Exhibit Turns Back the Clock on Associated Artists

Article excerpt

Many exhibits have been mounted and much has been written about the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh during this year marking the group's 100th anniversary. But none of those exhibits has really delved into the history of the country's second oldest arts organization as much as one currently on display at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

Featuring 48 paintings on loan from 36 institutions, "Associated Artists of Pittsburgh: Celebrating a Century of Art" not only includes works created by the artists who participated in the first Associated Artists of Pittsburgh exhibits in 1910 at the Grand Opera House building (currently Warner Center) on Fifth Avenue, Downtown, but also works from the group's second exhibit in 1911 at the Carnegie Institute (now Carnegie Museum of Art).

The Associated Artists of Pittsburgh first organized on March 4, 1910, "To foster a love for the fine arts and a true appreciation of what Pittsburgh artists are doing."

The inaugural exhibit opened at the Grand Opera House building on April 25, 1910, and, not too surprisingly, that juried show included many works by the jury themselves, all artists and members of the group.

"Many of the people who were on the original jury are the artists who were in the shows," says the Westmoreland Museum's curator Barbara Jones, who organized the exhibit.

They included the group's first president and vice president Horatio Stevenson and Ferdinand Kaufmann, respectively, along with A.F. King, Clarence M. Johns, J.W. Flender, Lila Hetzel, Frederick E. Johnston, Oliver Shiras, Eugene A. Poole and Eugene L. Connelly

All but Connelly is represented in this exhibit. It took Jones several years of dogged research to track down the original works.

"My first intention was to do the initial year 1910, but it would have been predominantly landscape paintings," Jones says. "When you get into 1911, there is a lot more variety."

Even so, the first gallery visitors will come to when viewing this exhibit contains landscape paintings almost exclusively, which were all created by Joseph Woodwell, who died unexpectedly in 1911.

Well known among artistic circles at the time, Woodwell was born in Pittsburgh and encouraged by his family to seek an education in the arts, first studying informally with Pittsburgh genre painter David Gilmour Blythe. At 17, just after his participation in the first Pittsburgh Art Association exhibition (1859), Woodwell left for Europe, to enroll at the Academie Julian in Paris where he studied under several prominent French painters.

While in France, Woodwell became associated with the Barbizon school of landscape painters. Nearly all of Woodwell's pieces on display here reflect the Barbizon influence, having a piercing sense of light. And all, like the massive work "Seascape, Magnolia, MA, 1887" were created in Magnolia, Mass., where Woodwell purchased a cottage in 1888.

"After spending several summers painting there, he ultimately died there in 1911. The newly formed Associated Artists of Pittsburgh honored him that same year by showing 40 of his paintings in memoriam," Jones says. "I went with that similar idea here. …