August 18 – October 8, 2017
Keith and Nita Kattner began acquiring art in the 1990s and have since amassed an impressive collection of paintings and drawings by prominent 19th and 20th century American artists. Keith, an Illinois State University alumnus and former neurosurgeon now working as an artist, recalls being spellbound at the age of ten while viewing paintings by Grant Wood, Robert Henri, and other American artists at the Joselyn Museum of Art in Omaha, Nebraska. This experience, coupled with his passion for U.S. history, fueled his ongoing, intensive study of American painting and the couple’s desire to view it in an intimate domestic setting.
The eight works of art chosen for this exhibition exemplify several important movements and styles in American art between 1891 and 1945, including Impressionism, Symbolism, Regionalism, and the group known as “The Eight.” Among the genres included are landscape, still life, portraiture, the nude, and even figures at the shore, as in Reginald Marsh’s Coney Island Beach, in which a newspaper headline announcing Russia’s declaration of war against Japan provides a sobering edge to a sensuously charged scene of carefree bathers.
Robert Henri’s El Segoviano is a broadly brushed, evocative portrait of an elderly Spaniard who, according to the artist, sang with a cigarette in his mouth while posing. As if in response, with its two matchsticks poised precariously at the edge of a shelf, Still Life with Mug and Pipe by John Frederick Peto is a classic example of trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) still life painting. The spatial ambiguity in Robert Lewis Reid’s Impressionist painting The Screen creates the illusion that a female figure on a couch is part of the tropical scene painted on the screen behind her.
The view through backlit trees in Ralph Albert Blakelock’s Evening Silhouettes reveals the last vestiges of a jewel-like sunset, while George Inness’s crepuscular Tarpon Springs, Florida, suffuses land, sea and sky in a mystical golden light. Arthur B. Davies’s radiant Madonna of the Hills lends a symbolic quality to a landscape featuring a mother nursing a child. John Steuart Curry’s Storm over the Missouri River, a landscape by the renowned American Regionalist, pits the industrial—in the form of a steamer barely visible in the distance—against the forces of nature in a lushly painted rural scene.
American Masters from the Kattner Family Collection offers the local community an opportunity to view exceptional paintings by artists whose work can otherwise be seen only in museums in larger cities. University Galleries would like to thank the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, for facilitating the loan of seven artworks currently housed in their museum.
Programs at University Galleries are supported in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. The exhibition reception is co-sponsored by Hyatt Place, Bloomington-Normal.