FORT WORTH, Texas --- Of the 59 objects assembled for "Celebrating America: Masterworks from Texas Collections," 47 of the artists are also represented in the Amon Carter Museum's permanent collection. The Carter is known to hold one of the finest collections of American art in the country, and the parallels between its holdings and the works in this special exhibition attest to the depth and quality of American art that lives in collections around the state.
Two paintings by Marsden Hartley provide an example of the comparisons that can be made between the works in "Celebrating America" and the Carter's collection. "American Indian Symbols," owned by the Carter, and "Portrait Arrangement" (McNay Art Museum in San Antonio), were both executed in 1914, a pivotal and productive year for Hartley, who was then living in Berlin. The Fort Worth picture reflects Hartley's American identity, expressed through references to Native Americans whose cultural heritage could be seen in Berlin's extensive ethnographic collections. However, with the advent of World War I, Hartley's work shifted to the imagery evident in "Portrait Arrangement," a tribute to the death of a mounted German soldier.
Extensive comparisons can be made between Fitz Hugh Lane's "Sunset at Gloucester Harbor" (1858), loaned from a private collection, and Lane's painting from two years earlier, "Boston Harbor" (1856), which is in the Carter's collection. Together, the two works dramatically convey Lane's increasingly sophisticated technique.
"Despite the relatively short period of time that separates these two works, 'Sunset at Gloucester Harbor,' which is slightly larger than the Carter's earlier landscape, reveals the full maturation of the artist's style," says Jane Myers, the exhibition cocurator. "The painting displays a remarkable, spare beauty resulting from the artist's simplification of detail and his increasing fascination with the spectacular atmospheric effects of twilight, the time of day when sunlight takes its most magical form."
An examination of Dennis Miller Bunker's "Portrait of Kenneth Cranford" (1884), on loan from the collection of Graham D. Williford, and the Carter's "In the Greenhouse," which Bunker painted in 1888, provides a remarkable confirmation of the scope and promise of this talented artist who died prematurely at the age of 29.
"The Norther," a rare Frederic Remington bronze cast in 1900, offers an intimate look at one of the few Remington bronzes not represented in the Carter's nearly complete set of casts. Only three casts were made of "The Norther," a gripping depiction of man on horseback suffering from the ravages of bitter cold and wind.
"Remington painted on the surface of the model for this work with a brush dipped in molten wax," Myers said, "thereby creating a lively surface which, with its variegated color and mixture of reflective surfaces, shimmers and scatters the light that strikes it."
Two Georgia O'Keeffe paintings, "Open Clam Shell" (1926) and "Closed Clam Shell" (1926), are on loan to "Celebrating America" from a private collection. They wonderfully complement the Carter's O'Keeffe paintings, which begin chronologically with her 1918 work "Series I - No. 1" and end with "Black Patio Door," painted in 1955. Like "Red Cannas," one of the Carter's paintings by O'Keeffe painted in 1927, the "clam shell" paintings evoke the intense sensuality that characterized the artist's focus on natural materials, such as flowers and shells.
"O'Keeffe executed the "clam shell" paintings during a trip to Maine, where she had traveled in search of solitude and freedom from the New York art critics, who at the time were fixated on the erotic content of her work, at the expense, she felt, of her works' unique formal properties," Myers said.
In another example, a comparison can be made of two genre pictures dating to the early 1880s by Thomas Hovenden and Helen Corson-the former in the Carter's collection, the latter owned by Wells Fargo. Such comparison provides insight into this husband and wife's sympathetic working environment in their Pennsylvania studio where, with restrained sensitivity, they explored the African-American way of life during the post-Civil War period.
These are just a few of the highlights that await visitors to "Celebrating America: Masterworks from Texas Collections," which is accompanied by a 146-page catalogue. The exhibition brings to light the wealth of American art that resides in the state of Texas, and the art itself reveals the rich heritage that this country enjoys.
This exhibition is organized by the Amon Carter Museum. It is made possible by a generous gift from Wells Fargo.
The Star-Telegram is the official print sponsor of the Amon Carter Museum.