Landscapes bloom at Butler

Kaish paintings on display

The Butler Institute of American Art Trumbull Branch won’t have to wait for those April showers for its walls to bloom with color.

Opening March 26 was “Spring Rising: Landscape Paintings & Prints” by acclaimed artist Morton Kaish.

Louis Zona, executive director of the Butler, said, “He is an artist who is beloved by his fellow artists. I can’t tell you how many notes I’ve received over the years from very prominent painters asking us to consider an exhibition of Morton Kaish’s work.

“Not only is his work extremely well done, but I get the sense he was a very generous artist, taking his time to be supportive of other artists, and I think that kindness comes back.”

An example of the respect he has among his peers was that acclaimed portrait artist Ray Kinstler attended the March 26 opening meet-the-artist reception with Kaish.

“He’s maybe the best known portrait painter in the country, and he’s a big fan of Morton’s and wanted to be here,” Zona said. “I think that says a lot.”

Kaish’s work is part of the permanent collections of such institutions as the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Academy Museum in New York; The British Museum in London; and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England.

The New Jersey-born artist’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and reviewed in the New York Times, The New Yorker and Time magazine. He was elected to the National Academy in 1988 and received its lifetime achievement award in 2011.

The Butler exhibition will focus on his landscape work and will include more than 30 paintings and prints.

“I especially love the florals, the plant forms he paints,” Zona said. “In many ways, he’s painting abstractions, but they have this sense of living things, of plants and flowers. Those are the works we selected for the Trumbull branch. I just thought of the light pouring in, the almost impressionistic quality of the flowers, these very small shapes of color. I thought the light would play off of them beautifully.”

On his website, Kaish writes about his landscape paintings, “I’d say the simplest flower is as close to a miracle as we get in our day-to-day lives. ‘The Landscape’ series forms a heartfelt response to that. In so many ways, Nature seems to reach out to say something of the mystery and miracle of it all. It may be the sprawl of wildflowers across a meadow, or an unexpected jumble of dune blooms where sea and sky meet — that catches the eye and the imagination. Some part of us wants to reply, ‘I was here. I saw this. I felt this!'”

The exhibition runs through July 9 at the Butler-Trumbull and will be shown this fall at the National Arts Club in New York.