American Fine Art Magazine - - My View - By Jay Can­tor

Ihaven’t seen it. I haven’t seen the ex­hi­bi­tion Thomas Cole’s Jour­ney: At­lantic Cross­ings at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art which had not yet opened when this ar­ti­cle was writ­ten.the show, while de­voted to the work of pi­o­neer­ing Amer­i­can land­scape painterthomas Cole (1801-1848), rep­re­sents some­thing of a break with the tra­di­tional mono­graphic sur­vey, which gen­er­ally in­cludes vast num­bers of the artist’s work. Usu­ally ar­ranged in a chrono­log­i­cal or­der, such ex­ten­sive cel­e­bra­tory ex­po­si­tions can re­quire greater vis­ual mem­ory than most mu­se­um­go­ers bring to the ex­pe­ri­ence.the Cole show is dif­fer­ent.while an ef­fec­tive sur­vey, it is driven by the de­sire to show that Cole, like many other Amer­i­can artists, did not ex­ist in iso­la­tion. As an English­born painter, Cole was es­pe­cially sen­si­tive to ideas and in­no­va­tions from abroad.

But why would I want to write about it with­out hav­ing seen it? One rea­son is that there is a coun­ter­point to it re­cently on view at the Worces­ter Art Mu­seum, Com­ing Away:winslow Homer and Eng­land. That show fo­cuses on a brief episode in Homer’s artis­tic jour­ney and the im­pact of a for­eign trip in 1881-82 on the sub­ject mat­ter and style of his art. In their plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion, the shows of­fer in­struc­tive points of com­par­i­son and since I pre­fer to call these columns com­men­tary rather than re­views, the task is fea­si­ble.

It would seem a risky en­deavor, nonethe­less, to dis­cuss an ex­hi­bi­tion I haven’t seen. I was re­minded of a pas­sage in the min­utes of the Sketch Club, an in­for­mal gath­er­ing of Amer­i­can artists and writ­ers in the sec­ond quar­ter of the 19th cen­tury.the small group that con­sisted, more or less, of the en­tirety of the artis­tic and lit­er­ary es­tab­lish­ment res­i­dent in New York dur­ing the pe­riod would meet at each other’s homes for con­ver­sa­tion on the perils and prom­ise of their pro­fes­sions as well as in­dulging in some creative en­deav­ors. Mod­est food and an am­ple sup­ply of al­co­hol en­hanced the reg­u­lar con­ven­ing of the club (“Not much draw­ing tonight ex­cept corks” reads one en­try in the min­utes).the spir­ited na­ture of these ses­sions is ev­i­dent in a de­scrip­tion from the min­utes of 1829 shortly af­ter the club’s found­ing.“thanks, of the Club are re­turned to Mr. Bryant for hav­ing given an ex­cel­lent crit­i­cism on a Columbia Col­lege ora­tion, which he had not heard, and an ad­mirable ac­count of a

Winslow Homer (1839-1910), Hark! The Lark, 1882. Oil on can­vas. Lay­ton Art Col­lec­tion Inc., Gift of Fred­er­ick Lay­ton at the Mil­wau­kee Art Mu­seum, L99. Photo by John R. Glem­bin. Cour­tesy Mil­wau­kee Art Mu­seum. On view in Com­ing Away: Winslow Homer and Eng­land, co-cu­rated by Worces­ter

Art Mu­seum and Mil­wau­kee Art Mu­seum, which will ex­hibit the show March 1 to May 20.

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