Telfair Museum of Art

Savannah, GA



Telfair Acquires Gari Melchers' Painting

Gari Melchers, Madonna of the Fields, c. 1895, gouache on canvas, 30 x 27 inches

The Acquisition Committee and the Board of Trustees are proud to announce this important recent acquisition to the Telfair Museum of Art. Gari Melchers was internationally celebrated as a major late 19th century American painter. His art spanned more than half a century and incorporated a variety of contemporary styles.

Son of a German-born artist who settled in Detroit, Melchers studied at the Royal Academy at Dusseldorf and later at the Acadamie ]ulian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1884 he and fellow artist George Hitchcock (also represented Dusseldorf and later at the Acad~mie lulian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1884 he and fellow artist George Hitchcock (also represented in the Telfair's collection) established a permanent studio in the rural Egmonds in Holland, where Melchers assured his reputation as a painter of Dutch scenes celebrating the simple virtues of hard work and pious reverence.

Melchers' long association with the Telfair began in 1903 when he wed Corinne Mackall of Savannah, whose family connections to the Telfair through Board of Trustees President Alexander R. Lawton forged Melchers' own link to the Museum. Serving as the Telfair's Fine Arts Advisor from 1906 to 1916, Melchers collected more than seventy works for the Telfair's permanent collection, including most of the Museum's treasured Impressionist paintings. Probably due to Melchers' unassuming personality, until the recent acquisition of Madonna of the Fields, the Museum's collection contained just three examples of his work, including the beautiful Impressionist painting Unpretentious Garden.

Paintings from the Dutch period rarely appear on the market and the Telfair's good fortune is enhanced by the stellar quality of this acquisition. Madonna of the Fields appeared on the cover of the New York Evening Post Saturday Magazine in December of 1915. It is a classic example of one of Melchers' best-known and beloved themes, the Dutch mother and child.

The painting depicts a young mother seated in a bucolic village landscape, serenely nursing her baby while a young blond child cuddles close and gazes directly at the viewer through large blue eyes.Traces of pencil - elegant and subtle - enhance the gouache paint and invite the viewer for a close study that reveals Melchers' masterful touch. Stylistically, Madonna of the Fields illustrates Melchers' interest in Symbolism and serves as a precursor for the National Gallery's 1896 Two Sisters, where the little blond girl also appears.

Melchers was attracted to the mother-and-child theme throughout his career. Perhaps this interest continued in part because Carl and Corinne remained childless.Whatever the case, Madonna of the Fields is unlike the other Melchers works in the Telfair's collection; it is a group portrait of real people who transcend their individuality to become universal symbols - symbols that link to the earliest examples in Christian art. Madonna of the Fields is an excellent and very fitting addition to the Telfair's permanent collection.

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rev. 11/26/10

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