Pacific Parnassus, Mount Tamalpais

Pacific Parnassus, Mount Tamalpais by Arthur Bowen Davies

Have you ever touched the clouds?

Davies climbed Mount Tamalpais in Marin County to create drawings for this atmospheric view of Stinson Beach. He was interested in the colors of the landscape, painting the deep, inky blues of the Pacific Ocean and the warm golden hills leading to the beach below. Painting from a high vantage, Davies was able to assert the great panoramic qualities of the California landscape—using long, arcing contours, he compressed the hilltop perspective, holding the viewer high above the water.

The Mowers (When Hearts Beat as One)

The Mowers (When Hearts Beat as One) by Granville Redmond

What is the physical toll of work?

An early work by Redmond, this painting was made in Northern California shortly after the artist’s return from Paris. The landscape effectively combines the themes of harvest and workers, which Redmond would have seen during his time as an art student in France, with the decorative patterning and Tonalist atmosphere that he admired in the work of California painters Gottardo Piazzoni and Arthur Mathews.


Silence by Gottardo Piazzoni

What is your relationship to nature?

Piazzoni was friendly with the California poet George Sterling, and they often expressed similar ideas in their work. Sometimes the titles of Piazzoni’s paintings found their way into Sterling’s poems. It is thought that Sterling’s 1911 poem “Moonlight in the Pines” inspired this painting: “But o’er the dale where Silence stood, / With tranquil dews austerely crowned, / A wilder glory touched the wood,—/ A sense of things profound.”

Romance of Criehaven

Romance of Criehaven by George Wesley Bellows

What fills your daydreams?

Bellows and his wife, Emma, went to Maine every summer from 1913 to 1916. Maine was a popular destination for artists, and their trips included excursions to the islands of Matinicus and Criehaven, both near Monhegan. Bellows painted many energetic and expressive seascapes on these trips, and he and Emma enjoyed spending time in the company of artist friends such as Robert and Marjorie Henri, John and Dolly Sloan, Leon Kroll, and others who were also drawn to the Maine landscape.

Easter Morning (Portrait at a New York Window)

Easter Morning (Portrait at a New York Window) by Childe Hassam

Are cities alienating or energizing?

In 1907 Hassam began his Window series, which render the atmospheric effects of the New York City skyline from within genteel domestic interiors. In each painting of the series, a young woman is shown in a highly decorated apartment filled with art, sculpture, and fine furnishings. The contrast between the small spaces of Hassam’s elegant interiors and the expansiveness of the city symphony outside convey the various (and sometimes opposing) sensations of modern urban life.

The Blue Veil

The Blue Veil by Edmund Charles Tarbell

What is the subject of this painting?

As the title makes clear, Tarbell’s painting is not about his sitter. Rather, it is a painting of her sheer veil, which has been caught by a breeze and flows around her face and shoulders in folds and waves. Throughout his life and career, Tarbell was both praised and criticized for his single-minded commitment to beauty. In response to his critics, he said, “Art should render the beauty of the thing seen.”

The Holiday

The Holiday by Maurice Brazil Prendergast

Can an artwork have rhythm?

Prendergast humbly entered the shimmering world of 19th-century Parisian art by working on a cattle boat for his passage to Europe in 1884. The young artist stayed for three years, absorbing the influence of Impressionism, which led him to use color to emphasize form and rhythm in an intensely personal mode of expression. In The Holiday, Prendergast painted a tapestrylike scene, outlining figures, trees, and water in lively, dancing brushstrokes.

Snow Scene, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Snow Scene, Plymouth, Massachusetts by Edmund Charles Tarbell

How far can your eye travel in this painting?

Tarbell was deeply rooted in New England: his ancestors had lived in Massachusetts since 1638, and he spent his formative years in Boston. After two years as a student at the Académie Julian in Paris, Tarbell returned home, bringing with him an Impressionist perspective that he applied to American subjects. Here, Tarbell presents a snowy New England landscape influenced by the works of Edgar Degas and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, which he encountered during his years abroad.

Seaweed and Surf, Appledore, at Sunset

Seaweed and Surf, Appledore, at Sunset by Childe Hassam

What does this artist emphasize in this painting?

Despite its small size and isolation, Maine’s Appledore Island played a large role in Hassam’s life, shaping the course of his career and artistic development. The writer Nathaniel Hawthorne described Appledore, “it seems as if some of the materials of the world remained superfluous, after the Creator had finished, and were carelessly thrown down here, where the millionth part of them emerge from the sea, and in the course of thousands of years, have got partially bestrewn with a little soil.”

Waldo Peirce

Waldo Peirce by George Wesley Bellows

How is this portrait a study in contrasts?

In 1920 Bellows depicted his colleague Waldo Peirce, an irreverent painter, Harvard graduate, and friend of the writer Ernest Hemingway and the socialist activist John Reed. Peirce’s work had begun to receive serious recognition in the mid-1920s, and Bellows’s respect for his friend is evident in this portrait. The sitter leans forward slightly, conveying a remarkable sense of immediacy and liveliness, while the glowing colors and solid geometry imbue the picture with monumentality.