Indianapolis Museum of Art

Indianapolis, IN



Visions of Home: American Impressionist Images of Suburban Leisure and Country Comfort


Gari Melchers (1860-1932), Young Woman Sewing, 1919, oil on canvas, 34 1/4 x 29 1/4 inches, Belmont, The Gari Melchers Estate and Memorial Gallery, Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA)


Visions of a tranquil suburban life, gorgeous gardens and plush estates await visitors to the Indianapolis Museum of Art during current exhibitions. (right: Theodore Wores 1859-1939), Home and Garden, Saratoga, c. 1926-1931, oil on canvas, A. Jess Shenson, M.D.)

Turning back time to the American Country Place era (1890-1945), the IMA simultaneously presents: Visions of Home: American Impressionist Images of Suburban Leisure and Country Comfort, Visions of Oldfields, American Impressionists in the French Countryside and the opening of the newly restored Oldfields' Ravine Garden. The opening of these exhibitions and the grand opening of the Oldfields' Ravine Garden took place May 23, 1999. The exhibitions run through August 8, 1999 in Allen Whitehill Clowes Special Exhibition Gallery.


The American Country Place Era

The Impressionist paintings and the landscape designs featured in the IMA's current offerings are from a unique era in U.S. history. The American Country Place era (1890 to 1945), when American industry took a prominent role in the economy, was a time which allowed individual businessmen, financiers and industrialists to amass significant wealth. (left: Daniel Garber (1880-1958), Mending, 1918, oil on canvas, 46 3/4 x 42 1/2 inches, The Manoogian Collection)

During this same period, as the industrialized cities became more congested and polluted, people began to look to the countryside for relief from the stress of urban life.

Americans were able to act on this desire to retreat to the country, and estates were built on the outskirts of cities from New York to Seattle. These estates usually featured a cultivated landscape and meticulously cared for gardens, a modest country home or mansion and accompanying guest residences, and a variety of support facilities such as greenhouses, cutting gardens and stables.

This genre of American homes became known as the American Country Place era. Visions of Home, Visions of Oldfields and American Impressionists in the French Countryside all feature the work of artists during this era. The Oldfields Ravine Garden is a prime example of the landscape design popularized during this time.


Visions of Home

Visions of Home: American Impressionist Images of Suburban Leisure and Country Comfort features 40 paintings and documents the unique style of life associated with the American Country Place era.

Visions of Home highlights works that illustrate the gardens and homes associated with this era. and features works by 33 painters including William Merritt Chase, Daniel Garber, Philip Leslie Hale, Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, John Henry Twachtman, Theodore Clement Steele and John Ottis Adams. These artists lived in a time when many Americans sought relief from the stress of city life. This tranquil lifestyle was the prominent theme for American Impressionist painters. (left: Childe Hassam (1859-1935), Bowl of Goldfish, 1912, oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 1/4 inches, Ball State University Museum of Art, Muncie, Indiana. Frank C. Ball Collection, partial gift and promised gift from the Ball Brothers Foundation.)

"These paintings offer a glimpse into the intimate world of genteel suburban life around the turn of the century. The viewer is invited into the lives and homes of the artists and their friends," said Harriet Warkel, IMA curator of American paintings and sculpture 1800-1945.

The peaceful gardens and exquisite homes of the era can be seen in the depiction of a lively garden and charming home in Theodore Wores' painting, Thomas Moran's Home, East Hampton, Long Island, painted in the 1890s. Other artists painted tranquil scenes of everyday leisure activities such as sewing and relaxing. This type of activity is seen in Helen Turner's Lillies, Lanterns, and Sunshine, painted about 1923. (right: Helen Turner,Lillies, Lanterns, and Sunshine, c. 1923, oil on canvas, 35 x 43 inches, The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, Gift of W.B.S. Grandy)

Visions of Home was originally organized by The Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Lisa N. Peters and funded by the Henry D. Clarke Jr. Foundation for the Arts.


Visions of Oldfields

Oldfields--the historic mansion and 26-acre estate located on the museum's grounds--will be featured as an example of the homes of the American Country Place era. The IMA presents Visions of Oldfields, on exhibit through August 8, 1999, includes a display of photomurals, blueprints and other material depicting the design of the estate and the lifestyle of those who owned it: Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McK. Landon and Mr. and Mrs. Josiah K. Lilly Jr.

The design of Percival Gallagher of Olmsted Brothers, an influential landscape architecture and design firm of the American Country Place era, will be featured in the exhibition. Visions of Oldfields will give visitors a unique opportunity to see these designs of the American Country Place era as they created a soothing and lush retreat in the suburbs for the Landons.

Visions of Oldfields will also include representative materials from the American Country Place era such as period catalogues, advertisements, photographs, clothing and home decor.


Ravine Garden

The last major feature garden of Oldfields to be restored to its original splendor is the Ravine Garden. The large garden at the west of the Oldfields property, between the mansion and the canal, comprises the restored Ravine Garden. The garden features thousands of bulbs, perennials, flowering shrubs and trees, stone paths and rockrimmed pools.

Mark Zelonis, IMA director of horticulture, observed, "The Ravine Garden is a garden of many different perspectives. Very few gardens can be viewed from above. This garden can be enjoyed from the terrace above."

Other unique features of the Ravine Garden include the dramatic 50 foot drop in grade from the terrace to the canal, the stream descending the hillside and nearly 500 feet of limestone path. The garden evokes all of the senses as visitors can enjoy the smell of the flowers and plants, the feel of the textures of stone work and greenery, the sight of colors of hundreds of flowering bulbs, shrubs and trees, and the sound of the stream as it bubbles down the hillside.


American Impressionists in the French Countryside

American Impressionists in the French Countryside will feature nine paintings by Frederick Carl Frieseke, Louis Ritman, Karl Buehr, Richard Emile Miller, Robert Vonnoh and Mary Fairchild MacMonnies. A highlight of the exhibition will be the display of three works believed to have been painted simultaneously: Miller's Afternoon Tea, Buehr's Under the Parasol and Ritman's Sun Spots and Shadows (Tea in a Giverny Garden). American Impressionists in the French Countryside will reunite the three works for the first time since they were created.
This exhibition is sponsored by Bank One and Eli Lilly and Company.


Read more about the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/18/10

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2010 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.