The Boston International Fine Art Show is going on this weekend. I make a point to go every year-as far as ‘traditional’ painting goes, this is the best art fair in New England. It’s a cross-section of what dealers all over currently have on exhibit, whether by living painters, etchings and prints, or some very interesting historical work.
It’s of huge importance to see paintings in person- let alone to appreciate the technique, color and mood of a picture or sculpture, you just can’t feel the presence of a work in reproduction. When visiting a museum, more often than not, the paintings that give me a gut, visceral response are not necessarily the ones that look good printed on a postcard. Conversely, sometimes I’ll see a painting I like online or printed before I see it in person, and when I’m eventually able to track it down, looking at it in the flesh gives me a resounding meh. Increasingly, these days people just look at paintings online- and often just on their 4 inch phone screen.
It goes further than that, though- through the advances of technology, people have started to judge work by what it looks like online, not what it looks like in person. Contemporary painters are striving to get work done quickly, and something may look far more painterly and interesting in a photograph than it actually is. Even painters that work without using any photographic reference often strive for a photographic aesthetic, or a certain ‘look’. As someone particularly interested in the technical aspects of painting, this is a huge loss- and you really can’t get these concepts without spending time with pictures face to face. I looked at Velazquez in books for years, but really didn’t get him at all until I saw his works together in person.
Art fairs like these are a rare opportunity to not only see work by living painters from outside of your circle without visiting all of the galleries and their respective cities, but to see what lesser known paintings have come back onto the market from private collections, a brief window before disappearing again into peoples homes. Unfortunately my photos from the fair came out terribly, so I’ll pepper this post with a couple images from last year.
The Ocean, Frederick Judd Waugh 39.5×49.5″
Back in February I went to the Palm Beach Art fair with Ben Fenske- we split up and went through the show separately, when we met up we both mentioned this painting first as the standout from the fair; out of hundreds (thousands?) of paintings. This is not entirely a coincidence- this is a technically virtuosic painting, Waugh at the height of his powers, and not a well known one of his works. Thickly painted, you just have to see this in the flesh, deftly painted mostly with the palette knife. I had previously seen it in Boston at BIFAS 2013, one of the few paintings I remember clearly after my visit. If you’re in Bryn Mawr, you can still see it at Avery Galleries, before it disappears again into someone’s home.
Dusk over Gloucester Harbor, George William Sotter 26.25×32″
The above painting, which was also at Avery Galleries, has since sold. If you want to see it, well, you’d have to make friends with whoever bought it. Good luck. Again, the photo doesn’t really do the picture justice- Graphically, strongly drawn, the picture had a unity of light and strong effect not unlike Monet- and a bit more interesting broken color than you can see above. This is a museum quality painting by a lesser known Pennsylvania Impressionist.
Woman in a Blue Kimono, Frank Benson 1902 30×25″
The Frank Benson above is currently owned by Vose Galleries in Boston. They’re the oldest gallery in America, started in 1841. They have a great DeCamp and a very strong Paxton out this year, though neither are currently on their website.
They are currently showing the below Aldo Hibbard, a particularly strong one of his snow scenes-
Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta, Aldro Hibbard 40×50″
There’s fairs like these that happen all over and these are just a few examples of why visiting these smaller art fairs, or even a small local museum rather than a major one can be worth it. It’s really difficult to judge what works you respond to by a painter -living or dead- without seeing them up close. Writing about this was brought to mind when last week someone told me that one of my paintings looked better in person. I think that’s a fine compliment.
I’ll go back to the fair today to see if I missed anything and try to snap a few better images- if any come out I’ll edit them into this post.