Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Inside the Collection: Art of Children

It's with great anticipation that I open new collections of paintings curated by Carol Grafton. Carol almost always embraces a much broader sweep of painters than I do—seldom showing more than works two by each artist. I love this approach! It always exposes a few more branches in the tree of art history to climb out on….so it is with Art of Children.

Looking at this collection, I'm immediately inclined to try sort it. The collection divides nicely along the lines of Genre vs. Portrait. Genre paintings depict scenes from everyday life, portraits portray the visual appearance of individuals or groups of subjects.

My own tastes run toward the formal and conventional– the portraits are always more interesting to me. That said, there are some very appealing paintings among the genres–the Winslow Homer selections remain incredibly fresh and innovative today, one can imagine the impression that they would have made in the 19th century.
Snap the Whip, Winslow Homer

There are a number of images in the collection that seem to cross the line between genre and portrait—perhaps this only to my eye. For example, Sargent's The Daughters of Edward D. Boit, while clearly identified as a portrait, has an informal, situational quality that heads in the direction of genre painting.

The Daughters of Edward D. Boit, John Singer Sargent

One of those aforementioned 'new branches' to climb out on are the George Bellows portraits. I guess I've never explored his work beyond his famous 'fight' paintings. These group and individual portraits are quite striking, and have a slightly dislocated, Manet-esque quality to them.

Emma and Her Children, George Bellows

Best in show? You cannot deny the classics—Thomas Gainsborough's homage to the Master (Anthony van Dyck): The Blue Boy.

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