The Dancing Pelican, 2: Airstreams and Alligators, 1 March 2024

April 03, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

          In 2020, some descendants of the eponymous Samuel P. Harn gave the museum its Florida Art Collection.  It contains works of more than 700 artists, spanning over a century.  There are more than a thousand Florida-themed pieces, so only a percentage of them can be displayed in the galleries at any time.  Most are drawings but there are many fine oil, watercolor and acrylic paintings, in a wide variety of styles.  All were inspired by Florida's vegetation, wildlife, history, or inhabitants.  Tourists and seasonal residents as well as natives were represented on paper and canvas.   

Florida Swamp by William Glackens, undated, early 20th Century

         I admit readily that there are gaps in my knowledge of North American art.  Happily, I filled a significant one last year, when I became acquainted with the works of William Glackens.   I learned about him as I prepared for a trip to Philadelphia's superlative Barnes Collection.  Once, Glackens was lauded as The American Renoir, in a late phase of a successful career that began with his work as a reporter and  illustrator for newspapers and magazines.  As one of The Eight in New York, he painted muted scenes of urban life, intended as social commentary.  Glackens, however, was not content with the restricted palette and subject matter of the Ashcan School.  Influenced by Impressionism, he devoted the last part of his career to depicting the leisure class in brightly hued costumes at sunlit resorts.  I believe that Glackens' haunting Florida swamp landscape predated his treatments of parks, racetracks and marinas.  To me, those woods draped in Spanish Moss were simultaneously alluring and portentous, increasing my admiration of Glackens' range and skill. 

Trailer Park Garden by Stevan Dohanos, 1951

          The Harn Museum introduced me to the art of Stevan Dohanos.  Dohanos was a prolific illustrator, much influenced by Edward Hopper and Grant Wood.  Dohanos worked in advertising, and received commissions for the covers of popular magazines.  Dohanos was a genre painter, specializing in realistic yet fond glimpses of ordinary Americans at work and play. During World War Two, he produced recruitment posters for the U.S. Army.  In peacetime, Dohanos emulated Norman Rockwell in designing many covers for The Saturday Evening Post.  Another artist might have painted a retirees' trailer park as a sad or squalid place, but Dohanos suffused his picture with a benign glow.  

                  The weather in Gainesville that afternoon was not as fair as it was in Dohanos' Florida vignette.  Rain began to fall from the clouds that had been gathering for hours.  The thunder and lightning dissuaded us from walking in the meditation garden beside the Asian wing.  That stroll will have to await our next visit to the Harn Museum.  

 

 


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