CRAVING FOR NATURE Tiffany's 'Favrile Cup.'

Romantic craving for nature perhaps reaches its apogee in sexy, turn of the 20th century Tiffany glass vases resembling shimmering flowers and a stupendous 1903 silver, wood, and mother-of-pearl lady’s writing table and chair by Providence’s Gorham Manufacturing Company. It’s decorated with ravishing swirling patterns of flowers and vines punctuated by silver heads at the tops of the legs and an owl under a mirror. Wildness is no longer threatening. It’s something pure and beautiful and lost — something we’re forever trying to recapture.

Portraits didn’t totally disappear. Frank W. Benson’s sugary sweet 1909 painting Summer depicts white women in crisp white gowns on a hillside overlooking the Maine shore. The style is American Impressionism, which tends to be a showy, shallow version of French Impressionism. Benson, a Boston painter, scrapes the pigment on thick like cake frosting.

Here Benson’s daughters and a niece represent the Gibson girl American ideal of that era — fresh, sporty, optimistic, confident. Three of the women sit in the grass, but one stands, as sturdy as the figurehead of a ship, shading her eyes as she gazes into the sun. She seems to be staring into the bright future of the modern, industrial “American Century” ahead.
< prev  1  |  2  | 
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   EVOLVING PERSPECTIVES  |  July 23, 2014
    Somewhere around the 1950s, Florence Leif drastically changed her style.
  •   DOODLES, LIGHTS, AND DREAMS  |  July 16, 2014
    Gibson Prouty has found a muse — classic yellow pencils with pink erasers on the end.
  •   SEEING ANEW  |  July 09, 2014
    The aim of the RISD Museum’s eight newly renovated galleries for its permanent collection of fashion and Egyptian and Asian art seems to be “quiet contemplation.”
  •   BRIGHTNESS AND DARKNESS  |  June 25, 2014
    Constellations of mirror ball clouds dangle from the ceiling on pink cords at the center of the room and slowly rotate and sparkle. You’re invited to peer though weird, lumpy crystal-telescope-things.
  •   FIGHTING THE POWER  |  June 18, 2014
    It was around 1983 when Providence artist James Montford and a friend posed as photographers to check out the Ku Klux Klan rally in Norwalk, Connecticut.

 See all articles by: GREG COOK