Fresh to the market after years in private collections are many artworks in the exhibition "Important American Paintings" at Schwarz Gallery. About two dozen paintings are featured, ranging from portraits and landscapes to marine, still life, and genre subjects painted between 1766 to 1918. It is a pleasure to view work of this quality, from many periods and from high style to folk art, in a Center City gallery.
The show begins with Benjamin West, born to a Quaker family in Springfield, Delaware County, and the first American painter to stand at the head of his profession internationally. West is represented here by a 1766 portrait of one John Williams. It was painted soon after West settled in London, where he attracted King George III's patronage and became one of Europe's most prominent late-18th-century artists. There's a touch of a then-fashionable Van Dyck influence in this silvery-toned canvas, its elongated oval shape enhancing the precarious, romantic elegance of its English subject.
Visitors to the display can segue from West to other portraits - James Peale's demure Sarah Smith Logan c. 1808; Thomas Sully's impressively peak-period Abby Ann K.T. Van Pelt; Oliver T. Eddy's quaint 1835 Portrait of a Young Girl, a captivating vision of innocence; and Thomas Eakins' affectionate likeness of his merchant/politician friend The Hon. John A. Thornton, 1903.
Among the pleasantest surprises here are two exceptionally fine works, the 1849 Still Life With Grapes and Mellon by Philadelphia's forgotten John J. Eyers and a rare and appealing 1862 Still Life With French Porcelain and Strawberries by Moorestown-born folk artist Charles S. Humphreys.
Better known for his horse portraits, Humphreys gained international fame for those during America's first great international world's fair, the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial in Fairmount Park. He painted prizewinning horses and their celebrated jockeys' races at Belmont Driving Club, a harness racecourse opened in nearby Merion to attract fair visitors. Its president avidly collected Humphreys' Belmont-related paintings, and color lithographs of many Humphreys horse-and-carriage subjects were for sale at the Centennial. So a still life by him is a "find."
In Richard B. Farley's 1912 Ocean City, N.J. shore scene, his resources as a painter are brought into full play with precision, intensity of feeling, and a practiced hand - a reminder that this gallery began 80 years ago in Atlantic City. Other memorable works are by Christian Schussele, Franklin Briscoe, B.F. Gilman, Emil Carlsen, and Paulette Van Roekens.
"Giving Life to Ordinary Objects," a still-life-painting show at Phoenixville's Barnstone Gallery, features David Oleski of West Chester, Mary Ann Weselyk of Unionville, and William Yenkevich of Hazleton. Oleski exhibits an easy, natural style in portraying househeld objects in uncluttered surroundings, and delights in the physical qualities of paint. Weselyk casts about for various representational styles, often preferring decoration. Her bright color is assisted by pattern and line for clarification of form. Yenkevich's dogged pursuit of exceptional technical skill has served him well. Can he now be encouraged to look beyond a doctrinaire approach and find new ways to reuse the past?
John Maurer's hearty landscapes of Greece, Spain, and Portugal and Mary Lingen's woodsy Minnesota scenes complement the still lifes.
The annual "Animal Show" at Salon des Amis in Yellow Springs this year presents 64 works by 32 artists mostly from Philadelphia and Chester and Delaware Counties. Featured is animal-loving Susan Curtin of West Chester, who paints farm and zoo animals from life. Her
has an evocative power.
Of the several participating Dumpster Diver artists using castaway materials, Ann Keech's Rhode Island Notary Fish mobile of nails, tiny objects, and fishing lures, and Hugo Hsu's Shell-Shocked steel turtle come across best. Drew Posse's Spirit makes a strong statement about problems of deer in suburbia with an antlered buck skull that Posse shot locally.
But the show's hits are veterinarian Kathleen M. Friedenberg's sensitively modeled small bronzes of dogs playing, a gamboling horse, and a warthog.