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A Century of Progress: 20th Century Painting in Tennessee


A first-of-its-kind exhibition ­ two years in the making ­ chronicling over 100 years of Tennessee painting will be held at Cheekwood Museum of Art. A Century of Progress: 20th Century Painting in Tennessee, by senior curator Celia Walker, is scheduled for July 13-October 13, 2002.

"This is clearly one of the finest gatherings of 20th Century Tennessee paintings ever assembled," said Jack Becker, director of the museum. "Celia Walker has traveled throughout Tennessee in researching the evolution of painting in the Volunteer State, and she has brought us some remarkable pieces and the stories behind them."

Included in the exhibition are 67 works by 50 artists who painted in Tennessee during the past 100 years." "Did you know that artists from New York once came to Chattanooga and Gatlinburg to paint in the summer to get away from the heat of the city?" said Walker. "What a great and diverse cultural history we have here." (left: Berha Herbert Potter (American, 1895-1949), Lulu and John Sharber, c. 1937-45, oil on canvas, , 50 x 42 1/2 inches. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. W.D. Haggard IV)

The full story of Ms. Walker's two years of research will be told by her and other curators from across the state in The Tennessee Historical Society's Summer 2002 Tennessee Historical Quarterly, which will serve as the exhibition catalogue.

Highlights of the exhibition include romantic genre scenes from turn of the century artists, idyllic landscapes from Depression era painters, and contemporary canvases from today's well-respected masters. A special focus is given to the importance of the role of women in the establishment of art societies, clubs, schools and later, museums in Tennessee.

The show begins with paintings from the end of the 19th Century by such artists as Lloyd Branson and Mary Solari who trained the first generation of the century's painters.

Wall text includes historical photographs to take visitors through the Tennessee Centennial of 1897 and the Appalachian Exposition of 1910, where academic and Barbizon genre subjects were joined by some of the state's earliest examples of Impressionism.

The South becomes the subject as paintings by Fritzi Brod and Burton Callicott lead viewers through the Depression and the Roosevelt era Works Progress Administration, the WPA.

As the century progressed, art publications, exhibitions and university programs brought modern work and new ideas to Tennessee. In the last quarter century contemporary artists have explored new media that stretch the traditional definition of painting.

"While much has been written about comparable painters working in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York," said Walker, "little has been published about Tennessee artists."

"It is important to place Tennessee's painters within the context of our nation's art history," said Walker. "We hope this exhibition will inspire writers in the region to explore the resources of our state's archives, museums and galleries to expand upon this largely unwritten story."

Following its Nashville exhibition, Twentieth Century Painting in Tennessee travels to four other venues, including Humboldt, Knoxville and Johnson City, Tennessee and Augusta, Georgia.

rev. 5/17/02

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