Watercolor is such a delicate medium, wonderful at transmitting a sense of light on the one hand, easily destroyed by exposure to light on the other, that very few artists create major works in watercolor anymore. Many watercolor paintings spend most of their time in file drawers or, when on display, veiled by cloth covers to keep them from fading.
As part of the celebration of its 80th anniversary, the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, is hauling some 75 watercolors out of its vault this spring (March 6 to June 7), exhibiting a group of spectacular watercolors that haven’t been seen together in almost 20 years.
The exhibition title, From Homer to Hopper: American Watercolor Masterworks from the Currier Museum of Art, is something of misnomer given that the watercolor show spans not just the 41 years between Winslow Homer’s 1883 “Fishwives” and Edward Hopper’s 1924 “House on Middle St., Gloucester” but the 175 or so years between folk artist Joseph H. Davis’s 1836 portrait “Bartholomew Van Dame” and contemporary works by artists such as Carroll Dunham, Sol LeWitt, and Malcolm Morley.
In between there are luminous little watercolors by Impressionists Childe Hassam and Maurice Prendergast, Modernists such as Charles Burchfield, John Marin, Arthur Dove, William Zorach, Stuart Davis, and Georgia O’Keeffe, and the romantic realist Andrew Wyeth.
The intimacy and immediacy of these dashing pictures is revealing. In the young Wyeth’s 1938 “Cat-O’-Nine-Tails,” for instance, we can clearly see the debt he owed to the Winslow Homer of the 1894 “The North Woods,” both paintings evincing a sense of virile naturalism. Unfortunately, I can’t show you the Wyeth. Even though the Currier owns the painting, the Wyeth estate retains copyright and will not allow online publication.
From Homer to Hopper also features watercolors by several artists closely associated with New Hampshire, among them Dublin Colony painter Barry Faulkner, former University of New Hampshire professor John Hatch, former Dartmouth professor Varujan Boghosian, Dartmouth grad and professor Paul Sample, former Plymouth State College professor Karl Drerup, and former Currier Art Center director Robert Eshoo.
The Currier is planning an online catalogue of the exhibition which should be live by the time the show opens.
Concurrent with From Homer to Hopper, the Currier is also featuring Celebrating New Hampshire Art and Artists, a major exhibition of arts and crafts by Granite State artists drawn from the museum’s own collection.
[Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester NH, 603-669-6144.]