$8 Non Member, $5 students, Free for Members
6pm in the Black Box Theater
Distinguished Speaker Series: Karen Sherry
“Impressionist Gardens: Transplanting Traditions of
Floral Painting in American Art”
In many ways, garden imagery was perfectly suited to Impressionism. A garden’s vibrant colors, outdoor setting, and seasonal changes provided ample inspiration for Impressionist artists who used flickering brushstrokes to capture the transient effects of sunlight and atmosphere, while also depicting modern leisure pursuits (such as gardening). Yet gardens, flowers, and other landscape subjects had long held an important place in American art: from the floral symbolism in colonial portraits that helped construct a sitter’s identity, to botanically specific still life paintings that decorated Victorian parlors, to panoramic landscapes of the mid-19th-century Hudson River School that celebrated the sublime beauty of America’s wilderness. This talk examines Impressionist garden paintings within the longer history of botanical imagery in American art to elucidate the ways in which Impressionists revised or “transplanted” earlier artistic conventions. For these artists, the garden served as a place for stylistic experimentation and cultural commentary. By privileging surface patterns and decorative effects over realistic representation, Impressionism anticipated modernist developments in American art. Impressionist botanical paintings also explored turn-of-the-century concerns about national identity, humankind’s relationship with nature, and shifting patterns of modern life.
A specialist in American art, Dr. Karen Sherry is an independent art historian based in Richmond, Virginia. From 2012 to 2015, she was the Curator of American Art and Director of Collections at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine and, prior to that, she worked for seven years as a curator of American art at the Brooklyn Museum. Sherry has also held research positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brandywine River Museum, and has taught as an adjunct professor at several colleges. Sherry has organized exhibitions and published on a range of topics, including American modernism, Winslow Homer’s images of the Civil War, American drawings, and John Singer Sargent watercolors. Her recent publications include Fine Lines: American Drawings from the Brooklyn Museum (2013) and American Moderns: From O’Keeffe to Rockwell, 1910-1960 (2012), as well as a catalogue on the Portland Museum’s collection (2016). In addition to her professional positions, Sherry has been the recipient of fellowships from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Winterthur Museum. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Art History from the University of Delaware and a B.A. in Art History from Boston University.
Talk is at 6pm. Live Music provided by the Patrick Henry High School Band at 7pm. Refreshments available for purchase; galleries open until 9pm.