The Mitchell Gallery

The Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Gallery

Ruth Starr Rose: Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World

Ruth Starr Rose, Anna May Moaney,1930, oil on Masonite

Ruth Starr Rose, Anna May Moaney, 1930, oil on Masonite.

January 11 – February 26

Opening Reception: January 15  from 3 to 5 p.m.

This first comprehensive exhibition of paintings and lithographs by Ruth Starr Rose (1887-1965) offers a rare glimpse into the lives and spiritual world of rural African American life at the turn of the century on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. An Art Students League artist, Rose portrays crab pickers, sailmakers, and soldiers, as well as gospel song illustrations, with a dignity and compassion that expresses her deep love for the residents of the Talbot County towns of Copperville and Unionville.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Helena Foundation.

“Ruth Starr Rose” was developed and organized for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture by Guest Curator Barbara Paca, PhD; Exhibition Tour Management by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA.

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First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare

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On tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library

November 1 – December 4, 2016

St. John’s College, in partnership with the Annapolis Shakespeare Company for programming support and with the Maryland Humanities for marketing support, has been named the institutional host for Maryland. As part of the “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare” national tour, the First Folio exhibition will be on view to the public from November 1 to December 4 at the Mitchell Gallery on the Annapolis campus.

Gerveux’s Study of a Wounded Soldier

Henri Gervex, Study for Le Blessé de Guerre

Henri Gerveux (French, 1852-1929). Study for Le Blessé de Guerre (The wounded soldier). Charcoal, red and white chalk on blue paper.

In this study by the academically-trained artist Gerveux, a young man lies awake in bed. Moonlight from a window to the left cuts through the bluish darkness and falls on him. Instead of just delineating the form of the man in a dark outline all around, Gerveux touches his left side where the light falls with white chalk. Only under his right shoulder are there deliberate shadows made in black charcoal. These darker lines suggest the substantiality of the young man’s body, the weight of it lying on the mattress. But the mass of his body is also shown more indirectly by the rumpled sheet that has fallen around his waist and the folds that lie in the foreground, also touched by the moonlight.

Again, Gerveux works with the effects of moonlight to suggest the atmosphere of the scene and the inner state of the wounded soldier. You can just see, by the contrast of his dark eyelashes against the moonlit parts of his face, that the man’s eyes are open. He’s not completely at rest; instead of sinking all the way into the bed, he seems contained within himself, and aware of his position on the pillow (in the way that someone injured needs to hold themselves in a certain position in bed to be comfortable). Even though he’s not in complete repose, the lines of his body are sinuous all the same, recalling paintings of sensuous reclining Odalisques or Venuses by Ingres and Titian.

Gerveux’s work is in harmony with the best of the Academic tradition of drawing represented in the exhibit. As the painter and fierce proponent of this tradition, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, said,”Drawing is the probity of art. To draw does not mean simply to reproduce contours; drawing does not consist merely of line: drawing is also expression, the inner form, the plane, modeling. See what remains after that.”

 

The Essential Line: Drawings from the Dahesh Museum of Art

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Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (British, 1830-1896), Study for Daphnephoria. Charcoal and pencil heightened with white wash on blue paper.

August 26 – October 2016

Although drawing was established as an important training practice in Italy, it was the influence of Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts, the most important art school in the Western world, that instilled in artists the benefits of observation and constant drawing as the foundation for art making. This collection of 40 drawings from the Dahesh Museum of Art explores this tradition through the works of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Rosa Bonheur, Léon-Joseph-Florentin Bonnat, Gustave Doré, Théodule-Augustin Ribot, Léopold Robert, and other artists.

St. John’s College Community Art Exhibition 2016

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Jean Brinton Jaecks, Isabel’s Garden, 24×24, oil on panel

May 1 – 15, 2016 | Opening Reception: May 1, 3-5pm

This annual exhibition offers members of the St. John’s College community an opportunity to explore the visual arts. The result, a diverse collection of ceramics, paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, textiles, and photographs, elegantly represents the artistic talent of the community.

Image: http://www.brintonjaecksstudio.com/

John Singer Sargent’s ‘Man Reading’

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John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925). Man Reading (Nicola D’Inverno). Oil on canvas. Reading Public Museum.

This painting by John Singer Sargent is one of my favorites in the exhibit. It stands out to me as the most intimate of the Impressionist scenes. Among the many paintings of landscapes, only a few depict people, but do so at a distance; a woman in a white dress standing inaccessible on a distant hill, or a seated woman turning her head entirely away from the viewer. People in those paintings come across less as the subjects in their own right, and more as parts of the greater scene around them.

But this painting above is concerned primarily with a human subject, and I would say it goes so far as to do something none of the other Impressionist paintings in this exhibit do: it suggests the inner life of this person. That this man might be depicted as a world unto himself, and not just a peripheral element of the artist’s impression of a more general scene seems like a striking departure from the pure Impressionist tradition.

Yet the painting is still Impressionist in its style. The form of the man reading is not carefully and sharply delineated, but instead built up of lively, spontaneous brushstrokes. Around his head, these strokes are formed into a kind of halo, radiating out along the curve of his head. He is totally absorbed in reading. From the outside, the act of reading is a quiet, absorbing, contemplative one. But Sargent has captured the motion in this activity with his brushstrokes. The way the pages are painted dynamically, even roughly, as if taught with the tension with which his hand hold them.

As the reader retreats inward in thought, Sargent paints the man as half-withdrawn into a shadowy nook. But two parts of the painting stand out, illuminated in sunlight: The man’s forearm, and also the pages of the book he’s absorbed in. The most dynamic, even careless, brushstrokes form the pages of his book, which the man grips with a kind of energy absent in the rest of his languid pose.

But this painting, unlike its neighbors in the exhibition, is not totally awash in hundreds of small, vibrant brushstrokes that give the impression of a swirling, pulsating world of motion.  The motion is concentrated here in the pages of the book, the focal point of this man’s world. But what the content of this world is, we can only guess at; it is his alone. The element of inaccessibility means that his inner life is not knowable, but only suggested. In this way, the painting really is Impressionist. We can’t know the subject as himself, but we are made aware of his own perceptive capacity, separate from ours, in the depiction of him reading a book.

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Sophy Schulman — St. John’s College Student

What is Impressionism?

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George Agnew Reid (Canadian, 1860-1947). Portrait of Mrs. Reid, 1902. Oil on canvas.

The artistic movement called Impressionism seeks to record the instant that a particular perception comes to the senses—to sight—but to record the perception as just that: an impression. But all of this is barely the beginning of an understanding of the movement. First of all, what does it mean to capture the impression of something?  Let’s address this question through a look at the painting above by George Reid, a portrait of his wife.

A woman sits in the partial shade of a tree which must stand just outside of the frame. Sunlight, filtered by the leaves above, falls on her hair and shoulders directly. The clearing over her shoulder in the background provides the other source of direct light, illuminating her from behind. The turn of her shoulders and neck instigates a sort of spiral in the composition, which begins in the lower folds of the dress, moves upward to merge with the blur of grass and wildflowers on the left-hand side of the painting, follows the curve of her neck, and culminates in the upward twist of her hair. Yet the motion doesn’t end there—the turn of her neck is imitated and enhanced by the flow of the brushstrokes of trees and foliage that frame her body.

Now, leaving form behind and focusing on color, something important is revealed. This painting, in terms of its composition, deals with color and the expression of the strokes by which it is applied more than anything else—more than sharp, pure lines, for instance. It looks like the initial appearance, unfiltered by the mind is the impression. When first opening your eyes in the morning, you have only an impression of light, and then gradually color, and then shape. It takes some adjustment (and perhaps even some mental work) for the colors to arrange themselves in the shapes of objects we’re used to. What is so vibrant about this painting are the strokes of unmixed color, and the movement they seem to engender among themselves. Much of what would be delineated in a careful, realistic reproduction of the face is conspicuously absent.

How does this affect the way we see the “subject” of the painting? This painting is a portrait, but the nominal subject of it, the artist’s wife, eludes our attempt to call her the subject. Having turned her face away from the viewer, she seems almost indifferent. The subject is more the impression of this woman, and, more than that, the way in which she’s merely a part of the scene around her. The light tints in her hair are reflected in the bright strokes in the grass, and these follow the spiral form of her dress. Even the blue in her sash is reflected in the small branch that pokes upward from the lower right corner.

At the root of Impressionism  is an effort to depict the world as it appears to the viewer. The spirit of this new view is described by Cézanne, who remarked, “To paint after nature is not a matter of copying the objective world, it’s giving shape to your sensations.” No longer is the subject depicted identifiable as such in Impressionism. There has been a movement away from a deliberate focus on a single, coherent subject, and toward a view of the world as it presents itself to the artist in all its perceived color, light, and motion.

Cézanne Quotation credit: Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed.

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Sophy Schulman – St. John’s College