This is a touring exhibition of paintings from the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts that is currently at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Though it will be going to Venice and then Fort Lauderdale later in the year, if that’s more convenient for anyone.
I didn’t have hugely high expectations, because the DPG exhibition space is fairly modest in size for a review of a whole century of art, but actually the show works well. It may not be the definitive exhibition of late 19th and early 20th century American art, but it has enough material to suggest an overall narrative, including plenty of enjoyable work. With a very few exceptions it’s one painting per artist, so there’s a kind of lucky dip feeling about the whole thing; especially since it’s hung without too much editorial commentary. It’s like: here’s a load of paintings; see what you think.
There are plenty of big names represented — Winslow Homer, Sargent, O’Keeffe, Hopper, Whistler, Pollock — but with the one-painting per artist thing, they are very much in the context of other peoples’ work. I don’t know enough to judge how representative that context is, but it worked pretty well for me.
Here and there on the walls between paintings there are quotes from the artists about art and, often, Americanness. I think it’s quite a nice device: it provides some context, some connection to the painters, but again without too much curatorial commentary.
So all in all, not a life-changing exhibition, but well worth popping in and having a look.