On Exhibit: Women artists in spotlight at The Hyde

Much to see in "Changing the Landscape" and "Jane Peterson"
"Gloucester Fleet," by Jane Peterson; collection of David and Weezie Reese
"Gloucester Fleet," by Jane Peterson; collection of David and Weezie Reese

Categories: Art, Entertainment

On the local art scene, it’s the summer of women. 

The Clark Art Institute recently opened two exhibitions dedicated to female artists: “Women Artists in Paris: 1850-1900” and “Jennifer Steinkamp: Blind Eye.” Earlier this week, The Hyde Collection introduced two exhibitions which compliment the Clark’s exhibitions, including “Changing the Landscape: Women Impressionists from the Thomas Clark Collection,” and “Jane Peterson: At Home and Abroad.” 

“Changing the Landscape” sits on the wings of “Jane Peterson” exhibition. 

“I didn’t want Jane Peterson to seem like a one-off,” said Jonathan Canning, the director of curatorial affairs and programming at the Hyde. 

They function as introductions to one another and contexts for each other; illuminating what it took to become a successful artist during that time period.

With “Changing the Landscape,” one finds a variegated mix of female artists known and perhaps not so known today. Most are from the 20th century, during a time when about 40 percent of artists were female, according to the United States census. 

“The 1920s were this high point,” Canning said. While art was becoming more commodified and codified as something the bourgeois could show off in their homes in large quantities, the freedom to enter into art schools was finally granted to women. At least in some parts of the world. Yet, it was still difficult for women to get into juried shows and get the recognition that male artists received. 

The Thomas Clark collection highlights the fact that female artists were just as good, just as qualified as the male artists, said Canning. 

Deceivingly simple in subject, “Early Morning Sunlight,” by Harriet Randall Lumis, is not to be quickly overlooked. As its title indicates, its a landscape piece, with light just beginning to creep up lush greenery and making shadows of the trees, with a dark river running through the middle ground. Viewing it from the side, rather than head on, makes one feel like if one stepped forward, their feet would expect to feel the dewy grass in the painting rather than the hardwood museum floor in front of them.  

Other works, like “In the Harbor,” by Ashley Judson, draw the viewer into a dark New England day out on a harbor, with sailboats and rowboats empty and ready for a storm. There are several other Judson pieces in the exhibition, along with works by Mabel May Woodward and Henrietta Dunn Mears and others, that may not have been granted the recognition they deserve.  

Canning hopes that the exhibition will give them that and that it just might spur viewers to look into those artists again. 

Stepping into the “Jane Peterson” exhibition, it quickly becomes apparent that Peterson might be one of those artists who deserve more recognition than they were given. Exhibiting every year from 1908 to 1960, Peterson had the same ambition one associates with a workaholic today. She had aspirations and stuck to them. 

“It’s amazing to think that she was successful . . . yet, outside of American art [experts] she’s just not known,” Canning said. 

Peterson, born in the United States, traveled to across Europe and the globe, to train. She would seek out artists to study under, train with them for a little while and then move on to another teacher. It was a very formative time for her, said Canning and one that inspired her for years even after she came back to work in the United States. 

Peterson’s style morphs; going from impressionistic to expressionistic, with some elements of fauvism mixed throughout (like in one of her “Gloucester Harbor” pieces she paints the rocky hillside in these bright pink colors, only their placement and context make apparent what they are). 

Her subject matter was also fluid. Abroad, she painted the landscapes and the people she saw, like the bustling markets and people in “Arab Cafe, Biskra,” or “Sahn at the Beyazit Mosque, Constantinople.” At home, she gravitated to landscapes, as well as languid beach scenes, and intimate scenes of women. 

While she achieved great success in her lifetime, she didn’t operate in a bubble. She was involved in and even led several groups dedicated to celebrating women artists. As Canning said, she wasn’t by any means a one-off.  

Looking at both the “Changing the Landscape” and “Jane Peterson” exhibitions head on, one sees only a fraction of what’s there. These two exhibitions require a bit of time and a willingness to wander, to look at the works, as well as the artists, from a few different perspectives. The exhibitions are at The Hyde for a shorter time frame than usual and will only be on exhibit through mid-October. For more information visit hydecollection.org

Artists Reception at The Artists’ Space at the National Bottle Museum 

This year marks the 10th anniversary of The Artists’ Space at The National Bottle Museum. The latest show features over 50 returning artists from across the greater Capital Region. There will be an artist reception from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sun. The exhibition is open until Sep. 1.

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