William Merritt Chase’ Portrait of a Lady against Pink Ground (ca.1886) is one of the paintings on display. According to Chase’ experience “each sitter presents some new phase of personality that one has never done before. There is constant variety; constant study in my work” (from accompanying note). Seen in this vein, the portrait in discussion captures the bohemian attitude in the pose and posture of the lady (Miss Virginia Gerson). John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Frederick William Roller (dated 1895) is similar in theme adapting a mature style of portraiture that captures “the interior life of the sitter against the backdrops of finely articulated spaces” (from the explanatory note accompanying the painting). The elderly lady Mrs. Roller, dressed in a black gown, standing in the backdrop of an architectural frame, makes quite an impression. The impact on the viewer is heightened by the skilful depiction of the curves of her dress and in the attention to detail given to the room setting. The fact that Mrs. Roller is shown with minimal jewelry and accessories is a testament to the effectiveness of Sargent’s art.
Another intimate portrait is the Maybelle (1898) by Thomas Eakins. Drawn at close range, it is evident that Eakins showers his sitter with abundant inner spirit while also brining to light her emotional and cerebral intelligence. The focussed gaze of the sitter is also proof of her strength of character.
Other paintings in the exhibition embrace the genre of landscapes. Prominent among them is Albert Bierstadt’s rainbow in the Sierra Nevada (ca. 1871-73), which “depicts a romanticized western landscape as an American Eden” (from accompanying note). More than the natural setting, it is Bierstadt’s inner light that shines through the lake, mountain and the woods. Beyond fulfilling the requisite of art imitating life, Bierstadt’s masterpiece takes it to a higher perceptual level.
The Deserted Camp by Henry Raschen is another notable work on display. This painting reflects the somber reality of the systematic evacuation and extermination of the Native American population by white settlers. The eerie yet vivid colors of the American West are nevertheless beautifully portrayed. William Merritt chase’ Coast of Holland is similar in theme to The Deserted Camp, but differs in ecology and geology.
Frederick Childe Hassam’s Parc Monceau, Paris (1897) captures the essence of leisure in Paris. The aristocratic lady and the child are absorbed in the beauty of the garden setting, serving as a metaphor for life in the city. Willard Leroy Metcalf’s Bank of the Seine (1888) is a painting that haunts one’s memory. There is a melancholy and stagnancy that is attached to this work. There are some characteristic features of the impressionist style incorporated into this painting. Finally, John Henry Twachtman’s Windmills, Dardrecht (ca.1881) is an elegant landscape painting.