Grand Rapids Art Museum

Grand Rapids, MI



American Masters: The Manoogian Collection


Through August 26, 2001, the Grand Rapids Art Museum will exhibit important American paintings from the collection of Richard and Jane Manoogian. American Masters: The Manoogian Collection is an exhibition of nineteenth and twentieth century American paintings, which will be displayed in two parts. Considered one of the best private collections of American art formed in this century, the Manoogian collection has been shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and toured Japan in a landmark exhibition.

The first part of the exhibition, Landscape and Still Life Traditions will be on view through May 20. It features landscape and still life paintings by major artists such as John Frederick Peto, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Cole. These works reflect the pristine beauty of American scenery defined in the nineteenth century styles of the Hudson River School, luminist painters and later realists.

Paintings in the exhibition include:


Levi Wells Prentice (1851-1935), Landscape with Apple Tree

Prentice began his career as a landscape painter, depicting the rocky terrain of the Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York and the flatter regions near Syracuse and Buffalo. After he moved to Brooklyn in 1883, Prentice increasingly turned toward still life. His favorite subject was fruit, especially apples. The clarity and near realism that he achieves in Landscape with Apple Tree is related to the trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) still lifes of William Michael Harnett or John Frederick Peto. Prentice's primitive style, however, separates him from these others, due perhaps to the fact that he was self-taught. Landscape with Apple Tree is unique because it is the only known example by Prentice of a growing fruit still life combined with such a prominent landscape scene. (left: Levi Wells Prentice (1851-1935), Landscape with Apple Tree, c. 1890s, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, Manoogian Collection)


John Frederick Peto (1854-1907), Old Time Letter Rack

In the history of American trompe l'oeil painting, Old Time Letter Rack is one of the most important examples. Formerly known as Old Scraps, it was attributed to William Michael Harnett and sold to the Museum of Modern Art in New York as such. In 1947 the art critic Alfred Frankenstein reattrbuted the work to Peto. His theory was later supported when Peto's signature and the painting's actual title were discovered during restoration. Since that discovery, more scholarship has been done regarding Peto's work.

This painting falls within the category of "rack paintings" or works that show a grouping of two-dimensional items attached to a vertical surface by a pattern of ribbons. This was one of the two types of trompe l'oeil compositions preferred by Peto, the other being tabletop settings. (left: John Frederick Peto (1854-1907), Old Time Letter Rack, 1894, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 1/8 inches, Manoogian Collection)


John Haberle (1856-1933), The Changes of Time

The Changes of Time is considered John Haberle's greatest masterpiece and one of the finest examples of American trompe l'oeil illusionism. Haberle is noted for depicting currency as an element of his compositions and replicated money so accurately that critics including the Secret Service questioned his ability to counterfeit. This attention only encouraged him to continue and refine his craft. The myriad of elements that compose this work are a testament to Haberle's abilities. And his inclusion of personal elements: the letter addressed to himself, the tintype self-portrait, and the newspaper article describing another one of his paintings, indicate that he intended the work to be a statement of his own mastery of the medium. (left: John Haberle (1856-1933), The Changes of Time,1888, oil on canvas, 24 3/8 x 20 1/4 inches, Manoogian Collection)


George Henry Durrie (1820-1863), The Halfway House

A typical example of Durrie's mature work, The Half-Way House depicts a New England inn at dawn on a wintry day. Sentimental views such as this led to Durrie's wide appeal and rise to fame. He was one of the few artists to combine both elements of landscape and genre painting into one work. As well, unlike most artists of the time, Durrie usually created winter scenes, which became his most sought after subjects. While some paintings depict actual views, more often he composed romanticized scenes.

Durrie's works reached their widest audience through lithographs made by several companies, including the best known, Currier & Ives. Dying at the young age of forty-three of a sudden illness, Durrie dropped into obscurity until the 1920s when his work was rediscovered with a revival of interest in Currier & Ives prints. (left: George Henry Durrie (1820-1863), The Halfway House, 1861, oil on canvas, 36 x 53 3/4 inches, Manoogian Collection)


Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), Sunset on the Marshes

While other painters of Heade's generation concentrated on the spectacular in the American landscape, Heade chose its subtler, serene aspects. His marsh scenes tended to be more introspective than those typical of the Hudson River painters whose work focused on majestic trees, mountains and waterfalls. In fact, most of his contemporaries took little notice of the salt marshes - the low-lying border zones between land and sea - that fascinated Heade and became his trademark subject.

Sunset on the Marshes is one of the largest examples of Heade's work done of the marshes. Most were relative!y small in scale and included a standard set of pictorial elements: a gently curving stream, a flat expanse of marsh grass, tall haystacks receding in the distance, low hills and scrub vegetation bordering the marsh, and men cutting and raking the salt hay. (left: Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), Sunset on the Marshes, 1867, oil on canvas, 27 x 52 inches, Manoogian Collection)


John George Brown (1831-1913), Hiding in the Old Oak

Throughout much of his career, Brown was largely concerned with depicting children and gained a prominent reputation for portrayals of New York's shoeshines and newsboys. However, in the nostalgic period following the Civil War, his genre scenes focused on rural children. Hiding in the Old Oak is a small study for, or copy after, Brown's much larger canvas of the same title and subject painted in 1874.

Girls were the focus of Brown's rural scenes, usually posed in sun-dappled forest interiors, sometimes leaning against large foreground trees. In this example, three young girls stand in the hollow of a massive oak tree, presumably playing a game of hide-and-seek and waiting to be found by an unseen playmate. Their mood of quiet anticipation evokes the feelings associated with childhood play. (left: John George Brown (1831-1913), Hiding in the Old Oak, oil on canvas, 23 1/2 x 15 inches, Manoogian Collection)


The second part of the exhibition is titled Impressionism at Home and Abroad and will open May 25, continuing through August 26, 2001. Paintings by American impressionist artists John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam and Willard Metcalf reflect the influence of French impressionism on American art at the turn of the century. Paintings included in Part II include:

Above left to right from the Manoogian Collection: Robert Frederick Blum (1857-1903), Flower Market, Tokyo, c. 1892, oil on canvas, 31 5/8 x 25 3/8 inches; Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), Siesta, 1887, oil on canvas, 34 x 65 inches; Childe Hassam (1889-1935), County Fair, New England, 1890, oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 20 inches; John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), John Alfred Parsons Millet, 1892, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 24 1/8 inches; Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858-1925), The Poppy Garden, 1905, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches; Theodore Robinson (1852-1896), World's Colombian Exposition, 1894, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 inches

In conjunction with the American Masters exhibition, GRAM is offering a series of concerts held in the museum galleries. American Masters/American Music will be held on Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through March 25, 2001. The series is a collaboration between the Art Museum and the Grand Rapids Symphony, St. Cecilia Music Society, and Hope College Department of Music. Performances will feature programs of American music of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Resource Library.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/23/11

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