This exhibition is dedicated to Woodstock, America's second oldest and most successful art colony. Although the story of Woodstock begins in 1902, our exhibition focuses on works created after the New York Armory Show of 1913 which caused both traditionalists and modernists to reevaluate their approaches to making art. The Armory Show moved art in Woodstock beyond Impressionism and Tonalism into a period of great diversity as artists appropriated ideas from Cubism and Expressionism. Woodstock's creative population exchanged ideas, took advantage of its serious course of instruction, and used its variety of first rate facilities to experiment and develop personal voices in new styles of art. Between 1920 and 1945 Woodstock artists expanded Impressionism in the New Realist style, participated in the birth of the Studio Movement, evolved a form of Precisionism, found a fusion of folk art and modernism, and took part in the American Scene movement; all of which incorporated abstract ideas into realism. We tell the Woodstock story through paintings, sculpture, photography, and ceramics executed by resident artists of national stature.
Woodstock began as a village settled by the Dutch, located in the Catskill Mountains about one hundred miles north of New York City. Woodstock could be reached by the Hudson River boat line, good roads, and the New York Central Railroad. The area around Woodstock combined woods, farmland, lakes, and beautiful views of the Hudson River from Overlook Mountain. The unique beauty of the area and its proximity to New York City caused Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead and his wife, Jane Byrd McCall, to purchase approximately fifteen hundred acres on the hillside of Overlook Mountain in 1902 to create a utopian art colony they called Byrdcliffe. Over the winter of 1902-1903 houses and studios were built with facilities for design, carpentry, painting, metalwork, pottery, and weaving. Instructors were hired and Byrdcliffe's attractions were advertised to leading art schools. Hull House in Chicago and Pratt Institute in New York were the source of many artists who participated in the Byrdcliffe experience. Famous artists hired as instructors between 1903 and 1931 included Bolton Brown, Hermann Dudley Murphy, Birge Harrison, Leonard Ochtman, William Schumacher, and Charles Rosen. As students, Arthur B. Carles, Paul Cornoyer, Paul Dougherty, Warren Wheelock, John F. Carlson, and Blanche Lazzell took part. Pratt students Zulma Steele and Edna Walker became the chief designers of ornament for Byrdcliffe furniture aided by Dawson Dawson-Watson.
In 1904 another ingredient was added to Woodstock's development when Hervey White, a writer, founded a colony called The Maverick on 102 acres in nearby West Hurley. Although William Hunt Diederich was a Maverick resident as early as 1918, writers and musicians made up most of the colony's population until it began to attract more artists in 1921. The artists who became part of the Maverick colony in the 1920s were Carl Walters, Harry Gottlieb, Arnold and Lucille Blanch, Eugenie Gershoy, Austin Mecklem, John Flannagan, John Carroll, Emil Ganso, and Henry Lee McFee. The Maverick provided theater and concert facilities, as well as access to printing and lithography presses.
In 1906 the Art Students League of New York, one of the most important art schools in America, moved its summer school from Old Lyme, Connecticut to Woodstock. The summer school programs were organized to teach landscape painting outdoors. This was expanded to include painting the nude outdoors in 1913. The League's goal in Woodstock was to develop individual painters, not a school style as had occurred in Old Lyme. This openness to diversity of style was hugely successful. The League brought two hundred students to Woodstock each summer and there was a continual flow of artists between the colony and the city to keep Woodstock in touch with current developments in the arts. This caused the colony to expand into the outlying areas of Rock City, Shady, Hurley, Bearsville, Zena, Wittenberg, Saugerties, and the town of Woodstock itself. There was a fluid interchange between Byrdcliffe, the Maverick, and Woodstock.
The Art Students League program in Woodstock offered the opportunity for instruction by a famous artist in a serious, intensive course running from June 1st to November 1st. Painting instruction was also available at Byrdcliffe until 1931. At Byrdcliffe the focus was on producing work that exemplified the Arts and Crafts ideal of simplicity which allied its art with Modernism. Byrdcliffe was a symbol of old ideas of community and craft reinterpreted to become new. Byrdcliffe's facilities and craftsmen were available to those participating in the Art Students League program providing further opportunity for diversity to the Woodstock Art Colony experience. The Art Students League attracted both artists with established styles, the conservatives, and artists developing the newest styles, the modernists. The exchange of ideas and the experience of a broad spectrum of available instruction at Byrdcliffe and through the League resulted in a continual renewal of progressive art within the Woodstock Art Colony.
During the 1903-1918 period Woodstock participated in the national Arts and Crafts movement. Birge Harrison (1854-1929) came to Byrdcliffe in 1904 to replace J. Francis Murphy (1853-1921) as head art instructor. Harrison was famous for his Tonal and Symbolist landscapes and figure compositions. He had been a leading American painter in the French art colonies of Grez and Pont-Aven. In 1906 Birge Harrison became the principal instructor at the Art Students League's Woodstock summer school, leading it until 1919. Up to 1913, the dominant styles of art practiced in Woodstock were Impressionism and Tonalism.
The influence of European Cubist-inspired abstraction shown at the Armory Show of 1913 forced many American artists to reevaluate their artistic positions. The Ashcan style, a kind of dark Impressionism, had been the height of modernism since 1900. It no longer looked so vital and revolutionary after the Armory Show and the plein air Impressionist style had become an academic formula by 1910. Its brush work was beginning to lose its spontaneity. The shock of the Armory Show resulted in several new approaches to making art in Woodstock. During the 1910s and into the 1920s a distinctive and colorful style of landscape painting was developed. Local scenes were rendered with thick strokes of bright color in a manner somewhere between a broadened Impressionism and a tamed Fauvism. Examples of this New Realism used broken colors, rough impasto, lightened palette, and formal organization. This extended the life of the Impressionist style into the 1920s. Two examples by George Bellows (1882-1925) in our exhibition exemplify this. They are Children and Mountain
(1920) and Mountain Orchard
(1922). Changes to Impressionism can be seen in still life paintings as well - Zinnias
(1918) by Andrew Dasburg (1887-1979) in our exhibition illustrates this. That sculpture also moved away from Impressionism and Classicism to a more streamlined style is shown in William Hunt Diederich's (1884-1953) Playing Dogs
(1916) in our exhibition.
The more traditional figure and landscape artists in Woodstock were George Bellows, Eugene Speicher, and Leon Kroll. These three artists were Romantic Realists, whose style was enriched further in 1920 by modern advances in color from Fauvism and advances in form from Cubism. These three traditional artists felt that American subjects should be closely tied to their settings and have a theme. A theme was necessary for the picture to exist on two levels: first as a recognizable subject and second as a symbol of what is just below the surface expressed through gesture, attitude, or mood. Bellows, who had hung the 1913 Armory Show of 1600 works, felt that art was the expression of its time and that artists must be actively contemporary. In Woodstock, Bellows not only painted site-specific landscapes but also participated in the Studio Movement, which was another progressive style to be found in the Woodstock Art Colony. The Studio Movement developed during the 1920s and persisted into the 1940s. During the summer, Bellows painted numerous portraits of friends and family in his Woodstock home and studio. These summer studio subjects balanced his New York City scenes of commercial bustle and people enjoying the city. Speicher and Kroll were like-minded realists painting urban subjects, studio still lifes, and portraits, as well as site-specific Woodstock landscapes. Their work had much in common with George Bellows's style, such as broad treatment, ample volumes, and the suppression of minor details for unity of effect and compositional balance. In our exhibition Leon Kroll's (1884-1974) paintings After the Concert
(1922) and Riverside Drive in Winter
(1925) show his incorporation of new ideas into Impressionism, while Kroll's Barbara
(1930) is an example of his participation in the Studio Movement.
By 1925 the traditional artists' focus on the Studio Movement had captured the interests of many modernists in Woodstock including Emil Ganso, Alexander Brook, Konrad Cramer, Henry Lee McFee, Andrew Dasburg, Charles Rosen, and Katherine Schmidt. The subjects of the studio painters were conventional ones: nudes, still lifes, portraits, and studio interiors. The emphasis was on careful workmanship and mood, which could be intimate or sensual. The Studio Movement harnessed Cubist ideas to realism. The use of objects in the studio to explore volume and form relations was one of the attractions of the Studio Movement. As photography became seen as more informative than preliminary drawings, there was a shift from simplicity with concentration on very few objects to an interest in a greater number of elements with complexity in their arrangement. The ideal of the Studio Movement compositions became objects placed with consideration for their relation to all other forms as well as to those adjacent. The matter of an object's bulk, color, or direction of movement was important if the picture as a whole was to achieve the desired architectural-like structure. An example of a modernist artist's still life that connects to the Studio Movement is Henry Lee McFee's (1886-1953) Studio Still Life: Pewter and Gold
(1926). Lily Harmon's (1912-1998) Self-Portrait
(1941) and Louis Bouché's (1896-1969) Judgment of Paris
(1948) are additional examples of the Studio Movement's long life in Woodstock.
The seeds of abstraction also were developed amongst the League's 1910 summer students, Andrew Dasburg, Konrad Cramer, and Henry Lee McFee. Dasburg had visited Matisse in Paris in 1909 and was enthusiastic about Cézanne's work. Cramer had visited Franz Marc's studio in Germany and shared his knowledge of French and German avant-garde with Dasburg and McFee. The 1913 Armory Show caused these three artists to create and exhibit highly colored, non-objective Cubist compositions with dissolving planes at the MacDowell Club in New York. The three artists lived in the Rock City part of Woodstock and because of their experimentation with Analytical and Synthetic Cubism, they became known as the Rock City Rebels. By 1923, the three artists were able to use their investigations into Cubism to develop a third colorful geometric style of realism related to Precisionism, which combined technical precision with a strong sense of abstract design. This style's ideal came close to pure photographic vision as the picture was reduced to a crisp finish that obscured the process of creation. Precisionist subjects included industrial scenes, as well as landscape, still life, and figure painting. In addition to Cramer, Dasburg, and McFee, Woodstock artists Arnold Wiltz, Henry Billings, Emil Ganso, Charles Rosen, and Ernest Fiene were successful practitioners of the style. These artists found Precisionist structures within the Woodstock landscape which they interpreted through pattern, rhythm, line, and shape. The resulting paintings showed buildings constructed of flat, angular planes nestled among volumetric rolling hills or industrial sites connected to the Hudson River. Ernest Fiene, who came to Woodstock in 1924, provides examples of Woodstock's Precisionist landscape style in two paintings in our exhibition, Village Scene
(1925) and Lasher Farm in Winter
A fourth style began to develop in the late 1920s amongst modernists out of a growing appreciation of folk art. The self taught artists were rediscovered as American artists looked for models to create a native style. Sources for the rediscovery of folk art were young women's sketch books and needlework, sign and coach painters' work, and traveling portrait painters' art. An appreciation of folk art was also fostered by Byrdcliffe. Inspired by the crafts at Byrdcliffe, Konrad Cramer made screens with strong decorative patterns and collaborated with William Hunt Diederich to produce batiks for commissions between 1918 and 1920. In many of Diederich's motifs, such as the firescreen Peasant Boy Leading Horse
(1925), a folk narrative is artfully explored. Artists like Konrad Cramer, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Doris Lee were attracted to the possibilities of folk art's direct narrative and simplified forms. This new interest resulted in a flattened style and a movement away from strongly molded forms. A fine example of this is achieved by Konrad Cramer (1888-1963) in Doors, Windows and Hall
(1930) and in Doris Lee's (1905-1983) Nancy, Opening Night
Konrad Cramer and his wife Florence were another important force for the appreciation of American folk art by Woodstock modernists. In the winter of 1919, when the Cramers were in New York, they began to see a lot of the sculptor Elie Nadelman and his wife Viola because they shared a common interest in early American art and the folk arts of Germany and the United States. Both couples were avid collectors and spent time together seeking antiques and discussing art in cafés. By the mid-1920s, the Cramers' appreciation of American folk art entered Konrad's art work. This can be seen in his landscape painting Stony Hollow
(1931). Cramer also began to use the two-dimensional patterned quality found in American folk art in his still life paintings which he modernized in varying degrees using Cubism and stenciling. In our exhibition, Cramer's still life painting Fish for Lunch
(1936) gains from this fusion of folk, craft, and modernism. Florence Cramer extended folk art's influence by opening an antiques shop in Woodstock where she sold folk art to fellow artists.
Sculptors as different as John Flannagan and William Hunt Diederich felt at home in the Woodstock Art Colony because of the mix of arts and craftsmanship provided by the presence of both Byrdcliffe and the Art Students League summer school. Flannagan devoted his artistic energy to making sculptures and wooden furniture with plant and animal motifs derived from the local landscape. Diederich's most original works were often functional objects such as weathervanes and firescreens ornamented with animal silhouettes cut out of sheet metal. We include a balustrade, Playful Dogs
(c.1924-1928), in our exhibition. Diederich also made pottery, which he fired at Byrdcliffe. Diederich opened a studio at Byrdcliffe in 1927 and took over Bolton Brown's studio there in 1929 to focus more fulsomely on his ceramics. Two of Diederich's 1927-1929 ceramic chargers, Fighting Cocks
, are in our exhibition. Like Diederich and Flannagan, Carl Walters produced a new kind of modern sculpture. All three artists came to the Maverick colony to be with nature. Their sculptures share animals as subjects, as animals suggested to them the uncorrupted purity of nature. Both Walters and Flannagan practiced first as painters, then as craftsman making furniture, and finally as sculptors. Flannagan was one of the most important American sculptors of his generation, as a pioneer of direct carving infused with emotion. An example of a Flannagan (1895-1942) animal sculpture in our exhibition is The Pelican
(1941) rendered to suggest a totem. Carl Walters also developed a distinctive sculptural form in clay: his ceramic tableau, built like small-scale stage environments to contain his figures. An example of Walters's (1883-1955) tableaus in our exhibition is The Lion Tamer
(1948). Both Walters and Flannagan represent the continued influence of Byrdcliffe in craft and fine art, allowing artists to make original and personal statements in both. Eugenie Gershoy (1901-1983), a neighbor of Carl Walters, also worked in clay, producing a series of clay portraits of artists at work as part of the Studio Movement. Active in Woodstock from 1921, Gershoy also produced whimsical papier-mâché sculptures during the 1930s. These sculptures, like The Genie
(c.1935) in our exhibition, were the result of Gershoy's work on papier- mâché figures for the Maverick Festival, an annual event held the night of the August full moon. On the day of the festival there were concerts, theater, and picnics with fancy dress starting at midnight. The idea for The Genie may have sprung from one of the theater performances or fancy dress costumes. Paul Fiene also created portraits of artists and friends as part of the Studio Movement. He worked in clay, bronze, cast stone, stone, and wood. Our exhibition includes Paul Fiene's (1899-1949) portraits of his brother Ernest Fiene
(1941) and his cat Marvin
(1928). Gaston Lachaise and Alexander Archipenko were the most modern sculptors who came to Woodstock in the 1920s. Our exhibition includes Lachaise's (1882-1935) Standing Nude
(1930). Archipenko used Byrdcliffe facilities to make ceramics in the 1930s and frequently exhibited his sculptures at the Woodstock Artists Association.
Byrdcliffe's progressive spirit attracted the photographer Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935) and her husband Martin in 1903. Watson-Schütze was a former student of Thomas Eakins and a founder of the Photo-Secessionists. Her 1905 photograph
of Byrdcliffe co-founder Jane Byrd McCall can be found in our exhibition. Indeed Eva Watson-Schütze's presence caused Ralph Whitehead, Byrdcliffe's founder, to try his hand at photography. Whitehead's Fall Landscape
photograph (1910) is on view in our exhibition. From 1903 to 1913 Eva Watson-Schütze photographed artists and intellectuals at Byrdcliffe using the photography studio Ralph Whitehead provided her. Watson-Schütze's photographic ideal was to capture an expressive moment and render it with a powerful composition and compelling lighting. Her style was the soft focus complement of the painting style called Tonalism. From 1913 to 1935 Watson-Schütze also painted as an enthusiastic student of William E. Schumacher (1870-1931), a Boston-born artist, who taught at Byrdcliffe from 1913 into the 1920s. Watson-Schütze's painted subjects, as in her photography, were portraits and still lifes chosen because of her unique emotional access to them. In her subject matter and desire for emotional communication through subject choice, Watson-Schütze's photography and painting connect to the Studio Movement in Woodstock.
Painters and photographers continued to interact in the colony as the availability of a new small format camera and roll film in the 1930s made the medium of photography less cumbersome and more accessible. Some of the most adventurous Woodstock painters to experiment with photography were Russell Lee, Konrad Cramer, Emil Ganso, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi. Of these artists, Cramer's was the most experimental and photography remained his focus from 1935 to 1963. Our exhibition includes the following photographs by Cramer: Barns
; Ida, the Saugerties Night Boat; Fall Landscape
; Rural Milk Delivery
; and Barns
; Ida, the Saugerties Night Boat; Fall Landscape
; No Shooting Venus
. We also offer a rare photograph by Kuniyoshi in our exhibition titled East Kingston
After the Art Students League summer school program ended in 1922 the colony's renown continued, strengthened by the presence of other art schools, art associations, and exciting entertainments. Artists such as John Carlson, Winold Reiss, and Alexander Archipenko set up their own summer schools in the 1910s and the 1920s. The Woodstock Artist Association, which was founded in 1919, had nationally reviewed summer exhibitions. At the Woodstock School of Painting and the Applied Arts, founded by Konrad Cramer in 1918, one could be taught the new stenciling techniques by Cramer himself or painting by Andrew Dasburg or Henry Lee McFee. Each August from 1915 to 1931, the Maverick Festival drew large crowds to Woodstock with stage performances with sets designed by Woodstock artists and summer chamber concerts. Woodstock additionally benefited from its close relationship with the Whitney Museum of American Art and from the continuation of exhibitions of Woodstock teachers and students at the Art Students League Gallery in New York after 1922. Tourists, collectors, and art historians were attracted to the Woodstock Art Colony each summer because of the presence of nationally famous artists.
In the 1930s Woodstock's stylistic diversity continued, although subtly changed, and the art became dominated by economic issues brought on by the Great Depression. Along with the rest of the country, Woodstock adopted the new American Scene style, which was a form of narrative realism. The flat schematic works of the Woodstock Precisionists - Konrad Cramer, Henry Billing, Emil Ganso, Henry Lee McFee, Arnold Wiltz, and George Ault - were adapted to handle their American Scene subjects. The best examples had an economy of detail which emphasized the abstract design of their subjects. Critics were very receptive to this accessible style with its note of modernism and abstraction. A particularly fine example in our exhibition of Woodstock Precisionism with an American Scene subject is Willow Post Office
(1934) by Konrad Cramer. George Ault's (1891-1948) Barn at Woodstock
(1940) and Charles Rosen's (1878-1950) Hudson Riverboat
(1939) are additional examples of the adaptation of Precisionism to the American Scene style in our Woodstock exhibition.
The folk art enthusiasts Konrad Cramer, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Doris Lee got behind the American Scene as well. Their art was emotional rather than technical in its realism. They selected colors and shapes to sharpen observation and add emotion to their American Scene narratives. As masters of abstract design, they were able to use expressionist distortions of form in addition to perspective to express with a loving eye the subjects that had emotional significance to them. An example of folk art joined to the American Scene style in our exhibition is Doris Lee's Oklahoma!: The Surrey with the Fringe on Top
Because of its reputation as an art center, the Woodstock Art Colony became a focus of government programs designed to aid artists. The colony's old friend, Juliana Force, director of the Whitney Museum, headed the New York region for the earliest version of the support program, the Public Works of Art Project, from 1933-1934. The extension of the program into the Federal Art Project in 1935 led to a WPA office being opened in Woodstock in November of that year. As there were several presses available in the colony, both at Byrdcliffe and the Woodstock Artists Association, the Federal Art Project employed Grant Arnold, already a printmaker at the WAA, to print lithographs for all participating Woodstock artists. The resulting prints were allocated to libraries and public schools across the country. Such was the respect for the Woodstock artists that they did not have to submit preliminary drawings for approval as was generally the case. By May 1937, four hundred prints had been produced by the WPA/FAP in Woodstock. Many Woodstock artists also received mural assignments both from the Federal Art Project and the Treasury Department in New York State and across the country. That was the case for Henry Billings, Louise Bouché, Ernest Fiene, Wendell Jones, Georgina Klitgaard, Doris Lee, Anton Refregier, Charles Rosen, and Andrée Ruellan.
When the war ended, a new artistic climate developed as another generation of artists arrived in Woodstock. Among them were Fletcher Martin, Edward Millman, Mitchell Siporin, and Ethel and Jenne Magafan who continued to paint American Scene subjects in Woodstock. However, Expressionist elements of Surrealism and elements of Cubist abstraction could be seen to influence their realism. In 1947 when the Art Students League once again established a summer school at Woodstock, Surrealism and Abstraction were accepted styles. The liveliness of the colony was further fueled by a Woodstock Art Conference held every summer from 1947 to 1952. The conferences brought artists like Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, and David Smith to Woodstock to discuss current artistic issues. Philip Guston, Adolph Gottlieb, and Ludwig Sanders moved to Woodstock during this period, further diversifying and refreshing the styles found in the Woodstock Art Colony.
Like Provincetown, the Woodstock Art Colony continues strong today. The Woodstock Artists Association and Museum still holds juried exhibitions throughout the year, as well as contemporary and historic exhibitions, at its building on Tinker Street. The Woodstock Brydcliffe Guild has exhibitions and performances at the Kleinert Arts Center Building also on Tinker Street. The Byrdcliffe property and buildings were given by Peter Whitehead, Ralph and Jane's son, to the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild in 1976 and have repurposed uses today. A successor for Konrad Cramer's Woodstock School of Miniature Photography (founded in 1935) is the Catskill Center for Photography. Opened in 1977, the center has an active schedule of photography exhibitions. The Woodstock Historical Society, founded in 1929, continues to collect and preserve the history of Woodstock. The Woodstock School of Painting and Applied Arts founded by Konrad Cramer in 1918 is still active. Numerous galleries exist in Woodstock, Saugerties, and Kingston. Bard College across the Hudson in Annandale-on-Hudson, where Konrad Cramer taught the first college course on photography in 1937, continues to contribute to the Woodstock Art Colony's new ideas and artists.