Vi­brant Ex­pres­sion

Liv­ing Color, Mod­ern Life ex­plores the ca­reers of Hugh Henry Breck­en­ridge and Arthur B. Car­les

American Fine Art Magazine - - Contributors - By John O’hern

Liv­ing Color, Mod­ern Life ex­plores the ca­reers of Hugh Henry Breck­en­ridge and Arthur B. Car­les

Liv­ing Color, Mod­ern Life: Hugh Henry Breck­en­ridge and Arthur B. Car­les is an ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plor­ing the ca­reers of two Philadel­phia artists and ed­u­ca­tors whose work and con­tri­bu­tions to the de­vel­op­ment of Amer­i­can mod­ernism has been un­der rec­og­nized. It will be shown Oc­to­ber 5 through Novem­ber 2 at Avery Gal­leries, Bryn Mawr, Penn­syl­va­nia.

The early years of the 20th cen­tury were vi­brant with change in the art world as well as re­sis­tance to it. In­ter­est in the de­vel­op­ment of mod­ernism cen­tered on Newyork City, of­ten eclips­ing de­vel­op­ments in cen­ters like Philadel­phia,taos and Santa Fe.

Breck­en­ridge and Car­les trained tra­di­tion­ally at the Penn­syl­va­nia Academy of Fine Art (PAFA) in Philadel­phia and both re­turned there to teach. In her cat­a­log es­say, Ni­cole Amoroso writes,“breck­en­ridge and Car­les were both out­side the cir­cle of Stieglitz’s for­mi­da­ble in­flu­ence and ac­tive pro­mo­tion.

They re­mained in Philadel­phia and deeply con­nected to the modernist modes of thought that were em­braced there, which one could ar­gue were less rad­i­cal and more di­dac­tic.they were ‘Philadel­phia Moderns,’ which dur­ing their own life­times did not de­ci­sively limit the scope of their in­flu­ence or crit­i­cal renown; how­ever, their post­hu­mous po­si­tion in the canon of mod­ern Amer­i­can art did suf­fer, as did Philadel­phia’s sta­tion as an early cen­ter of modernist ac­tiv­ity.the goal of this ex­hi­bi­tion is to shine a light on these two ex­cep­tional mod­ern artists and the city that helped to shape them.”

PAFA was a strong­hold of aca­demic tra­di­tion but em­braced the in­no­va­tions of im­pres­sion­ism and pro­moted Amer­i­can im­pres­sion­ism.when

The Ar­mory Show thrust Euro­pean mod­ernism into the Amer­i­can scene in 1913, PAFA’S in­flu­ence be­gan to wane. Car­les and Breck­en­ridge, along with Henry Mc­carter, later brought a modernist cur­ricu­lum to the in­sti­tu­tion, restor­ing its sta­tus.

In her es­say on Breck­en­ridge in the ex­hi­bi­tion cat­a­log Laura Adams re­veals his thoughts about ab­strac­tion. “As he wrote in his man­u­script on painting, ‘All painting is, to a greater or lesser de­gree, ab­stract, as imi­ta­tion is not pos­si­ble.’ Fur­ther­more he be­lieved that the only dif­fer­ence be­tween representational painting, which he termed ‘nat­u­ral­is­tic,’ and ab­stract art was ‘the use of nat­u­ral­is­tic forms in one and con­ceived forms in the other.’ He also sug­gested that ab­stract art might be the ‘purest form’ of painting, since, un­like representational art, it could not ‘dis­tract’ the viewer with thoughts or mem­o­ries that might be as­so­ci­ated with more rec­og­niz­able sub­ject mat­ter. For Breck­en­ridge, painting ab­stractly gave him com­plete free­dom to ex­plore the four most ba­sic el­e­ments of painting—line, color, form, and space—in their purest and most unadul­ter­ated man­ner.”

His painting The White Vase, 1913, while firmly in the aca­demic still life cat­e­gory, shows the in­flu­ences of im­pres­sion­ism and mod­ernism in his bro­ken brush strokes, com­bi­na­tions of com­plex pat­terns, and the items pushed back from a large neg­a­tive space in the fore­ground.a painting ti­tled sim­ply, Ab­strac­tion, 1925, is of imag­ined forms. Adams com­ments,“…it still of­fers both a sense of form and space—cer­tain shapes ap­pear to re­cede into the pic­ture plane while oth­ers ad­vance for­ward, giv­ing the pic­ture a sub­tle ap­pear­ance of di­men­sion­al­ity. Fur­ther­more, Breck­en­ridge uses both color and line to draw our eye slowly around the can­vas.” Car­les, in ad­di­tion to his painting and teach­ing, brought three land­mark ex­hi­bi­tions of mod­ern art to PAFA in 1920, 1921 and 1923.

He painted still lifes through­out his ca­reer. Flow­ers, 1914, a mono­type with pas­tel, made by im­press­ing a painting of the flow­ers onto pa­per and em­bel­lish­ing it with pas­tel is in the bright col­ors for which he is well known.

His ex­pres­sively vi­brant Flow­ers (Ab­stract Still Life), circa 1932,“still bears some ev­i­dence of the flo­ral ar­range­ment that it ref­er­ences, and it shows Car­les striv­ing to­wards an ul­ti­mate syn­the­sis of these two ap­proaches, the struc­tured, an­a­lyt­i­cal style of Cu­bism and his own deeply in­tu­itive im­pulse for color,”adams writes.

The rep­u­ta­tion of both artists suf­fered from their lack of gallery rep­re­sen­ta­tion and, in the case of Car­les, a tragic ac­ci­dent that left him par­a­lyzed for the last 10 years of his life. Mod­ernism af­fected the art, mu­sic, literature and ar­chi­tec­ture of Philadel­phia.this ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plores and reestab­lishes Car­les’ and Breck­en­ridge’s cru­cial roles.

Above: Hugh Henry Breck­en­ridge (1870-1937), The White Vase, 1913. Oil on can­vas, 32 x 36 in., signed lower left: ‘Hugh H. Breck­en­ridge’. Cour­tesy Amer­i­can Il­lus­tra­tors Gallery, New York, NY. Left: Arthur B. Car­les (1882-1952), Flow­ers, 1914. Mono­type and pas­tel on pa­per, 20 x 17 in., signed lower right: ‘CAR­LES’.

Hugh Henry Breck­en­ridge (1870-1937), Ab­strac­tion, 1925. Oil on can­vas on board, 11 x 13¼ in., signed lower right: ‘Hugh H. Breck­en­ridge’. Cour­tesy Amer­i­can Il­lus­tra­tors Gallery, New York, NY.

Arthur B. Car­les (1882-1952), Flow­ers (Ab­stract Still Life), ca. 1932. Oil on can­vas, 26 x 20¼ in., signed lower right: ‘CAR­LES’.

Hugh Henry Breck­en­ridge (1870-1937), Moon Shad­ows. Oil on can­vas, 24 x 30 in., signed lower right: ‘Breck­en­ridge’; in­scribed on verso: ‘Moon Shad­ows’.

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