Thursday, March 30, 2023

Exhibit of 19th C Drawings and Watercolors

The Albany Institute of History and Art recently opened an exhibit of plein-air drawings and watercolors called "Hudson River School Journeys: Watercolors and Drawings by William Hart and Julie Hart Beers."

The featured artists are a brother and sister pairing, with a large room filled half with William's work, and the other half with Julie's. 

William Hart, white pine, watercolor

Both of them traveled throughout the northeastern USA, sketching in watercolor, gouache, pencil, and pen. 

William Hart, First Snow, Grafton, Maine, watercolor and gouache

The small image was painted on September 30, 1867 by William during a trip to Maine, as an early snow fell while the autumn colors were at their peak. One reviewer from the time said "It was a strange meeting of two seasons."

Hart's sister Julie Beers frequently went sketching with her brother, and she often brought her friends and students. Her children were artistic too, and the show includes intimate glimpses into their joyful moments, with sketchbooks, photos, and illustrated letters and postcards by her daughter Marion Robertson (Beers) Brush. 

Most of Julie's works are generously being loaned to the exhibition by her descendants.  In the photograph below, Julie is standing amidst her students. She's the one holding a brush behind the central seated woman. 

William Hart's ink wash composition (below) displays "the artist's masterful handling of washes and dry brush application of India ink to create a scene that captures the luminosity of soft sunlight fading in advance of an approaching rainstorm." 

Keene Valley, New York, William Hart, 1873, India ink on paper

William Hart said, "The picture, indeed exists primarily in black and white. The first thoughts of all great pictures are simply beautiful bits of chiaroscuro." 

It's a rare treat to see a whole exhibition of original drawings and watercolors. Curator Doug McCombs quotes from contemporary reviewers in the captions, giving a sense that American society at large was keenly interested in regular updates about the travels and creations of these artists.

Mr. McCombs will be giving an in-person curator talk about the exhibition on April 16, 2023, and you can sign up at this link.

While you're there, be sure to go up to the top floor and check out the large room of Hudson River School oil paintings. Also, don't miss the adjoining exhibition of costumes called "It's a Wrap: Two Hundred Years of Outerwear." 

It's all at the Albany Institute of History and Art in Albany, New York through August 6, 2023. 


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