In the Light of Corot

Lennart Anderson Israel Hershberg Kurt Knobelsdorf Sangram Majumdar Hank Pitcher Fairfield Porter Seymour Remenick Paul Resika E.M. Saniga Stuart Shils September 8 - October 2, 2010


Shfap presents a group exhibition about the influence of 19th century French master Jean- Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) on contemporary landscape painting. Corot may appear at first an unlikely model for contemporary painters, yet he possesses a mixture of technical virtuosity and reticence that inspired the painter Robert De Niro Sr to describe his “carnival of understatements.” Corot’s mix of the classical, the painterly and the naturalistic speaks to contemporary artists. The exhibition title refers to the 1996 National Gallery exhibition that explored Corot’s early work produced during two trips to Italy in relation to other pre-impressionist practitioners of direct landscape painting such as Thomas Jones and Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. Corot’s early Italian works, brighter and blonder that his later work, often painted on paper are now especially prized and are particularly relevant to many of the painters seen here.

With his emphasis on tone in painting, Lennart Anderson has always considered Corot, as central to his conversation with painterly tradition. Indeed Anderson has painted in the Italian countryside small paintings of hillsides that evoke Corot’s precise touch and light. Israel Hershberg who runs the Jerusalem Studio School, leads a summer session in Italy. He has tracked down and photographed spots where Corot worked just as John Rewald did with the Impressionists. Hershberg’s landscapes of Italy and Israel display a profound meditation on Corot’s Italian period landscapes displaying an acute pitch for hazy atmospheric tone. Kurt Knobelsdorf is a young painter who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, who presently works in Miami. Knobelsdorf often starts his landscapes out of doors and continues them later in his studio working from photographs he takes in situ. Knobelsdorf’s synthetic approach to painting from nature, echoes Corot’s complex intermingling of direct observation and studio work. Sangram Majumdar whose work was seen in the 2010 American Academy Invitational, has taken the idea of working from life into an ever more complex studio practice. Just as in Corot, memory and actuality are comingled into the ultimate reality of the picture. Hank Pitcher is a California based painter who has made plein air landscape painting the core of his practice. In the virtuosity of his “blond” palette pictures he recalls Corot’s Italian period paintings transferred to Southern California. Despite the fact that Fairfield Porter seldom mentions Corot in his writing, there is a feeling in Fairfield Porter’s paintings from the late fifties, in their tamped down color and close values, that feels akin to Corot. There is something as well in his unassuming approach to subject matter that echoes the pre-impressionist master. Seymour Remenick studied with Hans Hofmann in the late 40’s. He said that after making modernist pictures he was drawn back to working directly from nature, as Hofmann had encouraged him to do. Painting around Philadelphia, he moved from a darker almost Dutch palette in the 50’s to a blonder plein air palette often employing the same method of working with oil on paper that Corot used in Italy.

Remenick found in Corot a model for a poetic painterly approach linked to direct experience. Remenick will have a retrospective survey of his work in October at the Lancaster Museum of Art. Paul Resika also studied with Hans Hofmann. He made a left turn after leaving Hofmann’s school, removing himself from New York and the 50’s hothouse of Abstract-Expressionism, to seek out alternative models. He went to Italy, to Rome and Venice to learn technique that he felt he’d missed by studying at Hofmann’s. In the early 60’s like Lennart Anderson, Resika was deeply influenced by Corot. He went to Volterra in Italy to paint where Corot had worked. Producing small paintings of the mountains there, after returning to his Washington Square studio in the autumn of 1967 he made the large landscape included in the exhibition. EM Saniga’s paintings address Corot with their emphasis on the tonal mid-range. Closely valued, often muted and greyed, Saniga’s still lifes and landscapes relate to Corot’s later period landscapes with their elegant darkness and landscape of shadows. Stuart Shils landscape paintings, often oil on paper follow in the tradition of pre-impressionist plein-air landscape painting. Critic Justin Spring has written, “These beautifully focused small works are intimate in scale, suggesting that they have been designed for domestic spaces. They are inspired by European art of nearly two centuries ago but they partake in the contemporary dialog of New York painting. In recognizing and emulating the genius of Corot and other European, pre-modern masters and by incorporating them into what is essentially a contemporary style, Shils an American painter, has suggested new ways to consider the politics and precedents of landscape in contemporary painting.”

Admired by earlier painters such as Picasso, Matisse and Eilshemius, Corot’s paintings remains exemplary to recent generations of painterly representational artists. His images now appear and are discussed on Facebook. Corot continues his refined aesthetic conversation with the digital present. Shfap presents exhibitions of contemporary and modern painting at our gallery space on east 73rd street and elsewhere, represents artists and estates and produces publications by and about art. It is run by dealer/curator/artist Steven Harvey, who has curated exhibitions of James Lee Byars, Louis Michel Eilshemius and Louisa Matthiasdottir among others. Please contact Steven Harvey at 917-861-7312 for further information or photographs.