American Works from the Paine Art Center

by Paul A. Manoguerra



The Paines did not collect many works by major American Impressionists. They instead showed a preference for the regional "schools" of Impressionism, evident in the Delaware Valley scene of Edward Redfield. Redfield studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and then went to Europe with Robert Henri. He worked in Paris and Fontainebleau from 1887 to 1892, before returning home to buy a house and studio on the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His favorite subject matter -- the Delaware Valley in winter -- prevails in many of his compositions. Winter Landscape, a simple composition with its snow-covered road leading into a Pennsylvania village, has a quaint and friendly feel. Redfield captures Americana through warm colors, blue-grey skies and a minute horse-drawn carriage at the focus of the painting.

Another of the regional artists the Paines collected became more well known as a Hollywood effects artist than as a painter. Born in Paris in 1903, Emil Jean Kosa, Jr., and his family moved to the United States in 1907. His father, who was also a painter, assisted Alphonse Mucha in Paris for twenty years. Kosa, Jr., settled permanently in Los Angeles in 1928, after studying in Europe at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, Charles University and the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Upon his return to America, Kosa taught at the Otis and Chouinard Institutes in Los Angeles. In 1939, he had his first significant one-man show; thereafter, he had solo exhibits throughout Southern California and occasionally in the East. During the last thirty-five years of his life, he was a special effects artist for Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

In his spare time, Kosa painted and helped to create what critics called the "California School" of regional watercolorists. Kosa's paintings were best known for their city views and landscapes painted boldly with intense light and rich color. The Paines acquired both Sunshine After the Rain and Agouras directly from Kosa. Agouras shows one of the reasons why California is called the "Golden State." The untamed, golden brown hills of central California dominate Kosa's composition.

The strength and vibrancy of California light also bathes the works of many other California-based artists in the Paine Collection. The Paines wintered in La Jolla, Redlands, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and visited Southern California's galleries and exhibitions. California's vast natural beauty had inspired many previous visitor and resident American artists, including Albert Bierstadt and Inness. But a younger group of artists became interested in the California scene in the 1920s and 30s. The California public was by and large still interested in Impressionism. Two of those California "Impressionists" are Maurice Braun and William Louis Otte.

Arguably the most brilliant landscape artist of his generation working in California, Braun became the first San Diego artist to receive national attention. Having absorbed some of the aesthetic of Impressionism from William Merritt Chase, Braun utilized short brushstrokes, sparkling light and prismatic coloration in his light-filled landscapes. He was attracted to patterned landscapes that repeated similar shapes on different spatial planes and emphasized contrasting rhythms. Mountain Lake was painted near Escondido in the Cleveland National Forest at Lake Hodges in San Diego County.

Otte, born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1871, studied with Robert Henri in New York City before moving to Santa Barbara. His Purple Sage and Eucalyptus at Sunset, Santa Barbara are an interesting blend of Barbizon style subject matter and Tonalist atmosphere. But unlike the Barbizon works of Blakelock or Hart, Otte's impressionist palette fits the vibrant California light.

Lillian Genth is one of only two female artists whose works the Paines collected. Genth distinguished herself as a highly successful painter dealing with the nude figure in a landscape. She was born in Philadelphia and won a fellowship to the School of Design and the Philadelphia Academy. In 1900, Genth was awarded the Elkins Scholarship, which enabled her to study for a year in Paris under Whistler and to spend three additional summers in the galleries of Europe. After she returned to Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts awarded her the Mary Smith Prize in 1904. Her Siren of the Glen, a sensual and feathery landscape, has a room-like feel via a soft, diffused light source in the trees, echoed in the water.

Although the Paines collected work by mostly historical artists, they also purchased works from living artists, including John Edward Costigan (1888-1972). Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Costigan was orphaned at twelve and, at age fifteen, went to New York City to live with relatives. He worked for H.C. Miner Lithographing Company for twenty-eight years and briefly attended the Art Students League. He subsequently exhibited at New York's MacDowell Club, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Babcock Gallery before enlisting in the U.S. Army as a private. He returned to New York after the war and married in June of 1919 before settling on his farm in Orangeburg, New York. National recognition came in 1922 after he won an award at the National Academy of Design and a purchase prize at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint specific influences upon the mostly-self-taught Costigan, certainly Woman with Goats hints at American Impressionism, especially the strong brushstrokes of his friend George Luks. His prints of the 1930s show a social realism reminiscent of the Ashcan School and the Regionalists. And his watercolors have an opaque and abstract quality. Most certainly, the unique aspect of Costigan's oils are his free use of paint. There is a topography in paintings like Woman with Goats where colors rise and fall in hills and valleys of impasto.


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