Friday, March 09, 2012

ism of the week - week 4

Each week during our current exhibition, ...isms: Unlocking Art's Mysteries, we will post deeper insight into one of the paintings on view. Past the credit line, past the exhibition label, Assistant Curator Amanda Burdan shares her thoughts:

Elmer MacRae’s Still Life with Magnolias is among the newest paintings in the Florence Griswold Museum’s collection. This modern looking painting may seem like a surprising choice for the collection given that MacRae is an important Impressionist from the Cos Cob art colony. He is, perhaps, even more important to the overall history of American art for the work he did as a member of the American Association of Painters and Sculptors, the group that organized and mounted the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as the Armory Show. That pivotal exhibition helped to introduce American audiences to a broad range of the modern styles coming out of Europe. MacRae submitted Impressionist styled works to that exhibition, but soon after came under the influence of the twentieth-century Europeans, updating his style.

This still life, painted two years after the Armory Show moves away from the sketch-like images of his Impressionist years, substituting in bold brush strokes to represent the vase, flowers, and especially the patterned background. MacRae takes a step toward Modernism with the abstract qualities of the worka radical move for a young American at the time, but he may appear to our eyes to remain conservative in his choice of subject matter. In fact, Modernists like Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso embraced the simple still life as a vehicle for their more groundbreaking experiments in style.

Elmer Livingston MacRae (1875–1953)

Still Life with Magnolias, 1915

Oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum

Museum purchase

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