Selections from the Parrish Art Museum Permanent Collection 

Parrish Art Museum

Illuminating the Creative Process

William Merritt Chase 
William Merritt Chase and his family lived in Shinnecock Hills, Southampton, from 1892 to 1905. As part of his employment at the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, Chase was provided with a home designed by the firm of McKim, Mead, and White. These years are recorded in works Chase painted of the sandy hills covered with pitch pine and bayberry. The vivid images mirror the beginnings of the East End as an art colony and its rise as a Gilded Age resort. The Bayberry Bush, c. 1895, 25 1/2"x x33 1/8", oil on canvas

The Museum’s collection features paintings from all periods of his work, including the early Still Life with Fruit (1871), works from the famous New York park scenes series, notably Park in Brooklyn (c. 1887); major studio paintings from the 1880s, such as The Blue Kimono (c. 1888); and of course, the paintings made during those summers in the Shinnecock Hills, including The Bayberry Bush (c. 1895).

William Merritt Chase's Park in Brooklyn Audio
The Fairfield Porter Collection and Archives
Fairfield Porter was the most important American realist painter from 1949 until his death in 1975. Not coincidentally, these were the years when Porter lived in Southampton, and in 1979 his estate recognized the bond between the artist and the Museum by donating some 250 works to the Parrish Art Museum collection.
Porter was both a gifted painter and an accomplished writer who produced some of the most lucid art criticism and commentary of the time, notably his reviews for the magazine Art News. He insisted that he painted what he saw rather than what he might assume to be there. Porter painted what he was familiar with—his family and friends and the places he lived and visited, including Southampton and a family-owned island off the coast of Maine where he had summered since childhood. An artist who steadfastly maintained a figurative vision, Porter knew and admired many Abstract Expressionist artists on the East End, especially Willem de Kooning. Porter once wrote: "The realist thinks he knows ahead of time what reality is, and the abstract artist what art is, but it is in its formality that realist art excels, and the best abstract art communicates an overwhelming sense of reality."
Material Witness
The substance of paint has a material presence—it can be thinly or thickly applied, using a wide variety of tools, in a controlled or loose gesture—and the work of artists in our collection explored this in a variety of ways. In Blinds and Shades, Josh Dayton merges painting and sculpture by attaching terra cotta forms to the canvas and extending the painted surface—a form of drawing in space. Grace Hartigan pays homage to her art-historical forebears, in particular the nineteenth-century French painter Georges Seurat, by adapting his “pointillist” technique of using small distinct dots of color to form an image while introducing her own expressive gesture. On a trip to Southwest France in the early 1980s, Elaine de Kooning explored the legendary Paleolithic caves in Lascaux. She didn’t expect to discover a major theme that would occupy her work for several years, but she was immediately drawn to the directness of the imagery, vigorously washing, streaking, and splattering paint across the static, outlined forms of the animals to create a vibrant composition.
The works explore materials and the hand of the artist, bringing substance and gesture to the fore. The works have diverse characteristics but one common aspect--enthusiastic use of tactile materials and willing revelation of the physical process of art making.
Truth to Materials
Truth to Materials suggests many different characteristics but one aspect in common— enthusiastic use of tactile materials and willing revelation of the physical process of making. Sculptor Louise Nevelson once said that when she began making her wall pieces in the 1950s, she couldn’t afford traditional art materials, instead foraging in her Manhattan neighborhood for cast-off wooden objects. Nevelson discovered an artistic kinship with fellow artist Alfonso Ossorio and frequently visited his estate “The Creeks” on Georgia Pond in Wainscott. It was there in the 1960s that he began to fabricate his bold “Congregations”—vast assemblages of horns, eyes, shells, bones, and buttons—that established his reputation as a visionary artist. 
American Views
American art abounds in landscape images that shape our views of nature. The landscape paintings in the collection of the Parrish Art Museum trace the history of the genre in American art from the early-nineteenth-century birth of a national school to the era of contemporary artists, many of whom live and work on Long Island’s East End.
By the end of the nineteenth century,modern artists became more concerned with conveying internal emotions than with transmitting objective facts about the world.
American artists John Henry Twachtman and Childe Hassam looked to the French Impressionists, especially Monet, for a brighter palette and more vibrant brushwork yet chose thoroughly American subjects like Niagara Falls. In the early 1900s, Edith Prellwitz with her husband Henry, along with Irving Ramsey Wiles, formed their own small colony on Long Island’s North Fork in Peconic. Works by Sheridan Lord, Fairfield Porter, and Robert Dash are open-ended views of the landscape in the places where they live: Lord in Sagaponack, Porter at his family’s summer home in Maine, and Dash on Sagg Pond, all luminously depicted. In her paintings, April Gornik wagers that scale plays a significant role in the way a painting affects the viewer. “I hope that when people are standing in front of the work,  they’ll feel the physicality of the painting…its temperature, its humidity, its air.”

This scene that George Smillie presents is notably simplified. The most significant feature in the barren foreground is a small leafless tree.

Rustic farm buildings are included, among them a windmill, which assumes prominence because of its placement in the composition; yet its blades, viewed from an oblique angle, fail to furnish a picturesque silhouette.

A figure leans heavily on a stick as he crosses the field; his broad sun hat suggests the pending storm has arisen suddenly.

Collective Conversations
Works of art can take many forms, and artists throughout history have pushed at the boundaries of the traditional materials of painting, drawing, and sculpture to create powerful visual expressions and experiences. Works of art utilizing non-traditional media demonstrate very different approaches to the creative process. While the outcomes vary widely, the artists’ share an interest in exploring architecture, geometry, solid form, and fleeting gestures, and seen together their works here provide an opportunity for an artistic conversation—a way to think about connections and contexts anew.
Drawn in Black and White
Drawing is a basic element of art—a foundational pursuit used by artists not only as a preliminary study for a painting or sculpture, but also as a medium explored in its own right. If drawing is fundamental to the creative process, then drawing in black and white is even more elemental, reducing the options to a limited number. The black and white drawings in our collection show that setting limits can be liberating, encouraging artists to fully explore new methods and materials.

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Credits: Story

The Museum’s exhibitions and programs are made possible in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and by the property taxpayers from the Southampton Union Free School District and the Tuckahoe Common School District.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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