Survey of a Century of Cincinnati Art

December 23rd, 2020  |  Published in *, December 2020

Cincinnati Art Galleries is on the bandwagon of regionalism with its current offering entitled: Panorama of Cincinnati Art 2020.

Wilder Darling, “Crouching Woman”, Oil on Canvas on Board

The Queen City stands out historically in the Midwest region as a hotbed of art, music and culture. In the fine art field, the confluence of collecting, commissioning, and teaching legacies resulted in supporting a flourishing art community rich in diversity of techniques and heritage. The exhibition features over 150 paintings representing impressionism, post impressionism and modernist trends. This essay will highlight several to entice your interest.

Herbert Barnett, “The White Horse”, Oil on Canvas

Wilder Darling (1856-1933), was known as the Dean of Toledo painters as a result of his interest in elevating Toledo as an artistic center. Darling is represented with a small brushy genre painting depicting Dutch domesticity entitled “Crouching Woman”. The house-capped woman attends to her chores before a wood burning stove topped with a tea kettle. The spatial interior is depicted as an abstraction of repetitious geometric design in muted tones that avoid introducing any further interior description past the presence of the heat source and randomly placed boxes and pottery. This compositional approach bridges the Dutch domestic interior with a modernist abstract solution to rendered space.

Reginald L. Grooms, “Harbor Masts”, Oil on Canvas

Herbert Phillip Barnett, painter, teacher and administrator, offers a distinct blend of Americanism and personal interpretation of Cubism in his representational figures, still life and landscapes. His painting entitled “The White Horse” is a colorful investigation of field workers harvesting farm produce in a verdant landscape. Barnett challenges the concept of distance by organizing the shapes between figures with vertical shapings that terminate with the variegated dark green brushstrokes on the distant hills. In the foreground, the figures with the white horse, a blue shirted man, a reaping man and squatting woman and child form a strong triangular tower delineated in white, blues and oranges. The sky band in the upper third of the painting continues the pattern of vertical abstraction with yellowed cloud formations amid thin ribbons of blue. The gestural animation of the figures adds a sensation of dance to this colorful visual experience. Mr. Barnett was dean at the Art Academy of Cincinnati until his death in 1972.

 

Reginald L. Grooms, born in Ohio in 1900, was a well know painter, lithographer and educator. He studied as a child under his father who prepared engravings for the illustrations by Henry Farny. Grooms studied as a young man at the Julian Academy in Paris and was noted as an exhibitor in the Spring Salons. He came back to Cincinnati to teach at the Cincinnati Art Academy and the University of Cincinnati for several decades. His painting “Harbor Masts” is a vibrant oil celebrating nautical elements in a primary palette. The composition is very simple, split in half horizontally and quartered. The foreground is dominated by the large white drape on the deck of the nearest vessel. Grooms’ animated brush slashes this shape with vibrant blues over patches of lemon yellow, his gestural abstraction alluding to the hidden cargo on deck. The upper half of the painting depicts the sky and vibrant cobalt blue harbor with small white sails in the distance. Three orange masts that vary by girth, rise vertically, challenging the sweeping gestures of windblown sails that slash a red boat house on the distant left. This painting’s narrative is unfolded in understated simplicity and primary colors.

There are multiple additional artists whose works expand this conversation, making this enjoyable exhibition a must see.

Exhibition Dec 5- Jan. 22,  2021 at Cincinnati Art Galleries.

–Marlene Steele

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