By Kyle MacMillan
Sept. 11th, 2019
The words “American watercolor” often brings to mind such artists as William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer. The Columbus Museum of Art is inviting viewers to reconsider another: Alice Schille.
Slightly more than two decades after Schille (pronounced SHILL-ay) left the safe confines of her native Columbus in 1897 for advanced studies in New York and Paris, she has become one of the most accomplished and recognized watercolorists in the U.S. But by the time this ambitious, globe-trotting artist died in 1955 at age 86, Schille was all but forgotten. She has stopped exhibiting much outside of Ohio in her later years, and the rise of Abstract Expressionism helped push the long popular watercolor medium to the sidelines.
Organized to mark the 150th anniversary of the artists’ birth, “In the New Light: Alice Schille and the American Watercolor Movement: was co-curated by James Keny, a Columbus art dealer, and his daughter Tara, a curatorial assistant in the department of drawings and prints at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
“In a New Light” is organized chronologically with geographical groupings of works tracing Schille’s career as she moved around- to locales ranging from North Africa to the art colony of Gloucester, Mass,-creating distinct bodies of work in each place. In all, the show encompasses nearly 60 selections drawn mostly from public and private collections in Ohio.
After studies at the Art Students League and Chase School of Art in New York, with Chase, one of her early champions, Schille embarked on a two-year European sojourn, arriving in Paris in 1903 for lessons at the Academie Colarossi. The following year, she scored an early coup, showing two oils and three watercolors in the spring exhibition at the Paris Salon, including “Knitting” (1903), a Dutch domestic scene rendered in Tonalist earth colors.
A consistently progressive artist, Schille went on to embrace forward-looking styles she encountered in Europe, such as Fauvism and Neo-Impressionism. The latter is visible in one of the exhibition’s stars, “Mother and Child in Garden” (c.1911-12), with its brightly colored dots and dashes of color, Particularly fascinating in the Neo-Impressionist vein are her expectantly open, airy and pointillist depictions of two busting streets of New York, with “Gay Spots of Color on the East Side, New York” (1915) rendered in surprising colors more readily associated with the Southwest- amber, gold, rust and avocado green.
But the artist’s experimental side also led her to venture occasionally into realms that didn’t always work, as evidences by “Colorful Cottages, New England” (c.1930-35). The accompanying label describes this watercolor. Which the curators have prominently highlighted in the opening gallery, as reveling Schille’s “understanding of modernism.” And it does have a vaguely Cubist feel with colliding angles and a topsy-turvy perspective. But the composition comes off as a little forces and awkward.
In all, Schille created some 750 watercolors, and while the quality inevitably varied, there is no shortage of standouts, Among them are “nice” (c. 1909-10), with its deft incorporation of pastel and Toulouse-Lautrec-like use of nonobjective colors, such as saturated pink, green and yellow, and the Fauvist “Midsummer Day” (c. 1916). Set against bright umbrellas and beach apparel, the latter’s strikingly nuanced sky is made up of interlocking, regular pools of blue (probably cobalt blue, which forms the kind of reticulating puddles or blotches visible here) and hints of other colors.
Few would argue that Schille was in the same league as unquestioned masters like Homer or John Singer Sargent. But she possessed a well-developed technique, achieving a stunning variety if effects (sometimes using corn syrup and other additives); a string sense of composition and perspective; and a constant thirst for the new and advanced in art. That was enough to earn her a place in “American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent,” a landmark survey presented but the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2017. “In a New Light,” in turn, takes a big step toward re-establishing the rightful place of on of Columbus’s own among the medium’s significant exponents.
-Mr. MacMIllan is a freelance art critic and writer based in Chicago.
Director Tim Keny and wife Karen Keny are honored to exhibit eight works of art from their personal collection at Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University, of which Tim is an alumni. Please enjoy viewing selections from the exhbition catalogue.
Colgate Alumni Collect is on view March 21-June 30, 2019.
In a New Light: Alice Schille and the American Watercolor Movement, on view June 14 to Sept. 29, 2019, at the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA). The exhibition honors the Columbus native’s 150th birthday and her contribution to the American watercolor movement, offering new critical insights on this remarkable artist. In addition, the illuminating exhibition explores Schille’s travels, teaching and her steadfast advocacy for women’s suffrage. In a New Light is organized by CMA with Guest Curators James Keny and Tara Keny with the assistance of CMA Roy Lichtenstein Curatorial Fellow Daniel Marcus.
Thank you to the Santa Fe New Mexican and Pasatiempo for highlighting Alice Schille, Poetry of Place at Nedra Matteucci Galleries in their publications.
An excerpt from
By Peter Tonguette / For The Columbus Dispatch
"The show is also distinguished by the presence of several big-name figures in 20th-century American art, including Grant Wood and Edward Hopper.
Among several masterpieces on display is Wood’s powerful lithograph “February,” which presents a trio of horses gathered near the edge of a wire fence. One of the horses — the leader of the pack, perhaps — is positioned in the snowy foreground, its unseen eyes sizing up the viewer."
February, 1940 Grant Wood, Lithograph
Art & Antiques October 2018
Santa Fe Exhibition
“Out of the Box,” the title of the current show at Keny Galleries, refers in part to an impressive piece of art.
That would be “Cat in a Crate,” by Stanley S. David, an actual crate that looks as though it holds a white-and-black cat inside. In reality, the cat and the wooden slats that contain it are painted in oil on canvas on the front side of the crate. The boxed cat, who indeed looks like he’d like to get out, represents a rare example of the trompe l’oeil genre — which literally means “to fool the eye” — in three dimensions.
"Keny Galleries exhibit has 150 years of works by 34 artists linked to Ohio"
"The exhibit at the German Village venue highlights 34 artists -- from Edward Potthast (1857-1927) to Elijah Pierce (1892-1984) -- who rank among the best to have been born in, or have a connection to, the Buckeye State.
The show spans an ambitious 150 years and features a variety of works. Besides numerous oil paintings, it includes lithographs, photographs, woodcuts and sculptures."
Watercolorist Alice Schille kept impressive company.
The painter, a Columbus native who lived from 1869 to 1955, was much admired for her artistry and ability. Her work was shown in tandem with noted colleagues and contemporaries in exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago, among other notable venues.
“She would be exhibiting alongside Childe Hassam, Maurice Prendergast, John Singer Sargent -- major figures -- and literally winning the top prize in those shows,” said James M. Keny, co-owner of Keny Gallerie in German Village.