26/02/2024 3:14 AM

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McMullen Presentation Highlights New England Artists

4 min read

The McMullen Museum of Art hosted its second virtual presentation of the year from its Into The Collection series on Feb. 25. McMullen manager Rachel Chamberlain and assistant director Diana Larsen led this event featuring New England artists. 

Museum director and Boston College art history professor Nancy Netzer’s museum studies students prepared hypothetical exhibitions featuring pieces from the gallery’s collection. They examined five individual pieces, each student selecting their own painting of intrigue.

Larsen began the evening discussing painter Philip Leslie Hale. Hale studied art in Boston and New York before journeying to Paris in 1887, where he spent summers in Giverny with his good friend and fellow painter Theodore Earl Butler. Butler was also the son-in-law to Claude Monet, whose Impressionist landscape paintings influenced Hale’s own artistic style. 

“His paintings exhibit the characteristic bright light and broken brushwork of French Impressionism as well as plein-air subject matter,” Larsen said. 

Hale’s painting displayed in the McMullen museum entitled “The Artist’s Garden at Giverny” (1900) shares very similar Impressionist characteristics to Monet and the larger French Impressionist movement.

After traveling around the United States, Hale eventually settled in Boston and became an instructor of antique and life drawing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in 1893. Around the same time, Boston was becoming a hub for collecting and appreciating French paintings.

Following Larsen, Ethan Starr, MCAS ’21, presented on Arthur Clifton Goodwin, who is best known for his Impressionist landscapes and cityscapes of Boston and subtly capturing nuances of light and color. 

“Goodwin remains an often overlooked painter, but he was a skillful interpreter of the Boston scene,” Starr said. 

The undated oil painting entitled “The Custom House Tower from Longwharf highlights Goodwin’s remarkably diverse pallet range and polychromatic style. Starr said Goodwin did not create art for fame and fortune. Instead, Starr said Goodwin painted because art was his passion as well as his means of conveying his deep love for the City of Boston. 

Peyton Wilson, MCAS ’22, said she was intrigued by John Joseph Enneking’s “Untitled (Autumnal River Scene)” housed in McMullen since 2017. 

“I chose this particular piece because I think it’s an academically challenging diamond in the rough that the McMullen Museum has, so I had a really fun time digging into it a little bit more,” Wilson said.  

Enneking originally joined the Union Army during the Civil War, but after he was wounded, he moved to Boston where he studied lithography and industrial drawing. He began painting full time in the 1860s focusing on landscapes in the Hyde Park area.

During this time, he was surrounded by French Impressionist artists, most notably Monet, but he did not consider himself an Impressionist artist. Enneking has said that a painting that simply describes or explains in an obvious way is not a true work of art. Wilson said that the romanticism aesthetic that viewers see in Enneking’s landscapes undoubtedly conveys his love of nature. 

Matthew DiBenedetto, MCAS ’21, chose to take a deeper look at Samuel W. Griggs’s “Rocky Coast, painted in 1866. A Roxbury, Mass. native, Griggs was a prolific landscape painter best known for his paintings of scenes from the East Coast. 

Griggs began his professional career as an architect, but by 1854, he became a full-time artist. It has been speculated that he studied under artist Albert Bierstadt, as many of his landscapes are reminiscent of Bierstadt’s highly romantic style of landscape painting. Griggs is focused less on the fantastical formations that compose much of Bierstadt’s landscapes but pulls influence from his mentor, including painting techniques to depict light, as shown by the way the sun is depicted reflecting off the waves in the water onto the cliffs in his “Rocky Coast” piece.

Christopher Rizzo, MCAS ’22, concluded the evening with his study on Frederick Bosley and his work held in the McMullen Museum’s permanent collection Peggy and the Bittersweet.

Bosley was born in New Hampshire in 1881. Rizzo said Bosley was a master of interior spaces, which accounted for the vast majority of his works. Rizzo focused on painting portraits of living rooms and navigating the geometry of walled spaces, as shown in Peggy and the Bittersweet. The work depicts a woman dressed in a kimono surrounded by various sketches and paintings. 

“Bosley really presents a kind of illusion of perfect whiteness and smoothness that we see so often in romantic realist art,” Rizzo said. “Bosley really altogether rejects the Impressionist color theory of the opposite representing the real.”

Rizzo noted that his unique blend of realist and Impressionist styles influenced the American art scene, particularly in Boston.

“Bosley is still a fine American artist of the 20th century and a fixture of the American art scene,” Rizzo said. “He influenced countless students whose works have also filled the Boston art scene and made it what it is today.” 

Screenshots by Lauren Jasen

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