Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art” at The Dorsky Museum

by Editorial Staff

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz is currently featuring “Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art,” a new exhibition exploring a late-​​19th century movement in painting with deep ties to the Mid-​​Hudson region.

Tonalism” is curated by Karen Quinn, senior historian and curator, art and culture, at the New York State Museum. The exhibition will be on view from Aug. 28 – Dec. 8, 2019, in The Dorsky’s Morgan Anderson and Howard Greenberg Family Galleries. A public opening reception will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 5 – 7 p.m.

Emerging in the years after the Civil War, Tonalism appealed to audiences seeking respite from the devastation of war, the political turmoil of Reconstruction, the rise of industrialization and urbanization, and related cultural issues.

In the broadest sense, Tonalism can be understood as an approach to representation that relied less on faithfulness to visual reality than on creating an evocative mood, often through memory. Tonalist artists achieved a prevailing sense of quiet by depicting subjects at either end of the day, in soft light and with a delicate range of colors – thus, “tonal.” Landscapes dominated, but figurative works were not excluded. Overall, Tonalism encouraged contemplation.

Tonalism has long been considered a conservative late 19th-​​century approach to painting, often discussed as the antithesis to Impressionism, but recent scholarship has begun to reassess Tonalism as innovative in its approach to representation both in concept and as realized.

This exhibition repositions Tonalism in this new context: as both an outgrowth of the Hudson River School (among other influences), and as an important foundation helping to lay the groundwork for Modernism.

George Inness, “Keene Valley, Adirondacks,” 1885, oil on board, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, gift of Elizabeth Koppitz

George Inness, “Keene Valley, Adirondacks,” 1885, oil on board, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, gift of Elizabeth Koppitz

Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art” is organized by the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and the New York State Museum. Following their institutional missions, the exhibition builds on the work of well-​​known trailblazers such as James McNeil Whistler and George Inness, while also shedding light on the contributions of lesser-​​known masters with ties to New York.

Featured artists include Frederick Kost of Long Island, Birge Harrison of Woodstock, Alexander Wyant of Arkville and Keene Valley, and Walter Launt Palmer of Albany. Many of the included works are presented on load from private collectors, offering viewers a rare chance to see paintings and photographs that are not in the public domain.

Following its presentation at The Dorsky, the exhibition will travel to the New York State Museum in Albany, New York, where it will be on display from Feb. 15 – June 14, 2020.

About the Curator

Karen E. Quinn is senior historian and curator of art and culture at the New York State Museum. Currently she is researching and building the museum’s collection of art related to New York State, including decorative arts, paintings, works on paper, architecture, photography, popular culture, literature and music, and interpreting them for museum visitors. She is also working with colleagues to develop interdisciplinary exhibitions, public programs and publications that put works of art into their historical and cultural context. Quinn’s current and past exhibitions include Art of the Erie Canal (2018), The Historic Woodstock Art Colony: The Arthur A. Anderson Collection (2018 – 19), and Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modernism (2019 – 20).

Previously, Quinn was Kristin and Roger Servison Curator of Paintings, Art of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she contributed to exhibitions and catalogues on the work of Fitz Henry Lane, Lawren Harris, Edward Weston and Martin Johnson Heade, among others, and also worked on thematic shows devoted to American landscape, Afro Brazilian art and American modernism. She was part of the team that developed and executed the museum’s Art of the Americas wing (2010). She also served as project manager and wrote for Paintings of the Americas (2012), the museum’s first online scholarly collection catalogue.

Featured Image: Birge Harrison, “Lawrence River Sunset,” n.d., oil on canvas, courtesy New York State Museum, Historic Woodstock Art Colony, Arthur A. Anderson Collection

About The Dorsky Museum

Through its collections, exhibitions and public programs, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art supports and enriches the academic programs at the College and serves as a center for Hudson Valley arts and culture. With more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space distributed over six galleries, The Dorsky Museum is one of the largest museums in the SUNY system. Since its official dedication in 2001, The Dorsky has presented more than 100 exhibitions, including commissions, collection-​​based projects, and in-​​depth studies of contemporary artists including Robert Morris, Alice Neel, Judy Pfaff, Carolee Schneemann, and Ushio Shinohara.

Museum Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, Holidays and Intersessions.
For more information about The Dorsky Museum and its programs,
visit    http://​www​.newpaltz​.edu/​m​u​s​eum or call (845) 257‑3844.



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