Paul Jenkins (1923-2012)

Phenomena When I Looked Away, 1960

Paul Jenkins was an American painter who came to maturity during the reign of the Abstract Expressionists. Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1923, he studied at the Art Institute in his hometown from 1938 to 1941, and then served as an apprentice at a ceramics factory. Afterwards, he moved to New York City to attend the Art Students League under the G.I. Bill. He remained until 1952, befriending fellow artists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, but choose to move to Paris after a year to escape the dominant influence of Abstract Expressionism. While abroad, he discovered the effects of staining a canvas as opposed to painting on it – color by flow instead of application. This interest was sparked by his earlier work in ceramics, translating the luminous effects of glazing to a new medium.

Upon his return to the United States in 1956, he encountered the works of the prevalent American Color Field painters Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, after which he fully took to the technique of staining. Jenkins applied oil paint or thinned acrylic to primed white canvas, typically starting at the corners, and manipulated its flow by adjusting the canvas’ position, sometimes also using blade-like devices to direct the paint further. He normally used bright, bold colors in his works, all of which he gave titles that began was the word “phenomena” beginning in the 1960s. His works are indeed phenomena – something that is impressive and extraordinary. 

In a 2009 review of his work, Roberta Smith described his paintings as “too beautiful for their own good.” Jenkins worked in this mode for the entirety of his career. He was the subject of two major retrospectives at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the San Francisco Museum of Art, both in 1971, but he received the greatest critical attention in 1978 when his work was featured in the movie An Unmarried Woman. Starring Alan Bates, the movie chronicled the life of a Manhattan artist; the works supposedly done by Bates’ character were actually those of Jenkins, who reportedly spent weeks coaching the actor in the finer points of his working process. Jenkins died in New York City in 2012 after a short illness.

Randy Kennedy, “Paul Jenkins, Painter of Abstract Artwork, dies at 88,” The New York Times, June 12, 2012


William Vonnoh (1858 – 1933) 

An American Impressionist painter known for his portraits and landscapes. He traveled extensively between the American East Coast and France, more specifically the artists colony Grez-sur-Loing.

Robert William Vonnoh has long been recognized as a pioneering figure in the development of American impressionism. The radical coloristic brilliance and dramatic impasto of some of his early paintings distinguished him among his contemporaries and in posterity as one of the most advanced first-generation American practitioners of impressionism. 

In the mid-1880s, a group of advanced Boston painters began to broadcast their interest in the new mode known as impressionism. Boston painters Lilla Cabot Perry (Vonnoh’s former classmate at the Cowles School) and John Enneking, both of whom would serve as catalysts for local interest in impressionism, were among Vonnoh’s associates. 

Although he later claimed to have not seen Claude Monet’s work until 1889, Vonnoh visited the French impressionist exhibition at the Mechanics Building in Boston in 1883, as well as the impressionist collection the Durand-Ruel gallery displayed in New York three years later. 

In 1887 Vonnoh returned to France for an extended stay that marked a turning point in his young career. Undertaking more daring experiments in pure color and broken brush strokes, as in the paintings of poppy fields that declared him “a devoted disciple of the new movement in painting.” 

In Poppies the horizon is pressed close to the top edge of the image or eliminated altogether for an abstract effect heightened by the application of unmixed pigment seemingly directly from the tube. This work has been cited as evidence of Vonnoh’s awareness not only of Monet’s brilliant poppy field paintings but also of post-impressionism. 

As an influential teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the 1890s he helped to nurture not only a taste for impressionism but individual self-expression, a value that proved fundamental in the advances of the next generation. Yet Vonnoh remains little known beyond scholarly circles, and that almost entirely for his radical impressionist work of the late 1880s and early 1890s. 

Throughout his long career his production was notably bifurcated not only between landscape and figure and portrait painting but within each of those genres between a manner informed by impressionist color and light and a more academic, tonal approach. 

When Vonnoh died in Nice, France, at the age of seventy-five, he was hailed as a versatile artist, although one best known for portraits “built up…solidly with regard to academic tradition.”


Lilla Cabot Perry (January 13, 1848—February 28, 1933) 

More than an artist, Perry was an advocate for the things that mattered to her most.

An American artist who worked in the Impressionist style, rendering portraits and landscapes in the free form manner of her mentor, Claude Monet. 

Perry was an early advocate of the French Impressionist style and contributed to its reception in the United States. Perry’s early work was shaped by her exposure to the Boston school of artists and her travels in Europe and Japan. She was also greatly influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s philosophies and her friendship with Camille Pissarro.

Lilla Cabot was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was Dr. Samuel Cabot III, a distinguished surgeon. In 1874, she married Thomas Sergeant Perry, a Harvard alumnus scholar and linguist, and added his name.

In 1884 Perry began her formal artistic training with the portrait painter Alfred Quentin Collins. While Perry learned the more formal aspects of art-making with Collins, it was not until 1885 that she finally found an artist who truly inspired her personal style. In that year Perry worked with Robert Vonnoh, an artist who worked in the Impressionist’s plein-air style at Grez-Sur-Loing in France. Vonnoh’s work represented a distinct departure from the formal style Perry had been exposed to and it was this experience that planted the seeds for Perry’s lifelong dedication to Impressionism.

In 1888 Perry traveled to Munich where she studied with the German social realist Fritz von Uhde. Uhde’s handling of the subject and his use of color had a dynamic effect on Perry’s work. By the fall of 1888 Perry had returned to Paris where she enrolled in the Académie Julian and studied with Tony Robert-Fleury.

Between 1889 and 1909 Perry spent nine summers in Giverny. It was here that she fully found herself as an artist. During her time in Giverny she formed a close friendship with Claude Monet whose impressionistic handling of color and light greatly inspired her work. In addition, she also worked with a cadre of American artists who had found their way to Giverny including Theodore Robinson, John Breck, and Theodore Earl Butler.

There is a distinct shift observed in Perry’s work after she arrived in Giverny. Her La Petite Angèle, II (1888) illustrates the dramatic evolution her style during this period. Unlike her earlier portraits, like The Letter, which relied on more traditional techniques to carefully render the subject matter – La Petite Angèle, II is clearly impressionistic in style with its free form brushstrokes that capture the impression of light and color. Rather than blending together each brushstroke, Perry allowed the composition to be “raw”, thus allowing a vibrancy to be imbued in the canvas that was not possible in her earlier works. Giverny and more specifically Claude Monet, inspired Perry to work with plein-air forms, impressionistic brushstrokes, soft colors, and poppy red. In the window of La Petite Angèle, II we see the beginnings of what would become Perry’s love affair with the Impressionist’s handling of the landscape theme.

By the fall of 1889 Perry had departed from Giverny to tour Belgium and Holland and by November she had returned to Boston with her family. With her return to the states Perry did not leave behind the charms of Giverny that had provided her with so much inspiration. With her she brought back a painting by Monet in addition to a series of landscapes by John Breck. Collectively, these works would nourish her creative appetite until she could return to Giverny.

Perry’s artistic career took on new meaning when she returned to Boston. She was not content to simply paint in the new style she had acquired while overseas. More than this, she was inspired to “foster a new truth in painting” in the Boston art community that was not responsive to the new Impressionist modes.

To accomplish her goal of fostering this “new truth” in painting, Perry helped to organize the first public exhibition of Breck landscapes in November, 1890. To further her goal of helping the American audience understand the Impressionist’s style, Perry gave a lecture on Claude Monet on January 24, 1894 at the Boston Art Students Association.

In 1893 Perry’s career as an artist achieved a new level of success. It was during this year that Perry was chosen to represent Massachusetts at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Perry had seven works displayed at the exhibition, of which four of the compositions were worked in the plein-air style (Petite Angèle, I, An Open Air Concert, Reflections, Child in a Window) and three were more formal studio portraits (Portrait of a Child, Child with a Violoncello, Portrait Study of a Child).

For three years Perry resided in Japan that greatly influenced her work and made it possible for her to develop a unique style that brought together western and eastern aesthetic traditions. Her Meditation, Child in a Kimono and Young Girl with an Orange vibrantly illustrates the distinct changes that occurred in Perry’s work during her stay in Japan. Unlike her earlier works, both compositions draw on uniquely eastern subject matter and show a strong influence of the clean lines from Japanese prints. The result of this blending of east and west is striking with Impressionist portraits flowing seamlessly with the well-organized, balanced compositions that the eastern art world was known for at this time.

By 1923 Perry became critically ill with diphtheria. During this time she found new inspiration for her landscapes, what she referred to as “snowscapes.” These landscapes laden with snow became a passion for Perry who bundled herself up in blankets and hot water bottles in order to capture the beauty of a 4 a.m. sunrise.

Lilla Cabot Perry died on February 28, 1933.


Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932)

“The Painter of the American Winter.”

Walter Launt Palmer’s snow scenes earned him a reputation as a master of capturing winter on canvas. Influenced primarily by the regionalist principles of the Hudson River School, Palmer’s travels through the Catskill Mountains, Hudson River Valley, Paris and Venice are reflected in his landscapes, as well as his domestic interiors and portraits. 

Born into an artistic Albany, New York household Palmer grew up and interacted with many of the artistic luminaries of his time including Frederic E. Church, James and William Hart, George Boughton, Homer Dodge Martin, and Edward Gay. Palmer studied portrait painting with Charles Loring Elliot and landscape painting with Frederic Church in his early teens.

By studying with Charles Carolus-Duran in Paris during 1873 and 1874 to imbibe the new “impressionist” techniques that were becoming all the rage in France. Palmer’s work gives evidence of a compromise between the panoramic yet detailed vistas of Church and his colleagues and the more popular “intimate” snatches of nature coming first, from the Barbizon plein air painters, and assiduously followed by such new “Impressionists” as Pissarro, Monet, Renoir, et al. 

In 1890 he married Georgianna Myers, daughter of an Albany department store magnate, who unfortunately died in childbirth two years later. Palmer later married Zoe de Vautrin Wyndham.

A large number of Palmer’s canvases were painted from Palmer’s detailed notes, sketches, and photographs, which he compiled over time. He also was extremely meticulous about keeping records of his works, something he and Frederick Church had in common. While Palmer’s many Venetian scenes were in vogue among his clients and provided a steady income for the artist, he was equally if not better known for his luscious renditions of snowy woods and streams. 

Palmer attributed much of his success with winter snow scenes to painters John Ruskin and other Pre-Raphaelites who inspired his experimentation with blue shadows on traditional white snow. He was able to capture the variations of colors reflected in the winter landscapes around the Hudson River Valley. In 1908, the New York Times art critic covering Palmer’s annual exhibition at the Noe Galleries in New York wrote,

        Mr. Palmer is a devotee of the bleak and wintry season of 

        the year, when everything is snowed under, that is, except 

        Mr. Palmer’s work, and all but one of these fourteen pictures 

        are snow scenes­– the exception is a hot, turgid, sunny 

        Venice… as rosy red and warm as his snow pictures

        are blue and blue, and Mr. Palmer is no less happy in both.
Walter Launt Palmer lived in Albany from 1882 until April 16, 1932 when he died of pneumonia. The Walter Launt Palmer Collection now resides in the Library at the Albany Institute of History & Art and includes diaries and personal papers, photographs, and his studio books, which document the provenance of much of Palmer’s work.


Maria Oakey Dewing (1845-1927)

A Bed of Poppies, 1909

Painter, author, and amateur botanist expressed the visual power of flowers with these words in 1915. A leading light of the New York and new England art scenes during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Oakey Dewing painted landscapes, portraits, and figural works – many of which have not been located – but her artistic legacy is flower painting.

In 1875, at age 30, she participated in an exhibition at Cottier and Company, New York, an exhibition scholars argue cemented the formation of the Society of American Artists. As part of her training, Oakey traveled to Europe the following year and studied under Thomas Couture, returning abroad in the 1880s and ‘90s. By 1877 she was showing regularly at the National Academy of Design.

Oakey’s early work primarily focused on portraits and figure paintings, but in the 1880s she shifted her focus to still lifes. In October 1880, at age 35, she was introduced to American Impressionist Thomas Wilmer Dewing, whom she married six months later.

While traveling to Europe in 1885, Oakey Dewing encountered a cadre of young American artists who had established an art colony near Claude Monet and his famous garden. When the Dewings returned to the United States later that year, they went directly to Cornish, New Hampshire, where they would spend every summer for the next eighteen years.

With the arrival of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in early 1885 and the Dewings shortly afterwards, the small town became one of the earliest American art colonies. The Cornish community was sympathetic to creative endeavors and adhered to the “nature as sanctuary” ideology. Cornish was also known as a progressive art colony for women artists.

During that period in Cornish, Oakey Dewing became an avid gardener and perfected her flower painting. By the 1840s, garden culture had spread to America – gardening books were widely published, botany was a popular pursuit, and cultivated gardens entered mainstream fashion. The Dewing’s house had perhaps the first of the new-style gardens in Cornish, and by far the most extensive.

Iris at Dawn, 1899
With their elaborate and abundant gardens, they are often credited with having inspired the horticulture and gardening fashions that swept through the art colony in the 1890s. Oakey Dewing experimented with and cultivated plants she would later paint, most often depicting combinations of flowers that grew together in these carefully tended spaces.

Many artists of Oakey Dewing’s day strove to capture the soul of a flower by emphasizing its fleeting radiance and fragility. The transience of flowers made them at once appealing and challenging and roses were acknowledged as one of the most difficult flowers to paint.

“It seems almost impossible to render in paint all the characteristics which make up the beauty of our florists’ roses.” – author Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer commenting about the 1893 National Academy of Design exhibition.

Oakey Dewing understood the demands of the genre, maintaining that flower painting required a “long apprenticeship in the garden.” She created her own approach: a middle ground between purely decorative flatness that resembled Japanese art and the illusion of depth found in Western art. Emphasizing a close-up view, she called her paintings “modern,” the term she used to differentiate outdoor paintings from studio still lifes.

Most of her works present a gardener’s-eye view into a thicket of transparent petals and leathery leaves that extend beyond the borders of the canvas, giving the viewer a sensation of being immersed among the flowers. Her technique is so close to perfection even in her staged vase paintings, and represents the peak of Gilded-age Decorative Style.

“Mrs. Dewing’s flowers have made for themselves a place apart in American painting. She gives us their character, their special texture, their special droop. [She] knew how to interpret the soul of a flower.” – contemporary critic Royal Cortissoz.


Paul Sawyier (American, 1865-1917)

View of the Singing Bridge, Frankfort, KY 
watercolor on paper 

15 1/8 x 11 1/8in
The Singing Bridge received its peculiar name due to the sound tires made when cars drove across its steel grate deck. In colorful and fluid watercolors, Paul Sawyier captures a glimpse of the bridge as it crosses over the Kentucky River into Frankfurt, KY. From above the canopy of trees, the United States Courthouse and the dome of the Post Office are visible. The highest landmark rising over Frankfort’s modest skyline is the tall, elegant steeple of the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Paul Sawyier was born at Table Rock in Madison County, Ohio on March 23, 1865, on a farm owned by his Grandfather Sawyier, who was an attorney practicing in Cincinnati. When Paul was five years old, his parents, Dr. Nathaniel and Ellen Wingate Sawyier, moved with their four children to Frankfort, Kentucky. They lived with Ellen’s mother, Mrs. Penelope Anderson Wingate on Broadway across from the old L&N Railroad Depot. The entrance to the Wingate-Sawyier home was almost exactly at the entrance to the new Kentucky History Center.

Sawyier’s artistic training was from Thomas S. Noble at the Cincinnati Art Academy, and from two noted portrait painters, John Singer Sargent in New York, and Frank Duveneck in Covington, Kentucky. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Sawyier the first Amercian exhibition of work in the French Impressionist style. This led Sawyier’s priority to paint landscapes and rivers capes of Frankfort and the surrounding waterways.

The Sawyier family invested heavily in a hemp factory on the Kentucky River near Lock #4, and Sawyier for a time, traveled and sold hemp. Both his efforts and the factory did not do well. During the remainder of his time in Frankfort, until 1908, Sawyier took on the responsibility of caring for his aging parents and sold his watercolors through local stores to provide for himself and the family.

From 1908 to 1913, Sawyier lived on his houseboat and with friends in the Shakertown-High Bridge-Camp Nelson area. During these years, he produced over 500 originals of the local palisades and waterways.

Seeking new markets for his art, Sawyier moved to Brooklyn, New York and lived with his widowed sister Lillian. During a two year period, he created many fine oil paintings of the local parks and waterways. In 1915, he moved to the Catskill Mountain area where he lived first in High Mount and later, Fleischmanns, New York. Living with the Schaefer family Sawyier painted from photographs Kentucky scenes and local scenes, both of which he often sold to his Kentucky patrons.

Sawyier had a 22 year relationship with Mary “Mayme” Bull that ended after he left Frankfort. However, when he returned for her funeral in 1914, his emotion confirmed that she had been the love of his life.
Sawyier died from heart failure in 1917 in the Schaefer home. They had been both fine hosts and friends during his stay. He was buried in nearby Covesville. His sisters came and collected his paintings and destroyed his correspondence with Mayme Bull.

In 1923, Sawyier’s cousin had his body returned and buried in the Frankfort City Cemetery.

During his artistic career, it is estimated that Sawyier created over 50 portraits, 10 etchings, 2,000 watercolors, and 200 oil paintings. Although his work is concentrated in Kentucky, interest in both his watercolors and oils attract national interest.



Niagara Falls 1893-1894
Oil on Canvas 51cmx40cm

In the manner of the French master Claude Monet (1840–1926), Twachtman painted at least fourteen versions of Niagara at different times of the day, recording subtle nuances of light and providing some of the rocky structure of the falls to anchor the viewer on firm land. 

Twachtman’s technique is bold and confident, moving remarkably toward abstraction while remaining true to capturing the appearance of this natural wonder. 

Born in Cincinnati, John Henry Twachtman worked as a decorator of window shades, as had his father. At the same time he took night classes at the Ohio Mechanics Institute and then enrolled at the McMicken School of Design (which later became the Art Academy of Cincinnati), where Twachtman studied with Frank Duveneck. Duveneck was a recognized painter who had recently returned from Munich, and he urged Twachtman to go to Munich to attend the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In 1875 Twachtman went to Munich, and during his European stay he accompanied Duveneck and his fellow Munich colleague, William M. Chase, on a painting trip to Venice. Returning to the United States in 1878, Twachtman exhibited with the newly formed Society of American Artists in New York; he was elected a member the following year. In 1879 Twachtman met and began a lifelong friendship with J. Alden Weir. In 1881, he made a wedding trip to Europe, joining Weir and his brother John on a painting expedition to Holland and Belgium.

Between 1883 and 1885 Twachtman studied, traveled, and worked in France, meeting other American Impressionists Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and Theodore Robinson in Paris. In 1889 Twachtman began teaching at the Art Students League, and, with the profits from a cyclorama he had painted with Arthur B. Davies in Chicago, he purchased a home in Connecticut near Weir’s farm.

Twachtman’s naturalism combines the earth tones and the fluid brushwork of Duveneck and the Munich school, the muted harmonies and abstract patterning of Whistler, and, the atmospheric effects of Claude Monet. Writing in A Collection in the Making, Duncan Phillips noted that “Twachtman’s was perhaps the finest sensibility in American art.”

Among his many awards, Twachtman received a silver medal at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and a gold medal at the 1894 Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts annual exhibition. In 1897 he and Weir withdrew from the Society of American Artists and formed The Ten American Painters. Estranged from his family, Twachtman spent the summers of 1900 and 1901 in Gloucester, where he died suddenly on August 8, 1902.

Adapted from Eye, ET


Childe Hassam

Lillie (Lillie Langtry)
ca. 1898

watercolor and gouache on paperboard

24 1/4 x 19 3/4 in. (61.7 x 50.2 cm)

Frederick Childe Hassam (1859–1935), a pioneer of American Impressionism and perhaps its most devoted, prolific, and successful practitioner, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts (now part of Boston), into a family descended from settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Equally adept at capturing the excitement of modern cities and the charms of country retreats, Hassam (properly pronounced HASS-am) became the foremost chronicler of New York City at the turn of the century. In our day, he is perhaps best known for his depictions of flag-draped Fifth Avenue during World War I. 

His finest works manifest his brilliant handling of color and light and reflect his credo (stated in 1892) that “the man who will go down to posterity is the man who paints his own time and the scenes of every-day life around him.”

After establishing his reputation in Boston between 1882 and 1886, Hassam studied from 1886 to 1889 in Paris. There he was unusual among his American contemporaries in his attraction to French Impressionism, which was just beginning to find favor with American collectors. Hassam returned to the United States late in 1889 and took up lifelong residence in New York.

Hassam created more than 2,000 oils, watercolors, pastels, and illustrations, and—after 1912—more than 400 etchings and other prints.

A Jersey Lily, Portrait of Lillie Langtry, 1878, oil on canvas, Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands

The subject of his painting, Lillie Langtry (1853-1929), a Jersey girl, acclaimed beauty, socialite, and the mistress of the Prince of Wales.

At the time of the painting, Lillie was an actress plus survivor of several scandals, in the midst of one of her numerous tours across the United States. Among her admirers then was Texan Roy Bean, self-proclaimed judge and reputedly the only “Law West of the Pecos;” she would eventually make the long journey to visit Langtry, the frontier town he christened in her honor.