Butler displays American Impressionism show

Paintings that are part of "In a New Light: American Impressionism 1870-1940" were spaced out on the floor, waiting to be hung, last week at the Butler Institute of American Art. (Staff photo / Andy Gray)

Several leading artists from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are featured in an exhibition opening Sunday at the Butler Institute of American Art.

“In a New Light: American Impressionism 1870-1940” includes works by more than 75 artists and is drawn from the art collection owned by Bank of America.

Butler Executive Director Louis A. Zona said, “The names are so familiar, it’s just too good not to take advantage of it. It shows other works by some of the same artists who are in the Butler collection.”

One of the elements of the traveling exhibition that Zona found interesting is how it alters the definition of what is considered American Impressionism.

“When I think of American Impressionism, I think 1890 to about 1920, but they have expanded that,” Zona said. “They believe American Impressionism started when French Impressionism started in 1870 and goes right into the 1940s. It’s an interesting position. All of the artists, what they have in common, is they are fascinated with light — light on objects, on buildings but mostly landscapes.”

The American artists also took a different approach than their French counterparts, Zona said, and he used one the most revered works of the Butler’s permanent collection — Robert Vonnoh’s “In Flanders Field,” to illustrate his point.

“See the details in the face of the little girl in the poppy field? A French painter probably wouldn’t do that, give you that level of detail. The Americans were more interested in storytelling than the French were. The French were more interested in how certain colors reacted against one another vs. how Americans were interested in wanting to tell a good story.”

The show also takes artists traditionally associated with other concepts and illustrates the similarities to Impressionism that can be found in their work.

According to the BOA website, artists included in its collection are Childe Hassam, Bruce Crane, Oscar E. Berninghaus, Daniel Garber, George Wesley Bellows, James Jeffrey Grant, Emile A. Gruppe, William Morris Hunt, Jonas Lie, Philip Little, Jane Peterson, Charles Curtis Allen, Arthur Wesley Dow, John Joseph Enneking, Gertrude Fiske, Arthur Clifford Goodwin, Abbott Fuller Graves, Helena Sturtevant, Ernest Albert, Gifford Beal, George M. Bruestle, Wilson Irvine, Charles Adams Platt, Chauncey Foster Ryder, Charles Ebert, Ernest Lawson, John F. Carlson, Leonard Ochtman, Edward Willis Redfield, Walter Elmer Schofield, Robert Spencer, Alexis Jean Fournier, Edgar Alwin Payne, Karl Buehr, Frederick W. Freer, Louis Ritman, Ernest Blumenschein, E. Martin Hennings, Birger Sandzen, Joseph Henry Sharp, Louis Hovey Sharp, John Sloan, Ransom Gillet Holdredge, Joseph Raphael, Armin Carl Hansen,Carl Oscar Borg, Colin Campbell Cooper, Alson S. Clark and William Wendt.

Jeneen Marziani, Ohio market president for Bank of America, said in a statement released by the Butler, “Bank of America is pleased to support The Butler Institute of American Art and honored to share works from our art collection with the Youngstown community. As one of the largest corporate supporters of arts and culture programming, we believe in the power of the arts to help communities thrive, educate, inspire, enrich societies and create greater cultural understanding.”

Zona expects the show to be popular at the Youngstown museum.

“As word gets out and word of mouth spreads over the next three months, I expect a lot of people coming in, especially when they see so many familiar names,” he said.

Several events are planned in conjunction with the exhibition. Free docent-guided tours will be available from noon to 2 p.m. on weekends, and Zona will give a lecture on “The Roots of Impressionism from Giverny to the Hudson River Valley” at 2 p.m. April 5.

Several of the Butler’s regular activities — Arts in the Early Morning, Stroller Art, Young Friends Adventure, Senior Art & Learn and Free Family Days — will feature programming inspired by “In a New Light.” Details can be found online at butler art.com.