Saturday, November 6, 2010

"POET LAUREATE OF THE NEW ENGLAND HILL"




Willard Leroy Metcalf
Gelatin silver print, 1920
Repository: Archives of American Art
Collection: Macbeth Gallery Records, c. 1890-1964
From wikimedia.org


Self Portrait
Oil on wood panel c. 1890
Gift of Mrs. Henriette Metcalf
From flogris.org


Willard Metcalf (Born July 1, 1858, Lowell, Massachusetts, Died March 9, 1925, New York, New York) was the only child born to a blue collar, New England family that frequently moved throughout Maine and Massachusetts, finally settling in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts in 1871.
By 1874, Metcalf began to produce his first paintings and attended night classes at the Massachusetts Normal Art School. In 1877, he won a scholarship to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
(Mark Borghi Fine Art Inc at borghi.org)
Willard Leroy Metcalf, known to all his friends as "Metty" (he refused to answer to Willard), is recognized as the "poet laureate of the New England hill" for his quiet Impressionist landscapes of the farms and villages of that region. A founding member of The Ten, Metcalf brought an Impressionist's understanding of color and light to the seasonal cycles and shifts of weather that characterize New England. At the same time, his observations of nature were built on particularity; what some have called his "Yankee reticence' was in fact a naturalist's love of specifics combined with a deep understanding of the underlying pattern of the whole.
For the first twenty years of his career Metcalf had been in turn a Hudson River School painter, a prolific illustrator, and a Barbizon landscapist. His early artistic gifts were noted and embraced by his parents; at age sixteen he was apprenticed to the painter George Loring Brown and two years later was admitted to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, where he studied under William Rimmer.
In 1881, in order to earn passage to France, Metcalf worked as an illustrator of magazine articles on the Zuni Native Americans. His fascination with Zuni cosmology and ritual led him to postpone study abroad for another year to join the pioneer anthropologist, Frank Hamilton Cushing, on a Smithsonian expedition.
In the fall of 1883, Metcalf enrolled in the Academie Julian in Paris, where he was joined by other young Americans, among them Frank Weston Benson, Edward Simmons, and Arthur Hoeber. For the next five years Metcalf remained in France, not only acquiring professional polish at the academy but, far more importantly, joining his artist- companions on extended explorations of the countryside. There were trips to Pont-Aven in Brittany, where he met the American painter Alexander Harrison and the French artist Jules Bastien-Lepage, and to Grez-sur-Loing, center of the international community of Barbizon painters. But perhaps the most formative experiences in Metcalf's artistic development were his visits to Giverny, home of the most famous Impressionist, Claude Monet.
(BRUCE W. CHAMBERS at .butlerart.com/pc_book)


On the Suffolk Coast, 1885
Museum: Private Collection
From commons.wikimedia.org


Metcalf possibly first visited Giverny in 1886, where he sought out Monet and was invited to lunch. He hiked and sketched in the countryside around Giverny in the company of Monet's step-daughters, discovering a wealth of subjects-the river and the red-roofed houses, the grain stacks and the gardens that Monet was transforming into brilliant chromatic essays. Theodore Robinson also spent considerable time in Giverny and together, Metcalf's and Robinson's discoveries attracted other Americans, to the point that Giverny soon became a veritable colony of American Impressionists.
At the same time, Metcalf moved cautiously toward the more radical aspects of Monet's style: the high keyed color, the division of light into its component hues, and the broken brushwork that became the movement's signature traits. However Metcalf also continued to work through his near simultaneous discoveries of the merits of the Barbizon painters and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose works he had encountered in Paris.
(BRUCE W. CHAMBERS at .butlerart.com/pc_book)


The TEN
Black and white photographic print
Repository: Archives of American Art
Collection: Macbeth Gallery Records, c. 1890-1964
From Smithsonian Institution's photo stream


After returning to the United States in 1888, Metcalf finally settled in New York in 1890, earning an income as a portraitist, illustrator, and teacher. Although Metcalf's life in the late 1890s was marked by "fitful person relationships and (Artistic) unproductiveness" (Ulrich Hiesinger, "Impressionism in America", p. 24), he counted among his friends such artists as J. Henry Twachtman, Robert Reid, and Edward Simmons. In 1898, Metcalf was one of the founding members of The Ten, a group of artists who rebelled against the tight strictures of the National Academy of Design.
Metcalf managed eventually to get his problems under control, and enjoyed a long, successful career, despite the occasional re-emergence of bouts of financial troubles, romantic conflicts, and heavy drinking. One indication of his reputation during his lifetime was the sale of "Benediction" for thirteen-thousand dollars, then the highest price ever paid for a painting by a living American artist.
(Mark Borghi Fine Art Inc at borghi.org)


Gloucester Harbor
Oil on canvas, 1895
© Mead Art Museum, Amherst College
arthistory.about.com


Havana Harbor
Oil on canvas, 1902
Public collection
From ARC


Poppy Garden, 1905
In Private Collection
From .artinthepicture.com


Metcalf’s return to Old Lyme in the fall of 1907 was his last visit there. He never forgot that Old Lyme had given him the boost to his career that had made all the difference. May Night, his moonlit view of the Griswold House, painted in 1906, won a gold medal at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and was bought for its permanent collection. His career took off after that.
(flogris.org)


Ebbing Tide, Version Two
Painting - oil on canvas, 1907
Farnsworth Art Museum (United States)
From museuma.com


This coastal scene (above) is one of three Metcalf panels installed as a group in a prime spot in the dining room. Twice the size of the landscape and the floral still life beneath it, this scene is a near twin to a painting Ebbing Tide, Version 2 (currently in the collection of the Farnsworth Museum in Rockport, Maine) that Metcalf did in Maine during the late summer of 1907 and gave to artist Frank Benson. It is possible, then, to approximate a date for the panel. Metcalf arrived at the Griswold House for his third season on September 11, 1907, was there through at least October, and never stayed there again. He could have painted the panel in New York afterwards, but the panels that artists took to the city to work on in 1907 would have been finished by the following spring.
The panel and the earlier easel painting differs only a little. The easel painting is nearly square, has more sky, and less land at the left. The panel has lighter colors, and there are more of them, as in the touches of violet, green, and gold in the water. The surf is also whiter on the panel. The rocky headland is less clearly defined, however, and Metcalf eliminated some small boats that were near the far shore in the easel painting. Both paintings are compelling portrayals of the meeting of land, sea, and sky that humans often sense as elemental and profound. (A painting of another island in Maine by Old Lyme artist Charles Ebert of Monhegan Headlands in the Museum’s collection is another variation on the theme.)
It was in July 1907 that Metcalf’s young wife ran off from the Griswold House with fellow art colonist Robert Nisbet, a former student of Metcalf’s. Devastated and humiliated, Metcalf also left Old Lyme soon afterward and headed for Southport, Maine. On August 20 he wrote to Florence Griswold and informed her that he was suffering “a slight indisposition of the nerves” and would stay with his artist friend Frank Benson at North Haven, Maine. Benson and his family gave Metcalf much needed comfort, and he gave them the painting of Penobscot Bay that he completed during his stay and chose to replicate on this panel.
(florencegriswoldmuseum.org)


Early Spring Afternoon - Central Park
Oil on canvas 1911
Frank L. Babbott Fund
© Brooklyn Museum
From arthistory.about.com


Cornish Hills
Painting - oil on canvas, 1911
Private collection
From en.wikipedia.org


Hush of winter
Painting - oil on, 1911
Private collection
From museuma.com


Metcalf found his primary source of happiness outdoors; he was an avid naturalist and fisherman who combined those pleasures with painting in all seasons. He became known as a painter of seasonal landscapes, and was especially praised for his direct, honest approach to the New England landscape and for his sensitivity to the changing faces of nature, foliage color, and light quality. Winter was a favorite season; his snow-filled canvases were often compared to the works of his friend Twachtman, another winter specialist.
According to his biographer, Elizabeth de Veer, Metcalf "could not conceive of a universe (that was) sublime or tawdry, awesome or merely ordinary." Rather, his universe was "an expression of agreeable and very beautiful differences within a safe framework of predictability." In a letter to his daughter Rosalind, penned shortly before his death in 1925, Metcalf wrote that his painting was:
An endless effort of putting paint on a canvas with a miserable little brush—and endeavoring to make it express thoughts and dreams—that will perhaps reach out and say something to someone, something that will make wandering souls—stop—and look—perhaps awaken something in them that may make them think of beautiful things—and so perhaps happiness. —Oh! my dear—it's a long journey this painting game—and such hard and continued effort demanded, if one has an ideal, such as I have, and the desire for perfection.
(Bruce W. Chambers for the museum's collection catalogue at nbmaa.org)


Autumn Roadside, 1918
Museum: Private Collection
From commons.wikimedia.org



A VALLEY LANDSCAPE
Pastel on paper, 1919
(Purportedly painted at Woodbury, Connecticut)
Housed in a 22k giltwood frame with silk liner and giltwood fillet
From mfordcreech.com


A probable sketchbook study (above) in preparation for “Maytime” of 1919, a 36" x 39" oil on canvas. The pastel image is from a slightly different vantage point, but incorporates many of the same elements as the larger oil. (There is also listed an earlier oil also entitled “Maytime”, from 1909.) “Maytime” (1919) achieved Metcalf's second highest auction price, reaching 940,000.00 USD, May 2006, Sotheby’s NY.
Willard Metcalf became known as the "quintessential painter of New England landscapes", his style fusing the best of French impressionism, gleaned from the Academy Julian, with the American spirit of realism. His short curved brushstrokes, strong composition and clear colors depicted the New England landscapes with an enigmatic soft but powerful combination.
In 1919, Metcalf painted his second version of "Maytime", the painting achieving both the second and third places among his auction records. "Maytime" (1919) was purportedly painted near Woodbury, CT. The offered pastel is a sketchbook depiction of the same scene from a slightly different vantage point, signed and also dated 1919, lower right. The provenance is with a Canadian family, for three generations.
(mfordcreech.com)


Maytime
Painting - oil on canvas, 1919
Private collection
From museuma.com


November Mist
Painting - oil on canvas,1922
New Britain Museum of American Art (United States)
From museuma.com


Metcalf's vision of "summerland"—a world of perpetual sunshine and perfect repose—was not just another pretty concept; instead, it epitomized his spiritualist concept of the afterlife. Despite his own troubled adulthood (which included two divorces and a history of alcoholic binges), Metcalf held to this ideal, which guided his career as America's foremost Impressionist landscape painter.
(Bruce W. Chambers for the museum's collection catalogue at nbmaa.org)


Icebound Brook
(Also known as Winter's Mantle)
Private collection
Painting - oil on canvas
From the-athenaeum.org


Closing Autumn
Painting - oil on,1924
Private collection
From museuma.com


Metcalf taught painting for many years at varying institutions around New York including the Woman’s Art School, Cooper Union and the Art Students League. When Metcalf was not in New York, he would take painting trips around New England. Metcalf frequented a Connecticut artists’ colony in Old Lyme where he painted a large body of landscape paintings. Metcalf’s work is now in major museums in Washington D.C. and New York. Metcalf’s work has inspired American landscape painters for generations.
(artexpertswebsite.com)
The Corcoran Gallery held a large exhibition of Metcalf's work in 1925, shortly after which the artist died of a heart attack in New York City, at the age of 66.
The Florence Griswold House, where Metcalf visited and stayed in Old Lyme between 1905 and 1907, now houses the largest public collection of Metcalf's paintings and personal artifacts in the world.
(en.wikipedia.org)


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