Summer Vacations

In this seasonal homage we pay tribute to the beauty of Summer with five thematic art works visualizing the best season.  Summer represents life at its fullest.  Summer is the time of partnerships, robust romance, for play amongst the idylls. It is the time of summer vacations.  

William Glackens is one of the central members of the Ashcan School, a group who broke from the Academy in order to paint subjects from everyday life. Robert Henri, the Ashcan leader, encouraged Glackens to take up painting.  Glackens’ job as an illustrator of newspaper stories prepared him as he painted colorful idylls of contemporary life inspired by the first modern art movement, Impressionism.  Glackens celebrates a fun-filled summer in Summer DayBellportLong Island, 1913, oil, 26×32”, Gift of John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchell, Collection of Cedarhurst. 

Art historian T.J. Clark discussing Manet’s, Argenteuilles canotiers, 1874, oil, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tournai, Belgium; image courtesy of Wikipedia.  “It is important that the picture is big.  It is a picture for the salon: a dominating image, four feet wide and nearly five feet high, whose message was meant to carry across a crowded room. […] The people in the picture are posing….  Their faces go blank, their bodies turn awkward, they forget how to look happy or even serious. […] This is a picture of pleasure, remember, of people taking their ease.  We need a word to express their lack of assurance in doing so; at least the curious, complex qualification of pleasure as these people seem to have it. […] The “cover of restraints” in the place of pleasure—that seems to me the great subject of Manet’s art. […] What Manet was painting was the look of a new form of life—a placid form, a modest form, but one with a claim to pleasure.  The careful self-consciousness of the woman, her guarded attention to us, the levelness of her gaze: these are the best metaphors of that moment.  It is Olympia’s gaze again, but lacking the fierce engagement with the viewer or the edge of insecurity.  This woman looks out circumspectly from a place that belongs to people like her.  How good it is, in these places, to find a little solitude on Sundays!”  (From The Painting of Modern Life, pp. 164-173).  

This scene may look familiar to Cedarhurst regulars.  Our Prendergast, The Hay Cart, 1914, oil, 19×24”, Gift of John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchell, Collection of Cedarhurst may be a companion piece to the National Gallery of Art’s Prendergast, Salem Cove, 1916, oil, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, image courtesy of nga.com.  The NGA website notes that Salem Cove is not too far from an industrial port, and that Prendergast instead chose to focus on the more idyllic atmosphere of people strolling and enjoying the cove’s natural beauty.   

Singapore photographer who goes only by his given name Nguan, has said “I like to say that each of my photographs is the middle of a story, where the befores and afters are left entirely to the viewer.”  He began his Coney Island series over ten years ago.  His biggest project may be his desire to photograph his homeland conveying a more faithful image than its current myth of a glamorized version of neoliberalism.  Nguan, UntitledConey Island series, 2007, color photograph, image courtesy of artsy.  

Postmodernist, Neo-Expressionist, “Bad Boy” Eric Fischl’s contribution to our Summer Vacation Theme features a painting made just before the catastrophic worldwide pandemic that is just beginning to ebb.   From the artist’s 2020 series Meditations on Melancholia, Fischl paints two people walking on the beach enjoying the robust setting sun.  Eric Fischl, Toward Day’s EndLooking Back, 2019, acrylic, oil on linen, 65×50”, image courtesy of ericfischl.com.