White Mountain Paintings at PSU Show Time Passing Over the Land

January 30th, 2011 by Adam

Samuel Griggs, Haying in the Pemigewasset Valley. Undated oil on canvas. Private collection. John Hession photo.

Plymouth, N.H. – Plymouth State University’s Karl Drerup Art Gallery and White Mountains Institute present As Time Passes Over the Land, paintings of the White Mountains, February 8–April 9 at the Drerup Gallery.

An opening reception will be held from 4–6 p.m. February 8.

The exhibition is a co-production of the gallery and the Museum of the White Mountains at PSU, which is scheduled to open in 2012. The exhibition includes 29 works by 20 artists.

White Mountain School painting has long been admired for the ways in which artists captured and embellished the natural beauty of the region. Equally embedded in those paintings is evidence of environmental change, from the impact of settlers’ activities including clear-cutting, hunting and farming, to the industrial practices of pulp mills and mines.

This exceptional exhibition will bring to the public outstanding examples of The White Mountain School of painting from private collections, celebrating the great art of the era and exploring dynamic environmental change as time passes over the land.

The text for the exhibition catalog was written by PSU professors: historian Marcia Schmidt Blaine and hydrologist Mark Green, and reflects the interdisciplinary approach of the exhibition and the future museum. “Having Drs. Schmidt Blaine and Green research and write the catalog text and explanatory panels that accompany the exhibition will ensure accessibility to all audiences,” said Catherine Amidon, director of the Drerup Gallery.

Standards-based curriculum packets will be available.

Artist, writer and educator Christopher Volpe wrote in Art New England that the White Mountains played a crucial and under-appreciated role in the coming of age of American art.

Edward Hill, Horseback Rider at Echo Lake. Oil on canvas, 1879. Private collection. John Hession photo.

“The artistic discovery of the White Mountains in the 19th century was key in liberating American painting from European models. Landscape artists searching for truly American art flocked to the Crawford Notch, the Presidential Range, Chocorua and North Conway, to experience the majestic view and dramatic, sublime mountain scenery. North Conway painter Benjamin Champney, the premier White Mountain painter, wrote that ‘every year brought fresh visitors as the news of its attraction spread, until in 1853 and 1854 the meadows and banks of the Saco were dotted all about with white umbrellas [of artists sketching] in great numbers.’”

The artists and tourists found lodging in the farm homes and boarding houses, even in the midst of wilderness. Among those tourists was Thomas Starr King, a Unitarian minister knows as “the orator who saved the nation.”

King vacationed in the White Mountains, and in 1859 he published a book about the area entitled The White Hills: their Legends, Landscapes and Poetry. In his treatise he describes the mountain vistas in eloquent language, much as the painters in the exhibition described what they saw, each in his own visual language. “There is ample reward, as we shall hope to show … the richest feasts of loveliness and grandeur that are spread by the Summer around the valleys, and to be refreshed by the draperies of verdure, shadow, cloud and color that are hung by the Creator around and above the hills.”

Gallery events associated with the exhibition include:

  • Rebecca Noel, White Mountains Tourism in the 1850s: Beauty, Status, and Health, Tuesday, February 22, 4 p.m., Rounds Hall Room 304
  • Pen and Brush, a documentary film about the 19th- and 20th-century writers and artists who worked in the White Mountains. Producer Andrea Melville will introduce the film.
    Wednesday, March 9, 7 p.m., Hyde Hall Room 220
  • Richard Hunnewell, Nature into Landscape: Changing Perceptions of the American Wilderness
    Tuesday, March 15, 4 p.m., Karl Drerup Art Gallery

Exhibition information is online at plymouth.edu/gallery/collection/as-time-passes-over-the-land.

Gallery hours are Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Wednesdays 10 a.m.–8 p.m. and by appointment. The gallery is closed during University holidays and vacations, including March 19–27, 2011.

Information about the gallery and exhibitions program at Plymouth State University is online at Plymouth.edu/gallery or by calling the gallery at (603) 535-2614.

General information about events at PSU is available at ThisWeek@PSU, http://thisweek.blogs.plymouth.edu.