Changing Styles of Portraiture
Portraiture changed along with painting styles – that went from realistic, careful brushstrokes that simulated a photograph to works that were painted very loosely, with dashing brushstrokes that gave a certain emotion and excitement to a flat canvas.
Most of the artists represented here studied in Europe and were aware of such changing innovative practices as Impressionism. Paintings became more concerned with the quality and texture of the paint or capturing the flickering light of the outdoor settings.
George Cherepov was born in Lithuania and, having studied and exhibited in Europe, was exposed to many styles of painting. He portrays his friend, the artist John Vassos 14, as an outdoorsman, with his hand on his dog’s head and a fishing lure on the hat that is placed beside him. The paint strokes are very loose, unfinished and quickly applied, giving life and excitement to the flat canvas.
Clara Davidson Simpson’s portrait of her son Charles 15 is almost an excuse to paint her garden. The child’s red coat bounces off the color of the door and accentuates the flowers dotted throughout the space. Her painting of the Cook’s Daughter 16 in a simple kitchen chair, holding a toy penguin, is more of a portrait.
Hamilton Hamilton’s romantic watercolor of his daughter 17 contrasts with the romantic portrait of a famous actress, Maude Adams, by S. Arlent Edwards, because of its demanding, precise media – a mezzotint print.
In 1847, Edwin Hall 19 collected the town’s disintegrating paper records into a book called Ancient Historical Records of Norwalk, Connecticut. This portrait is an example of the kind of beautifully engraved work that would have been prevalent in the mid 1800s. All three of these works are very detailed and depict the exact features of the sitter. But were these depictions actual or idealized?
Edwin Murray MacKay was one of the artists who had homes and studios in the Silvermine area and were part of the Silvermine Group of Artisis who comprised the “Knocker Club” (1908-1922) and would meet weekly to critique or “knock” each other’s work. This group also included Howard Logan Hildebrandt, Hamilton Hamilton, Frank Townsend Hutchens and Justin Gruelle, all of whom have works in this exhibit. These portraits are of the George Picknells, who also lived in Silvermine.
Howard Logan Hildebrandt was a portrait artist who was known for painting the settings of his portraits with the same attentiveness given to the sitter. He studied at the National Academy of Design and at the famous Julian Academy in Paris, winning numerous prizes for his work. He was an early member of the “Knocker’s Club.”
This portrait 22 is of Mrs. Harold L. Nash, the wife of the Mayor or Norwalk. She is portrayed in a white dress with diaphanous sleeves and the Norwalk islands behind her, with soft white clouds that frame her head and shoulders. Notice the precise but quick strokes defining her bracelet and the flowers at her neckline.
Chester Hayes, who was known for his figure paintings, created this dramatic portrait of Mariposa Taylor 23 (1851-1931). She was the daughter of Brigadier General Nelson Taylor, a general in the Union Army, who named her for the city of Mariposa Groves, California. He is buried beneath an impressive grave marker in Riverside Cemetery.