The Columbus Dispatch (OH)

Exhibit | Keny Galleries: Whistler’s mom would be pleased

By Christopher A. Yates
For The Columbus Dispatch  Sunday June 17, 2012

The influence of painter and printmaker James Abbott McNeill Whistler on American art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is profound. And, of course, Whistler’s Mother (Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother) is one of art history’s most recognizable images.


While Whistler is often associated with impressionism, his work is less about the transient effects of light and more about capturing mood and experience. His work is romantic, occasionally exotic and always evocative.


On view at Keny Galleries in German Village, “Whistler’s Legacy: Nuance in a Gilded Age (1870-1914)” examines the era and influence of Whistler on 18 other American artists. The show presents 42 paintings, drawings and prints, including nine by Whistler himself.


Examples of graphic simplicity and economy can be seen throughout. The figure/ground relationship in Whistler’s Venetian Courtyard is striking. Produced on light brown paper stock, the piece has small variations of black and white line, accented with orange and green that allow the ground to exist as both space and form.


A similar dialogue between medium and ground can be found in John H. Twachtman’s pastel landscape Horseshoe Stream. Understated and delicately drawn — allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps — the composition flows in a gentle arc.


Keyed in a lighter value range, Twachtman’s Hillside, bathed in light and space, seems to glow.


In Gondolas, Venice, Maurice Prendergast uses the white of paper to his advantage; the blue-black gondolas form graceful silhouettes against an expanse of sky and water.


Many of the pieces in the exhibit depict Venice. Whistler’s Nocturne: Palaces and Otto Bacher’s Out My Window, A Rainy Night, Venice — both poetic etchings — speak to the traveler’s experience of place. The works mix melancholy and romance in a contemplative mood.


Other strong works include Edna Boies Hopkins’ print Acacia; Winslow Homer’s watercolor Girl Picking Clover; John Singer Sargent’s watercolor Facade of a Palazzo, Girgenti, Sicily; and Alice Schille’s watercolor Nice.


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