Amon Carter Museum Presents The Allure of Paper: Watercolors and Drawings from the Collection

In celebration of its 50th Anniversary, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art presents The Allure of Paper: Watercolors and Drawings from the Collection, on view through October 9, 2011. Infrequently shown because of their sensitivity to light, the nearly 100 artworks in this special exhibition have never before been exhibited together. Admission is free.

Robert McChesney (b. 1913) Variations, 1946 Watercolor and opaque watercolor on paper © 2010 Dennis K. Calabi Purchase with funds provided by the Estate of Electra Carlin 2005.19

The one-of-a-kind works of art range in date from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century and chronicle the sweeping changes that occurred in American art over the course of nearly 150 years. From portraiture and still-lifes to landscape and genre paintings, these objects embody the breadth of the museum’s works-on-paper holdings. Artists represented in the exhibition include Winslow Homer (1836–1910), Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986), John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Ben Shahn (1898–1969) and Joseph Stella (1887–1946), among many others.

“The title of the show derives from the fact that all of these drawings and watercolors were created on paper – a medium that contributes a great deal to the look and feel of a finished work,” says Shirley Reece-Hughes, exhibition curator.

“Watercolor was the first medium employed by artist-explorers of the 16th century who sought to record the wonders of the New World,” she continues. “As America was being explored, watercolor was a convenient medium for traveling artists – paper, brushes and tins of powdered color were easily transported; because the pigment dries quickly and needs no varnishing or glazing, watercolors could be executed rapidly in the field. In fact, since American scenery became the most important subject matter for 19th-century artists, many advances and experiments in landscape painting were first seen in works on paper.”

Beginning in the 1820s artists in growing numbers exhibited their watercolors and drawings, reflecting an increasing respect for working with paper. While the Amon Carter’s drawings and watercolors collection reflects the major trends in American art from the early 19th to the mid-20th century, landscapes dominate the museum’s holdings. They reveal the varying approaches artists took to depicting the natural world over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. By the 1870s for instance, landscape artists such as George Inness (1825–1894) became less concerned with faithfully representing nature and more concerned with capturing light and tonal harmonies, along with patterns and rhythms.

“American watercolorists enjoyed a surge in popularity and support in the 1880s, and some of the most pivotal works in American modernism were created by watercolorists,” says Reece-Hughes. “A perfect example is John Marin (1870–1953), whose Brooklyn Bridge from 1912 heralded him as one of the most talented and radical avant-garde artists of his era.”

Also represented in the Amon Carter’s collection are several other significant examples of watercolors by pivotal mid-20th century artists like Hans Hofmann (1880–1966), Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) and Edmund Lewandowski (1914–1998).

The exhibition, made possible by Frost, is accompanied by a 144-page catalogue that includes more than 120 reproductions. It retails for $39.95 in the Amon Carter’s Museum Store + Café, and is made possible in part by Sotheby’s.

“As we move into the next 50 years of our history, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art will continue to acquire landmark works on paper,” says Andrew Walker, director of the museum. “With a state-of-the-art-conservation lab and a team of conservators, we are well-positioned to preserve and care for such works.”

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