Hudson River Museum acquires 19th century masterpieces by Fitz Henry Lane and Severin Roesen

Left: Fitz Henry Lane (American, 1804–1865), Gloucester, Stage Fort Beach, 1849. Oil on canvas. Gift of Shelley and Felice Bergman, 2021 (2021.14.1). Right: Severin Roesen (American, born Prussia, c.1815–c.1872), Fruit with Water Glass. California. 1850–70. Oil on canvas. Gift of Shelley and Felice Bergman, 2021 (2021.14.2).

The Hudson River Museum (HRM) announced the donation of two exquisite paintings: Gloucester, Stage Fort Beach1849, by Fitz-Henry Lane; and Fruits with glass of water, California. 1850–70, by Severin Roesen; both works were generously donated to the HRM collection by Shelly and Felice Bergman. These major works of 19th century landscapes and still lifes will enrich the vast collection of American paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photographs and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present day. Both paintings represent artists new to the collection of the Hudson River Museum, located in Yonkers, New York.

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984). Re-Echo, 1957. From the Earth Green series. Oil on canvas. On loan from Art Bridges (AB.2020.10). © 2022 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy of MFA St. Petersburg, Florida.

For their debut, both paintings are now prominently featured in the Cycles of Nature: Highlights of the Hudson River Museum Collections and Art Bridgeswhich will be visible until February 12, 2023. The paintings stand alongside works from the Museum’s collection, including those of Berenice Abbott, Jeremy Dennis, Asher B. Durand, Richard Mayhew, and Barbara Morgan. Also presented in the exhibition are paintings by Lee Krasner and George Bellowin an ongoing partnership with Artistic bridges.

“These paintings by Fitz Henry Lane and Severin Roesen are extraordinary gifts that elevate the collection of the Hudson River Museum,” said Director and CEO Masha Turchinsky. “They are stunning to experience in person and they serve important mission-driven purposes to strengthen the Museum’s holdings, while expanding the connections we make with the public. We are deeply grateful to Shelley and Felice Bergman for recognizing and supporting our commitment to community and American art. At a pivotal time as we build a beautiful new West Wing and new galleries overlooking the Hudson, we will be immensely proud to share these works with present and future generations.

Laura Vookles, Chair of HRM’s Curatorial Department, said: “I cannot stress enough the impact these masterpieces and these artists will have on the collection and on the stories we tell in our galleries. They have already inspired new interpretations of other collectible paintings and photographs in the cycles of nature exposure. I look forward to the countless ways we will exhibit and discuss these magnificent paintings for everyone from our youngest visitors to the scholarly community.

“We wanted to make sure these giveaways would have a home where they would be appreciated and could serve the widest audience possible,” said the Bergmans. “It was important to us that the Hudson River Museum be extremely committed to strengthening the community through its educational mission. We are thrilled that these cherished works by Fitz Henry Lane and Severin Roesen will be used as teaching tools and to spark new conversations for generations to come.

DETAIL, Fitz Henry Lane (American, 1804–1865), Gloucester, Stage Fort Beach, 1849. Oil on canvas. Gift of Shelley and Felice Bergman, 2021 (2021.14.1).

Fitz Henry Lane (American, 1804-1865) Gloucester, Stage Fort Beach, 1849, is a masterful example of the mid-19th century development of the Hudson River School called Luminism, in which artists meticulously painted specific light effects at different times of the day. Lane’s expanse of light-filled sky, occupying more than half the canvas, and the mirror-like bay that reflects it, are classic elements of the style. The artist’s refined use of color, the nuances of tinted light, and the crystalline surfaces of still waters presage the characteristics that would come to define Lane’s unique and celebrated pictorial vision. Earl A. Powell, American art historian and museum director, wrote that Lane’s works, “so eloquent in their prophetic silence, portray a moment in time as frozen and evoke an ambiance of transcendental silence that is a important reflection of America’s mid-century imagination.”

Severin Roesen (American, born Prussia, c.1815–1872), Fruit with Water Glass. California. 1850–70. Oil on canvas. Gift of Shelley and Felice Bergman, 2021 (2021.14.2).

The painting depicts the site where the first English settlers landed in Cape Ann in the 1600s and is now a state park. Lane shows off the rocky granite boulder that gives the beach its name and further defines the foreground with beautifully and delicately rendered plants and shrubs. The artist’s keen attention to detail is evident, from the rigging of the sloop and brig Gloucester on the placid harbor to the houses that rise from the brush on the other side. Lane shrouds parts of the foreground in shadow and bathes the rest of the scene in soft, all-encompassing light as the curvilinear shore leads the viewer toward the vast horizon.

Lane was born Nathan Rogers Lane in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where his father worked as a sailmaker. Paralyzed from the waist down at a young age, he was unable to participate in the commercial activities of his father’s company. Yet, knowing the anatomy of ships well, Lane spent countless hours in his father’s studio, carefully sketching the intricate details of hulls, rigging and sails. In 1831 he changed his first and middle names and the following year moved to Boston, to work at Pendleton’s Lithography, the city’s best-known lithography firm. Influenced by the marine paintings of the English-born artist Robert Salmon (1775–c.1845), who worked in Boston, Lane took up oil painting; and harbor scenes like this secured his legacy as a preeminent marine artist of the mid-19th century. His paintings and prints are in many collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Peabody Essex Museum and the Farnsworth Art Museum.

Severin Roesen (1815– c. 1872) Fruits with glass of water, California. 1850-1870, depicts an overflowing bowl of apples, plums and grapes of all hues, but the yellowing edge of one vine leaf and an insect-eaten hole in another remind us that still lifes embody references underlying the cycles of nature. Elaborate still lifes like this trace their lineage to the Dutch Old Masters of the 17th and early 18th centuries, whose paintings of nature’s bounty signified wealth but also alluded to the ephemeral nature of such possessions.

Roesen trained as a porcelain and enamel painter in Prussia (now Germany) before becoming one of many German refugees from the 1848 peasant revolutions in Europe. He lived in New York before settling in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Familiar with European still life traditions and skilled in the high standards of craftsmanship, Roesen became one of the best known and most prolific American practitioners of the genre. His hyper-real still lifes were considered to represent the abundance of nature and the sanctity of the New World and adorned many dining rooms among collectors who recognized his exceptional talent. During his lifetime, he exhibited his works at the American Art-Union in New York, the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Brooklyn Art Association; and his lasting legacy includes a large number of paintings discovered in Williamsport, where he spent so many years of his life. Roesen’s work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Following the cycles of nature exhibition, the paintings will be part of a multi-year reimagining and reinstallation of the Museum’s collection.

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