Thursday, June 15, 2017

Avocation to Vocation: Prints by F. Townsend Morgan

F. Townsend Morgan, Untitled (harbor scene), n.d., etching on paper
The exhibition “Avocation to Vocation: Prints by F. Townsend Morgan,” curated by independent scholar Stephen Goldfarb, begins this Saturday, June 17, and will be on view through Sunday, September 10. The exhibition highlights the work of F. Townsend Morgan, who created many prints of the places he lived in and the objects around him. Forty prints of sailboats, architecture and natural beauty will be on display.

Morgan F. Townsend and family in Key West, Florida. ca 1940.
Image: State Archives of Florida
F. Townsend Morgan grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and studied at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League. The title of the exhibition comes from a writing of Morgan’s, who wrote that he pursued art as an avocation—or hobby— which eventually turned into employment. He developed his style while living in Pennsylvania with Joseph Pennell, a fellow artist and friend of famed artist James McNeill Whistler. After the Great Depression, Morgan focused on perfecting his craft and turning it into a career to support his family. He found work in New Deal art programs for several years; Morgan moved to Key West through a Federal Relief Agency and worked as director of the Key West Community Art Center in 1941. Morgan eventually moved to Annapolis, Maryland, and received the post of artist-in-residence at St. John’s College from 1948 through 1950.

Morgan’s prints focused on the architecture and nature of the many places he lived and visited including Maryland, Orlando, and Louisville. He especially enjoyed making prints of sailboats, which particularly caught the eye of Goldfarb, who said, “Morgan’s boats are in a tradition that, at least to my eye, goes back to Turner by way of Joseph Pennell and Whistler. I particularly like the dark ships against the water and atmosphere, which is rendered with very little ink, so the original color of the paper shows through. A sort of ‘less-is-more’ aesthetic.”

F. Townsend Morgan, "Covered Bridge," n.d., etching on cream paper

Morgan achieved many accomplishments in his life; he was chosen to make the stamp for the tercentenary celebration of Annapolis and he won several awards for his prints. His works can be seen today in collections at the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress and the Treasury Department of the United States. He had several exhibitions during his life, but “Avocation to Vocation: Prints by F. Townsend Morgan” is the first exhibition to focus entirely on his work since his death. Goldfarb hopes that this exhibition teaches visitors that many artists of the past deserve to be remembered and that they are a part of history. Goldfarb said, “Many of the artists that I am interested in did not join the movement to abstraction and other modernist movements after World War II and for that reason have been, like Morgan, all but forgotten by art historians, as well as the collecting public. Exhibitions like this one could reverse that trend.”

Programs related to the exhibition of Morgan’s work include a film series focusing on Key West (“Reap the Wild Wind,” “Key Largo” and “Matinee”), starting June 22; 90 Carlton: Summer, the museum’s quarterly reception (free for members of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, $5 for nonmembers) on July 28 at 5:30 p.m.; and public tours on August 23 at 2 p.m. and September 10 at 3 p.m. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.

Stephanie Motter
Communications Intern

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