William Glackens: Touchstone of American Art

Christie's
Mar 4, 2014 10:29PM

In 1912, Albert Barnes, the pharmaceutical industrialist and avid art collector, commissioned William James Glackens to purchase new artwork from Paris. The artist and friend of Barnes, known for his astute eye, sent back twenty paintings, including works by Pierre-August Renoir, Paul Cezanne, and Henri Matisse, forming an essential part of the renowned Barnes Foundation Collection.

Early in his career, Glackens had composed part of The Eight, a group which initiated a desire for American art that spoke to their time and their realities. Later, however, he began to shy away from Realism, preferring to emulate the works of French Impressionists, and most prominently the work of Renoir. This development led to the criticism of his work by many of his colleagues, who cited his colorful, lively quality as being against the times. Art Critic Jerome Mellquist believed Glackens “attachment…to Renoir, unfortunately, coincided with, if indeed it did not reflect, a slackened response to American life.” However, in his new-found style, Glackens wished not to express the anguish of his time, but instead to create a divergence from it.

This year the Nova South Eastern University Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Florida will be presenting the first comprehensive survey of the artist in 45 years. Curated by art historian Avis Berman, the exhibition will show the full scope of the artist’s legacy and will examine his wide range of motifs, from life in New York City, to shorelines, and figure studies. The exhibition will travel to the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York later this year, and will end at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia in early 2015.

William Glackens at the Nova South Eastern University Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale runs through June 1, 2014.

Images:(1) At the Beach, c. 1918, Oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 in., Collection of The Newark Museum, Gift of Mrs. Felix Fuld, 1925; 25.1167)

(2) Christmas Shoppers, Madison Square, 1912, Crayon and watercolor on paper, 17 ¼” x 31”, Collection of Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southeastern University; Bequest of Ira Glackens 91.40.106 

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