Los Angeles

“American Impressionists”

Dalzell Hatfield Galleries

The final section of the Summer Art Festival presented at the Hatfield Galleries in the Ambassador Hotel concentrates on the American Impressionists and an additional few who, by some stretch of esthetic imagination, might also be expected to relate to the movement.

Rarely does one find a survey of this kind which establishes within itself such over-all excellence. There is no place here for fill-ins or trivia—the criteria for inclusion is obviously demanding, and in all instances successfully met. One could rarely find a more exemplary George Bellows than The Skeleton. A huge fishing boat is under construction on a beach, exposing its naked white ribs like bleached bones of a stranded Moby Dick, against the deep dark hills beyond. Strongly composed, the picture surface gleams with brilliant sweeps of paint as refreshing and capable as Vlaminck, and as dramatic and sculptural as Homer.

An especially noteworthy Maurice Prendergast watercolor, one of his park tableaux with pedestrians walking, sitting on benches, talking, in a purple sea of shadows while equestrians pass proudly in the open sunlit road beyond, shares gallery space with two shimmering Childe Hassam oils, Bridge at Posilippo, Naples and The Rose Girl, both prime examples by an American who deserves greater respect. A fine William Keith Landscape with Cattle painted in soft velvety greens rivals Inness in praising the idyllic rural America. Small works by John Marin and Marsden Hartley reflect their monumental talents. Marin’s City View, a dialogue between skyscraper and sky demonstrates his ability to express the sound and action of things rather than the things themselves, while Hartley’s Still Life solidly refuses to compromise with form and says so with emphatic assurance. Robert Spencer, whose vast respect for European Impressionist Pissarro made him an American reflection of that artist, is a pleasure to revisit in two oils, Hill Town, a loosely conceived landscape, and the commendable Village Lane, tightly sewn together with stitches of purple and green paint. George Luks, Robert Henri, and William Merritt Chase cover the field of portraiture with distinction in the styles so closely identified with each.

One can only regret that the Festival, conceived by the Gallery staff for the Summer season, might have been presented in a more accessible setting so that its rewards could have been relished by larger audiences. Nonetheless it was a praiseworthy undertaking—one which too rarely graces the commercial galleries in Los Angeles.

Curt Opliger