Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s
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This object is a member of the following groups (click any group name to view all objects in that group):Periods and Styles: The Hudson River School
Exhibitions: In and Out of Place
Thomas Worthington Whittredge began his career as a house painter. After spending some time as a sign painter, daguerreotypist, and later a portraitist, he turned to landscape painting in 1843. Essentially self-taught, Whittredge traveled to Europe in 1849 in an effort to improve his skills. Upon his return to New York in 1859, he was deeply impressed by the naturalistic paintings of Asher B. Durand and resolved to develop his own form of American landscape within the Hudson River School tradition. The majority of Whittredge's early landscapes are depictions of woodland interiors. He characteristically sought simple subjects and eschewed the dramatic scenery of early landscapists such as Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church for “more homely scenery."<sup>1</sup>
Whittredge's style began to change as a result of three trips to the West, in 1866, 1870, and 1871. True to his character, he chose to depict the pastoral and simple aspects of the Western landscape as opposed to the rugged and sublime. Yet while his pictures from this period retain the serene calm of his earlier work, the wide open space of the Western plains resulted in an expansiveness and breadth of vision not seen in his earlier views of dense forest interiors.
Whittredge brought this new style as well as an interest in outdoor light back to the East. The impact of his Western experience can be seen in his series of paintings of Newport, Rhode Island, begun in the 1870s, of which the Addison's <i>Home by the Sea</i> is one. Although emphasis is placed on the pastoral foreground, the trees and wooden structures on either side of the canvas channel the eye through the narrowed middle ground back to the sea and sky, which open up to a wide, flat vista much like his paintings of the Western plains. Its elevated view and strong horizon line also relate the picture to the work of Luminist painters such as John Kensett and Sanford Gifford, who both accompanied Whittredge on his second trip out West. Between 1872 and 1885 Whittredge painted at least seven versions of this scene from various vantage points, and the Addison's version is thought to be one of the earliest.<sup>2</sup> Although the exact location of the scene has not been identified, most authorities assign it to the southern Newport or Middletown coast.<sup>3</sup>
This scene is typical of Whittredge in its hushed calm and "pleasantness.”<sup>4</sup> Although weather-beaten, the farmhouse is securely planted within the protective grove of trees. The presence of barnyard animals and neatly plowed fields, as well as the men and women attending to various chores, attest to the farm's success. Man is at peace with nature. The warm, afternoon glow that pervades the entire canvas unites the painting's picturesque elements into a harmonious whole. In his autobiography Whittredge expressed a personal attachment to Newport:
<i>In searching for subjects for my pictures, I went several summers to Newport. This part of the New England littoral, the paradise of summer dwellers, had great charm for me, though of a different character from the fascinations it always seemed to possess for the fashionable people, I had heard much of it and the neighborhood surrounding it when I was a child, and many things I saw seemed perfectly familiar to me, although never seen before…. In short it was the land of my forefathers.</i><sup>5</sup>
The vague longing suggested by the fading afternoon light in <i>Home by the Sea</i> goes beyond the artist's personal feelings of nostalgia, conveying a national sentiment associated with the Colonial Revival era. The dilapidated eighteenth-century farmhouse represents a passing way of life—a simpler, quieter time. By 1872, Newport had become a "bustling seaside resort.”<sup>6</sup> Large mansions were quickly replacing farmhouses such as the one depicted by Whittredge. In the same way that his Western pictures show Indians living peacefully and in harmony with nature before the disruptive arrival of the white settlers, this painting reflects the rural farmer before the advent of post-Civil War urban and industrial expansion.
In the subsequent versions of <i>Home by the Sea</i>, dated in the 1880s, Whittredge retained the nostalgia of earlier views, but the attention to detail and clarity of line were no longer present.
Allison Kemmerer, <i>Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, A Selective Catalogue</i> (Andover, Massachusetts: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1996), pp. 495
1. Quoted in Cheryl A. Cibulka, <i>Quiet Places: The American Landscapes of Worthington Whittredge</i> (Washington, D.C.: Adams Davidson Galleries, 1982), p. 21.
2. This version has been considered by some scholars to be the first of the series. See Robert G. Workman, The Eden of America: Rhode Island Landscapes, 1820- 1920 (Providence: Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, 1986), p. 52. The six other known versions of this painting are: <i><a href="http://collections.lacma.org/node/229206">A Home by the Seaside</a></i> (1872, Los Angeles County Museum of Art); <i><a href="http://collection.wmuseumaa.org/Obj4521">Home by the Sea</a></i> (c. 1872, Westmoreland Museum of Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania); <i>The Old Homestead, Newport, Rhode Island</i> (c. 1876-78, private collection); <i><a href="http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/old-homestead-by-the-sea-33237">Old Homestead by the Sea</a></i> (1883, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston); <i>Coast, Newport, Rhode Island</i> (c. 1883-85, Gesner Fine Art, Largo, Florida); and <i>Newport Beach, Rhode Island</i> (n.d., formerly Kennedy Galleries, New York).
4. Cibulka, p. 25.
5. Quoted in ibid.
6. Meredith Arms, "Thomas Worthington Whittredge: Home by the Sea,” <i>Rutgers Art Review</i> 9-10 (1988-89), p. 61.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:Art Begins at Home: The Addison Gallery Gift Plan, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/17/1943 - 10/11/1943
Loan Exhibition: Worthington Whittredge 1820-1910, William Macbeth Gallery (William Macbeth, Inc.), 1/31/1944 - 2/19/1944
The World of the Romantic Artist. A Survey of American. Culture from 1800-1875, Detroit Institute of Arts, 12/21/1944 - 1/28/1945
The Hudson River School and the Early American Landscape Tradition, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2/15/1945 - 5/18/1945
Loan to Lanam Club, Lanam Club, 8/7/1961 - 8/1/1969
The Works, Addison Gallery of American Art, 11/7/1969 - 2/22/1970
Visions of the New Land: 19th Century American Landscape, Addison Gallery of American Art, 11/7/1980 - 12/7/1980
Andover Garden Club Exhibition, Addison Gallery of American Art, 11/14/1980 - 11/16/1980
Masterworks of American Art from the Addison Gallery Collection, Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Inc., 10/6/1981 - 10/31/1981
Land of Whitman, The Heckscher Museum of Art, 10/2/1982 - 11/7/1982
Landscapes from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/1/1983 - 5/1/1983
25th Anniversary Exhibition: Selected American Paintings, 1750-1950, Westmoreland Museum of Art/Westmoreland County Museum of Art, 5/18/1984 - 7/22/1984
The Eden of America: Rhode Island Landscapes, 1820-1920, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1/10/1986 - 4/27/1986
At Work and Play: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 5/15/1987 - 7/31/1987
Point of View: Landscapes from the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 10/16/1992 - 12/20/1992
Masterworks from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/21/1994 - 4/3/1994
Masterworks from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/5/1995 - 12/17/1995
Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/13/1996 - 7/31/1996
Framing America's Landscapes: Painting from the Addison Gallery of American Art, Addison Gallery of American Art, 11/20/1998 - 7/31/1999
Masterworks from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 2/22/2000 - 3/26/2000
Inside and Out: Scenes of American Life from the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/26/2000 - 12/31/2000
The American Land: Selections from the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/19/2001 - 4/8/2001
Painting Summer in New England, Peabody Essex Museum, 4/18/2006 - 9/4/2006
Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s, American Federation of Arts, 9/9/2006 - 9/7/2009
Inside, Outside, Upstairs, Downstairs: The Addison Anew, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/7/2010 - 3/27/2011
Eye on the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/19/2013 - 3/10/2013
In Tandem: Inspirations and Collaborations, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/12/2015 - 1/3/2016
Grant Wood and the American Farm, Reynolda House, Museum of American Art, 9/9/2016 - 12/31/2016
Eye on the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/1/2017 - 7/30/2017
Eye on the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/1/2017 - 7/31/2018
In and Out of Place , Addison Gallery of American Art, 2/16/2019 - 7/31/2019
Currents/Crosscurrents: American Art, 1850–1950, Addison Gallery of American Art, 10/16/2020 - 3/7/2021
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