This exhibition showcases the diversity and dynamism of American modernism and features work by O’Keeffe, Arthur G. Dove, Stuart Davis, and more.
Featuring 45 paintings and eight photographs by such American masters as Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Arthur G. Dove, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, and Ansel Adams, the Lane Collection is considered by many to be one of the greatest museum collections of American Modernism. William H. Lane (1914–1995), owner of a small Massachusetts manufacturing plant, formed this pioneering collection in the early 1950s when these artists were little appreciated, though today they are considered to be among the most important American artists of the early twentieth century.
The works in the exhibition were arranged by themes that were favored by William Lane as he acquired the collection.
Section 1: Abstraction and Nature
During the first half of the twentieth century, modern artists in the United States embraced new images and styles that they felt captured the spirit of their times. Artists such as O’Keeffe, Dove, Marsden Hartley, and John Marin strove to convey the essence of nature through the distillation of its images and forms into works that balanced abstraction and realism. This section of the exhibition will include an entire gallery dedicated to the works of O’Keeffe, with subsequent galleries featuring major paintings by Dove and other modern artists who sought to infuse the essence of nature with their own emotions.
Section 2: Expressionism in American Art
In the early to mid-20th century, many American painters were influenced by expressionistic styles from Europe that employed strong colors, visible brushstrokes, and distorted forms to create psychologically compelling images. A frequent subject was the human figure, which was often painted with raw, agitated brushstrokes that suggested the dissipation of the body by equating its carnal substance to heavy pigment. Lane collected very few figurative paintings. Many of those he acquired dealt with difficult themes of suffering or martyrdom, such as Hyman Bloom’s Female Corpse, Back View and Karl Zerbe’s self-portrait as the Biblical Job.
The theme of the still life is also well represented in this section. Many American artists used modern styles to translate everyday objects into dynamic relationships among shapes, colors, patterns, and textures. The intense colors and expressive brushstrokes associated with Fauvism and Expressionism appear most notably in Hans Hofmann’s Green Bottle and Max Weber’s The Red Poppies.
Section 3: Defining Modern America
For some artists, America’s combination of democratic idealism and technological innovation epitomized the promise of progress in the 20th century. This was conveyed by paintings by Stuart Davis and Patrick Henry Bruce that depicted manufactured materials in geometric still lifes, as well as landscapes defined by the functional geometry of modern architecture. While inspired by Cubism and other European art movements that transcribed the world into a language of pure form, works by such artists as Charles Sheeler and Ralston Crawford portrayed American subject matter using a clean, sharp-edged style to convey the fresh and optimistic spirit of the early 1900s.