Sunday, May 26, 2019

Saint Louis Art Museum - Henry Ossawa Tanner, Edouard Vuillard, Willard Leroy Metcalf, and William Merritt Chase

My final post on our recent visit to the Saint Louis Art Museum

It doesn’t matter how often I go to a particular museum - I always find something new that strikes me.

Photos by Saunders Fine Arts.

Henry Ossawa Tanner "Gateway, Tangier" • c.1912 • Oil on Canvas

I was lucky enough to see a retrospective exhibit of Henry Ossawa Tanner’s work in Kansas City about twenty years ago, and he has always been one of my favorite painters for his ability to capture the effects of light. 

What’s striking about this piece is the fact that he portrays the almost blinding effect of the light shining through the gate without pushing the values significantly darker in the shadow areas. No part of the painting goes dark enough so as to obscure the color, and Tanner uses the color temperature to differentiate between light and shadow.

Henry Ossawa Tanner "Gateway, Tangier" Detail • c.1912 • Oil on Canvas

The paint texture combined with the broad areas of paint create a kind of tapestry pattern within Tanner’s paintings.

Henry Ossawa Tanner "Gateway, Tangier" Detail • c.1912 • Oil on Canvas

Notice the simplicity with which both figures are handled, and yet the one on the left is pushed further into obscurity by keeping the temperatures close in contrast. 

Edouard Vuillard "Ker-Xavier Roussel Reading" • c.1904  • Oil on Cardboard

While Tanner’s paintings have an overall pattern quality to them, Edouard Vuillard’s paintings fascinate me for their individual areas of alternating pattern. These patterns celebrate the textural quality of the paint and give a representational painting a somewhat abstract feel.

The central figure of the painting is initially lost within this cacophony of patterns.  

Edouard Vuillard "The Fireplace" • 1901 • Oil on Paper Mounted on Canvas

This piece, also by Vuillard, takes it even further, by cropping the main figure and making the painting a more decorative work. The patterns and shapes are what ultimately matter, not the subject.

Edouard Vuillard "The Fireplace" Detail • 1901 • Oil on Paper Mounted on Canvas

Even the figure is simply a collection of shapes containing patterns of paint, but none of them strong enough to hold our attention away from the fireplace. 

Edouard Vuillard "The Fireplace" Detail • 1901 • Oil on Paper Mounted on Canvas

 The elements above the fireplace also create an area of pattern without any strong edges to overly define any particular object. 

Edouard Vuillard "The Fireplace" Detail • 1901 • Oil on Paper Mounted on Canvas

The fire becomes the focal point of the painting due to its more intense color and the fact that it is framed by the contrasting values of the fireplace. 
Willard Leroy Metcalf "Old Homestead Connecticut" • c.1914  • Oil on Canvas

This painting by Willard Leroy Metcalf also uses pattern, but unlike Vuillard, the representational quality of the subject depicted outweighs the abstract nature of the paint. Metcalf’s paint application adds an overall interest to all areas of the painting.
William Merritt Chase "The Tenth Street Studio" • 1880 • Oil on Canvas

This is a very famous painting by the master William Merrit Chase. What strikes me is the overall busy nature and overlapping patterns of the painting, and yet Chase compensates for this by using the simplest contrast of all to draw our eye to the central figure – the black and white of the dog adjacent to the dress.

William Merritt Chase "The Tenth Street Studio" Detail • 1880 • Oil on Canvas
I must admit that I’m most partial to the dog.

© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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