. He is best known as an impressionist painter in the pure French tradition. He began his artistic studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and was awarded a scholarship in 1930 from the Hungarian government. Six years later: Francois Gall established himself in Paris and became a student of Devambez at the National Academy of Fine Arts. The artist greatly admired the first generation of Impressionists and adopted their concepts for his own interpretations.
Parisian scenes and portrayals of women engaged in typically feminine activities were among his preferred subjects, but his repertoire also included landscapes and still-life composition that were the trademarks of his works. The artist participated in various Salon exhibitions in Paris and became a favorite with the public. In 1963, he was honored with the Francis Smith Prize. He died in 1987. Reference: E. Benezit, Dictionnaire des Peintres
Theodore Earl Butler (1861-1936)
Born in 1861, Theodore Butler began his training as a student at the Art Students League in New York City in 1882 with William Merritt Chase. He then went to Paris, where he exhibited in Salon de Paris in 1888, and won an honorable mention for the painting, La Veuve. After this reward, Butler had some important one-man exhibitions at Vollard and Bernheim Jeune in Paris, and Durand Ruel in New York.
In July 1892, he married Suzanne Hoschede-Monet, Claude Monet’s stepdaughter and favorite model as illustrated in his painting Femme a L’ombrelle. When Suzanne died in 1899, Butler married yet another Monet stepdaughter, Marthe, in 1900.
Butler was able to experiment using different techniques from impressionism to post-impressionism without copying Claude Monet. He painted mainly in Giverny and its surroundings, but also in Yport, Veules Les Roses, and Honfleur. He also did some paintings in Paris and New York where he painted in the Hudson River Valley and was among the first Americans to paint New York state scenes in an impressionistic fashion. The birth of his two children gave him the opportunity to paint familial scenes indoors and outdoors.
Butler acted as an important resource for other Americans in Giverny well into the twentieth century. The Butler’s house was always a friendly place. Among his closest painter friends were Philip Hale, William Hart, Pierre Bonnard, and Maximilien Luce.
Hovsep Pushman was one of those rare artists whose work was appreciated by both critics and collectors, and who enjoyed recognition and good fortune. In a 1932 one-man show at New York’s Grand Central Art Galleries, the entire display of 16 Pushman paintings was sold before opening day’s end.
Pushman, later a naturalized American citizen, was born in Armenia in 1877. At age 11, he held a scholarship at the Constantinople Academy of Art. By 17, he had gone to the United States and started teaching art in Chicago. Pushman received his formal education in Paris at the Beaux-Arts Academie under Lefebvre, Robert-Fleury and Dechenaud. He exhibited his work at the Salon des Artistes Francais in Paris, winning a bronze medal in 1914 and a silver medal in 1921. He also was awarded the California Art Club’s Ackerman prize in 1918.
Hovsep Pushman (1877-1966)
Pushman’s artistic identity began to take shape after he opened his own studio in 1921. Robert-Fleury, upon seeing one of Pushman’s early studio still lives, advised the artist, “That painting is you.” Thereafter, Pushman’s career was devoted to one subject, oriental mysticism, and one form, the still life. His paintings typically featured oriental idols, pottery and glassware, all glowing duskily as if illuminated by candlelight. They were symbolic, spiritual paintings, and were sometimes accompanied by readings, which help explain their allegorical significance. Most important, they were exquisitely beautiful, executed with technical precision.