Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lewandowski the Precisionist

Now open at the Georgia Museum of Art (GMOA) is a traveling exhibition--Edmund Lewandowski: Precisionism and Beyond--organized by the Flint Institute of Arts. The exhibition has already been on display at Flint, at the Winthrop University Art Galleries, and the Mobile Museum of Art. For a nice, detailed definition of "Precisionism," see the Metropolitan Museum of Art's history of art timeline [here].

A few images from the exhibition at GMOA:

Of Polish ancestry, Lewandowski (1914-1998) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and remained a truly Midwestern artist throughout his career. The display features 44 works by Lewandowski ranging from the 1930s to the 1990s. Among the 44 images are two paintings from the permanent collection at the GMOA that return home to Athens after having toured with the exhibition since last summer:

Devil's Gateway, 1935-43, watercolor on paper, 15 1/2 x 21 inches
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Transferred from the University of Georgia Department of Art
GMOA 1961.184

Third Avenue N.Y.C., 1941, gouache on paper, 22 1/16 x 29 15/16 inches
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of the Friends of the Museum
GMOA 1990.1

After studying at the Layton School of Art, Lewandowski worked for the Federal Art Project and earned the notice of Edith Halpert, founder of Downtown Gallery in New York. Halpert added him to her stable of artists, which included Charles Sheeler. Lewandowski would visit Manhattan (where he painted Third Avenue N.Y.C.) to see Halpert and Downtown Gallery, but she continually insisted that he refrain from leaving the Midwest, emphasizing him as a regional and "American" painter.

His watercolor Fishermen's Village, featuring a Wisconsin town, is in this exhibition at GMOA. It was once exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1938, was seen there by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and was subsequently acquired for the Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park.

Fishermen's Village, 1937, watercolor and gouache over pencil on paper, 26 5/8 x 31 1/2 inches.
Collection of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, New York

Although he taught for a time at Florida State University, and spent the last years of his life living in South Carolina, Lewandowski throughout his career focused on the Great Lakes coastline, towns, farms, and industry. Ore boats re-appeared in his work from the 1940s to the 1980s. One of his most important nautical series began as a commission to paint the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1958. In 1975, the ship famously sank in Lake Superior in a horrible, sudden November storm. Lewandowski revisited the ship as subject several times after the sinking, including in this 1987 oil painting from a private collection:

The ship was memorialized in popular culture by Gordon Lightfoot's 1976 song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Edmund Lewandowski: Precisionism and Beyond will be open at GMOA until December 3.

No comments: