1977 Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, PA, “Père et fils: Art of Emil and Dines Carlsen“, August 20 – October 23
ECA Record Control Number: 18612
Record Level: Listing
Record Type: Exhibitions
Exhibition Type: Group Show
Exhibition Name: Père et fils: Art of Emil and Dines Carlsen
Exhibition Host Name & Location: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, PA
Exhibition Dates: August 20 – October 23, 1977
Exhibition Additional Location & Dates (For Travel Exhibitions):
The exhibition of the art by Emil and Dines Carlsen was made possible due to the enthusiasm and expertise of numerous people. Special thanks for all of their cooperation, encouragement, and interest go to the Bonfoey Company of Cleveland, Ohio, Dorothy Tananbaum of the Hammer Galleries, Mitchell Shaheen, Steven Koman, Robert Rice, Howard Capponi, Betty Campanile, Irma Rudin, and the entire Abraham Adler Dines Carlsen family. Moreover, William C. Tregoning III, of the Bonfoey Company was not only the prime organizer of the exhibition but prepared for us a comprehensive introduction to both artists. Finally, along with those previously mentioned, the exhibition would not have become a reality without the generosity of the many named and anonymous lenders throughout the country.
MICHAEL M. STRUEBER
Pere et Fils
The Art of Emil and Dines Carlsen
SOUTHERN ALLEGHENIES MUSEUM OF ART
August 20th through October 23, 1977
Given the enormous renewed interest in recent years in the art of both father and son, we have chosen to offer a large group of works from the hand of both Emil and Dines Carlsen, with an eye towards establishing a fresh vision of both painters’ individualism and their unique spiritual interrelationship.
The core of this relationship lies in the strength of talent and direction supplied by Emil Soren Carlsen. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 19, 1853, he studied principally at the Danish Royal Academy towards a career in architecture. Emigrating to the United States in 1872, Carlsen settled in Chicago, and was soon employed as an architect’s assistant. Carlsen’s private dedication to drawing and painting soon manifested itself to the attention of a visiting artist, Lauritz Holst, who was the catalyst in swaying Emil towards art as his profession. At his urging, Emil travelled to Paris for six months, in early 1875. While there, he was introduced to the work of Jean-Baptiste Chardin (1699-1779), whose style was instrumental in the development of Carlsen’s still-life technique. Harold Rowe comments in his recent major study of Emil Carlsen:
“Carlsen and Chardin share several characteristics in their approaches to painting still life: a preference for simplicity of arrangement with few objects, often homely objects such as kitchen utensils; use of soft light and portrayal of atmosphere which envelops each object; excellence in portraying materials, especially metals, and in capturing the visual effects of surface textures.”
Carlsen distilled the essence of Chardin well. His new still-life pictures were so highly thought of in New York after his return from abroad that the dealer Blakeslee in 1884 commissioned him to return to Paris, in order to produce an agreed-upon number of still lifes in the French Manner. ‘ Two years of “endless yellow roses” drove Carlsen to break his contract and return to New York. Before returning, he experimented with painting, directly from nature, landscapes. Donelson Hoopes observes the reason behind such a dramatic change in direction: “Carlsen was sent to Paris for two years where he might, it was assumed, transform himself into a French artist. The artificiality of this idea was distinctly distasteful to Carlsen … ” This commitment to artistic single-mindedness and integrity is a trait that will guide him the rest of his life.
From this time onward, landscape painting was Emil Carlsen’s consuming, if not exclusive, interest. His early canvases of the 1880s reveal the impact of ‘ plein-air’ Impressionism – of Monet and Sisley – with their lighter palette of primary colors. Atmosphere, that magical substance that envelops and heightens copper pots in his still-lifes, is brought out into the open air to wrap the pine forests, hills and fields of Carlsen’s Maine, Connecticut and California canvases. In such extraordinary paintings as Mountain and Drift of Summer, the subject matter is unconsciously abstracted to nearly pure shapes. It is the mood of the setting that is translated into pale, lyric tonalities. Ripening Corn, Windham reveals the truly poetic nature of Carlsen’s landscapes. He distills the natural vibrancy of color found in this Connecticut setting, the intention being not so much to catalogue an image, but rather to evoke a mood of evanescence.
The genius of Carlsen’s art is that he paints with an “inner eye” – going beyond simple surface to provide the most personal interpretation possible. Eliot Clark expressed it similarly: “The single tree or simple groups of homely utensils assumes a significance quite apart from the subject matter represented.” Carlsen paints what the setting conveys to the soul.
Nowhere is this gentleness of soul more clearly evident than when one looks at Carlsen and the sea. Not one other painter of his time so completely interpreted the irrepressible power of water and wave in light of their tranquility as did Emil Carlsen. No area of his oeuvre so convincingly underscores the constant selectivity of subject-matter than his Surf paintings, his Side-Running Seas.
“Viewing the same scene at Ogunquit, Maine, Homer might see the power of tons of surf pounding against resisting rocks while Emil Carlsen would see the undulating line and rhythm broken by a creamy mass of ‘white.'” (Harold Rowe).
One has but to look at the highly limited choice of colors – white, bone, cobalt blue, and green – and the constant opacity and translucence as evidence of how little Carlsen deviates from what his “inner eye” tells him. The ‘punch’ of the surf is removed through deliberately employed, high-keyed color harmonies, leaving the record of the action, rather than the action itself.
There is yet another facet to account for in analyzing Emil Carlsen the painter. The lessons he learned in painting were always shared. He was always student, he was frequently teacher.
For all the importance which teaching was to play in his life, it would have been for naught had he isolated himself from the invaluable benefits of interaction with others. When one reads the numerous contemporary accounts on Carlsen, the reader cannot help but be struck by the consistent delight that Emil took in his friendship with other painters for example. Delightful stories arise from Carlsen’s life-long friendship with J. Alden Weir. Weir considered him to be a master chemist – his understanding of the technical aspects of grinding pigments, of preparing canvases – was second to none, in Weir’s estimation. It is interesting to note that while Carlsen felt strong empathy for his American Impressionist counterparts, their influence was evidenced less in his painting than in his teaching. While attempting to remain receptive to the innovations of the “Connecticut Impressionists” – Childe Hassam, J. Alden Weir, Willard Metcalf, W. M. Chase, Harry Siddons Mowbray – Emil remained the traditionalist, retaining his own artistic purity, choosing to absorb only those ideas that were consistent with his own singular vision.
Teaching for Carlsen – whether in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or Philadelphia – was an integral element of his creativity. Teaching could not be separated from painting. Right up until his last years, Carlsen could be found instilling in young painters the same truths that provided the constancy so readily identifiable in his art.
While success was never an ambition or aspiration, Emil Carlsen received it in great measure in the last twenty years of his life. Even while the general repute of his Impressionist contemporaries wilted in the fire of the Armory Show and the accompanying fascination with “modernism,” Emil was continuously revered and cherished in art circles.
“All his life, practically, Emil Carlsen has been a teacher of art. Yet at the end of this long experience, all the skill which the student may acquire in art school must remain valueless if he has not been gifted at birth with eyes of his own, a vision of his own, and ‘something to say.’ At seventy-four, Emil Carlsen remains far more tolerant in his outward look toward all artists than many of our younger men. Perhaps because he has sought his peace and happiness in his work, because he never stridently demanded recognition, he has won for himself a distinguished place in American art. “
– JOHN SCOTT STEELE, “The Lyricism of Emil Carlsen” International Studio, Oct., 1927.
As one turns his attention from father to son, an interesting progression arises. Emil Carlsen passed on to his son Dines the rich heritage of his artistic experience. It was to be for Dines to expand, to isolate, and especially to distill this heritage exclusively as his life’s work, bringing to a close a unique, two generation statement on American painting.
Practically from his birth in 1901, Dines Carlsen was immersed in an environment of creativity and intellect. Dines never stepped foot into a public school; his mother, Luella May, was a successful writer, teacher, and newspaper journalist at the time of her marriage, and saw to his entire formal education. His father was the only instructor in painting and art that Dines would ever study with; though teacher to countless numbers of art students, it would seem that Emil took special delight in bestowing unreservedly all his knowledge and kinship in art on to his only child . Dines, then grew up not simply within a family unit, but in a veritable milieu of arts and letters. The impact even at a very early age was astonishing. Few students better assimilated the essence of his teacher’s art stylistically and technically: Forest Stillness, which Dines painted at the tender age of nine, has all the hallmarks of vintage Carlsen – the dominant palette of pale greens and ivories, the subtle hinting of backlight from those now-familiar beech trees, the sense of “veiled” atmosphere. A further contribution to Dines’ aesthetic education was an extended excursion to Europe and Scandinavia with his family in 1912. While abroad, Dines was exposed to French Impressionism, a catalytic influence that helped shape his father’s mature painting style. The trip further exposed him to the rich heritage of Western Art, both past and contemporary, which he viewed first-hand in numerous art centers.
It is not surprising that when Dines began to paint seriously shortly after their return from abroad, he first turned his talent toward still-lifes. Was it not the still-life that provided his father with the early, modest successes as a serious painter thirty years before? Yet now, Dines adopted still-life painting not as a means of survival that rather soured his father from repetition, but as a medium that intrigued him and certainly challenged his considerable technical ability. One might say that what was drudgery for the father proved a delight to the son. Indeed, Dines Carlsen achieved extraordinarily early acclaim and professional recognition solely on the merits of his first still-lifes; one was accepted for exhibition at the National Academy of Design when he was fourteen. Arthur Bye, in his marvelous book entitled Pots and Pans, or Studies in Still-Life Painting (Princeton, 1921), diverts from his glowing discussion of Emil Carlsen’s achievements in still-life to point out:
“The work of Dines Carlsen is scarcely second to that of his father. A young man, not yet in his twenties, he promises to develop a style which will do much to preserve the prestige of still-life painting in America. He enjoys of course the remarkable advantage of his father’s direction, and as we would expect, his and Emil Carlsen’s are much alike. This similarity if not identical in style, enhances rather than decreases the value of Dines’ pictures.
As his work develops, his still-life pictures will not be better, for they appear already absolutely accomplished. But they will be different, and beyond a doubt, more interesting on that account.
The attention of the public was first attracted to Dines Carlsen at the sale of the collection of William Merritt Chase, where it was revealed that the great master of fish still-life had possessed a picture by the young painter . .. “
Bye was particularly adroit in his prophesies, for Dines indeed held all the technical nuance and skill of his father, and would continue to apply them in creating superb, individual still-lifes. This can be seen in comparing Ming Vases, 1931 by Emil with White Vase and Pine Boughs, 1928 by Dines. Many formal compositional elements are interchangeable between both works.
Strewn bits of oak leaves and foliage serve to obscure the line between foreground and background. Both depict few objects carefully chosen for their interrelationships and arranged to maximize their impact. But when both these paintings are examined with an eye towards technique, the characteristics of
Dine’s style become apparent. He is a painter of component parts: from each individual object to each brush stroke, his attention is scattered. The scattering and isolation hinted at is clearly deliberate; the quality of seamlessness and calm which Emil created in his works through subtle color modulations and harmonies is rejected by Dines in favor of stressing the inner tension of sharp focus, brighter light and clear atmosphere, eliminating the damp plasticity of objects evident in his father’s work.
As the style of Dines developed in later years, the atmosphere of his paintings tended to become even more arid and highly charged. Reinforcing this quality was his experimentation with adventurous color selection. His later still-lifes reveal vibrant repetitious rhythms of bold colors, which are employed as a theatrical foil for the calmer central object or arrangement.
There is evidence to suggest that this rather radical departure from the classical tenets of Emil’s approach to still-life painting resulted from both disallusionment and natural stylistic growth. By the time of his father’s death in 1932, many changes and upheavals had taken place in New York, or were in the process. The great organizations and exhibition forums either no longer existed or were dying; the onset of modernism in painting decreed the end of standards of judgement and comparison. The National Academy, to which Dines had been elected an Associate at the unheard-of age of twenty-one, no longer had its old power and prestige. Dines Carlsen found himself to be considered “old fashioned,” his painting style admirable, but decidedly antique. For the remainder of his painting career, Dines drew from internal sources of inspiration, rather than facing the greater difficulty of digesting the message of modem theory as it was currently evolving. Dines Carlsen found that he could not reject part-and-parcel the truths that he had always found relevant in his father’s art and teaching. They were not only all he knew; they remained entirely valid. The development his painting underwent for the last thirty years of his life is rather remarkable for its absence of dramatic change. Instead one finds certain subtle shifts in emphasis from his prior work. Several of these shifts are apparent in his landscapes.
After his father’s death, Dines and his mother left New York for their country home in Falls Village, Connecticut. The rolling hills surrounding the farm were constant sources of paintings for Emil; so it was also for Dines. He painted the beech forests and hillsides in all seasons of the year. As did his father, Dines strove to evoke a mood rather than catalogue an image. However, a very distinctly different technique was developed to convey essentially the same reaction to a given setting. Dines regularly used less paint than did Emil in constructing his images; the raw, or lightly primed canvas was always a partner in the final effect of a painting, showing through the color to a great extent. There is always a very dry quality to the atmosphere of his landscapes. Dines loved to draw upon a much more extensive palette of complimentary colors in order to convey a more sparkling impression . In the more extensive outdoor paintings, as in Autumn Landscape, certain forms such as trees are reduced to built up groups of individual brush strokes, each of a different bright hue, the end result being a recognizable shape, but little more in the way of sharper definition.
One other new element of account in Dines’ painting is the appearance of a hybrid subject; the still-life against a landscape. This area, too, is one that evolved in his later years. There is a suggestion in these particular paintings that Dines, faced with satisfying methods of capturing the specific challenges of both still-life and landscape, delighted in blending these vehicles to produce a fresh composition. These paintings are distinguished in their happy blend of tight surfaces and controlled colors pitted against sparkling, almost pointillistic, landscape backdrops. Clearly, Dines Carlsen struck upon an identifiable style of painting. There is rarely an instance where his work and that of his father can ever be confused. The wonder of the Carlsens – pere and fils – is the mutual love and understanding that courses from one to the other in their respective art. Few American families of painters harmonized so cleanly as did Emil and Dines Carlsen. We owe this
to their abiding respect for beauty, and their desire to capture all they saw as best and faithfully as they could. Both Carlsens will be remembered for their “public” art – those paintings that were presented before the public for more than sixty-five years in a regular stream of current and retrospective exhibitions. There remains a corpus of works between these two gentle spirits that almost never is seen in its largest perspective: their portraits . These fall into two groups – self-portraiture and family portraits. The 1897 self-portrait by Emil strikes one as indicative of an era: broad brush stroke quickly and surely applied to form a confident, almost natty young man of the fin-de-siecle . Dines, in the self-portraits offered in this exhibition, maintains a studied appearance of seriousness;
somewhat more detached than his father at roughly the same age, for instance. Yet the draftsmanship, the great care evident in their respective modelling is uniquely cool, and above all, calm. It is when they turned to painting one another, or when painting Mrs. Carlsen, their common bond, that all the love and warmth flows from their brushes. Dines was his father’s great joy, his hope for the future, his devoted pupil. He was certainly his father’s favorite model. The
sweet innocence of childhood in the early portraits is positively infectious . In later years , when Dines turned to painting his father, one senses that there is a deep respect that guides the selection of the moment he chooses to capture his father on canvas. Emil is noble and very human all at once . Luella May was wife to one, and mother to the other; she was companion and friend to both. In the hands of both these painters, she reaches us as a strong, self-reliant individual, whose
faith in her family is constant.
Arthur Bye closes his discussion of Emil with a memorable statement which is eminently applicable to both these great talents, in light of such strong spiritual links between them:
“We have experienced a new sensation of beauty; forever after our standards will be different, our appreciation for beautiful things more keen, our sympathies wider and broader,” and he exclaims, “After all, what can art do for us more than this!”
WILLIAM C. TREGONING III
Director of the Bonfoey Company
“CATALOGUE OF THE EXHIBITION
All measurements are given in inches, height preceding width.
EMIL CARLSEN (1853-1932)
1. Seashore, 1897 ; oil on canvas, 7 x 9.
2. Mountain ; oil on canvas, 30-1/4 x 40.
3. Drift of Summer ; 30-1/2 x 39. Lent anonymously.
4. Forest Brook ; oil on canvas, 41-1/2 x 32.
5. Landscape with Hill ; oil on canvas, 20 x 14.
6. Cherry Blossoms ; oil on canvas, 27 x 27.
7. Lakeside Landscape ; oil on canvas, 38 x 34.
8. The Archway ; oil on canvas, 18-1/2 x 18-1/2.
9. Two Peacocks ; oil on canvas, 9-1/4 x 11-1/2.
10. Ripening Com, Windham ; oil on canvas, 34 x 38. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Humphries.
11. Spring in the Forest ; oil on canvas, 30 x 25.
12. Quarry ; oil on canvas, 29-1/2 x 34-3/4.
13. Mother and Child ; oil on canvas, 30 x 25. Lent by Mr. and Mrs . Robert Rubin.
14. U.S.S. Constitution ; oil on canvas, 16 x 20.
15. Clipper Ship Entering Christiana Harbor ; oil on canvas, 15-1/2 x 19-1/2.
16. Sketch of a Danish Fisherman ; oil on canvas, 15-1/8 x 27-5/8.
17. Portrait of Luella May Ruby ; oil on canvas, 16 x 14.
18. Portrait of Dines ; oil on canvas, 30 x 25.
19. Portrait of Mrs. Carlsen ; oil on canvas, 10 x 8.
20. Portrait of Dines #4 ; oil on canvas, 6-3/4 x 5-1/2.
21. White Water ; oil on canvas, 37 x 50.
22. Still Life with Brass Pot ; oil on canvas, 29 x 27. Lent by Leland S. MacPhail.
23. Coast of Maine ; oil on canvas, 35 x 40.
24. Godburn’s Ridge ; oil on canvas, 24 x 38.
25. Study in Yellow ; oil on panel, 24 x 20.
26. Harvest, 1876 ; oil on canvas, 19 x 28. Lent by M. Robert Rice.
27. Beech Trees-Kew, 1899 ; pencil on paper, 18-1/2 x 24-1/2.
28. Pink and Red Roses ; oil on canvas, 35 x 25.
29. Still Life ; oil on canvas, 9 x 12.
30. Morning Sunlight ; oil on panel, 7-1/4 x 8-1/2.
31. Beach Road ; oil on canvas, 9 x 12.
32. Ming Vases, 1931 ; oil on canvas, 30 x 23. Lent by M. Robert Rice.
33. Pot and Onions ; oil on canvas, 13 x 12. Lent anonymously.
34. Glimpse of Ocean ; oil on canvas, 25 x 35.
35. Casa Tratta, Venice; oil on canvas, 13 x 16.
36. Gethsemane ; oil on canvas, 48 x 32.
37. Study for Gethsemane ; oil on canvas, 28-3/4 x 26.
38. Connecticut Hills ; oil on canvas, 44 x 50.
39. Portrait of Dines Carlsen, Age 16 ; oil on canvas, 24 x 20.
40. Willows Across River-Kew ’99 ; ink on blue paper, 10-1/4 x 12-1/4.
41. Still Life with Celadon Vase and Roses, 1895 ; oil on canvas, 30 x 24.
42. Still Life with Vase, Bowl and Roses ; oil on canvas, 20 x 12.
43. The Valley ; oil on canvas, 30 x 36. Lent anonymously.
44. Still Life, 1890 ; pastel on paper, 25-1/2 x 21-1/2. Lent by M. Robert Rice.
45. Sketch of the Artist, 1897 ; oil on canvas, 20 x 16. Private collection, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
46. Trees ; oil on canvas, 35 x 21.
47. Morning ; oil on board, 7 x 9.
48. Mid-afternoon ; oil on board, 7 x 9.
49. Evening ; oil on board, 7 x 9.
50. Tree Study-Oradell, NJ, June ’96 ; ink, 10-1/2 x 8.
51. Beeches-Kew ’99 ; pencil, 18-1/2 x 24-1/2.
52. Young Peartrees-Kew ’99 ; ink, 12-1/2 x 19.
J. ALDEN WEIR (1852-1919)
50.A Woodland Corner ; oil on canvas, 30 x 24. Private collection Cleveland, OH.
CHILDE HASSAM (1859-1935)
51 .B Trees, 1903; oil on panel, 7-1/4 x 4-1/2.
LOUIS COMFORT TIFFANY (1848-1933)
52.C Portrait of Emil Carlsen ; oil on paper, 9-3/4 x 11-1/2. Lent by Irma Rudin.
DINES CARLSEN (1901-1966)
53. Forest Stillness, 1910 ; oil on panel, 6 x 9.
54. Self Portrait ; oil on canvas, 20 x 16. Collection of Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, PA.
55. Autumn Hills ; oil on canvas, 15 x 18.
56. Still Life with Barn Seen through a Window ; oil on canvas, 19-1/2 x 21-1/4.
57. Still Life with Low Pot and Spoon ; oil on canvas, 18 x 22. Private collection Shaker Heights, OH.
58. Still Life with Brass Utensil ; oil on canvas, 29 x 27. Private collection Orwell, OH.
59. Still Life with Tea Kettle and Capucino Pot ; watercolor, 14 x 10. Private collection Moreland Hills, OH.
60. Still Life with Copper Pot and Bowls ; oil on board, 16 x 12. Private collection Moreland Hills, OH.
61. Portrait of Emil Carlsen, 1931 ; oil on board, 12 x 10. Private collection Cleveland, OH.
62. Fall Landscape in Connecticut ; oil on canvas, 24 x 25. Lent by Campanile Galleries, Chicago, IL.
63. Connecticut Stream and Wood in Winter ; oil on canvas, 28 x 22. Lent by Campanile Galleries, Chicago, IL.
64. Mrs. Carlsen, Sewing ; oil on canvas, 35 x 30. Lent by Campanile Galleries, Chicago, IL.
65. Samovar ; oil on canvas, 43 x 33. Lent by Campanile Galleries, Chicago, IL.
66. Summer Landscape ; oil on canvas, 27 x 29. Lent by Campanile Galleries, Chicago, IL.
67. Figure in Sunlit Forest ; oil on canvas, 45 x 30. Lent by Campanile Galleries, Chicago, IL.
68. Fall Landscape ; oil on canvas, 24 x 20.
69. Old House and Tree ; oil on canvas, 26 x 30.
70. Still Life with Delft Pitcher and Bowl ; oil on canvas, 24 x 20.
71. Self Portrait with Drawing Board ; oil on canvas, 31-1/2 x 25-1/2.
72. Landscape ; oil on canvas, 30 x 35.
73. Cliffs ; oil on canvas, 15 x 12.
74. Winged Victory ; oil on canvas, 40 x 30.
75. Still Life with Chinese Vase and Brass Bowl ; oil on canvas, 29 x 27.
76. Winter Landscape ; oil on canvas, 20 x 24.
77. Landscape with Barns and Haywagon ; oil on canvas, 16 x 31.
78 . Taxco Gateway ; pencil on paper, 11 x 8.
79. Maine Coast No. 214 ; oil on canvas, 20 x 24.
80. Spanish Brazzero #52 ; oil on canvas, 24 x 36.
81. Chinese Vase and Mums, 1940 ; watercolor, 6 x 3.
82. Dead Tree and Bonfire #27 ; oil on canvas, 37-1/2 x 37-1/2.
83. White Vase with Pine Boughs ; oil on canvas, 35 x 30.
84. Still Life with Mums and Asters ; oil on canvas, 18 x 15.
85. The Bridge ; oil on canvas, 24 x 20.
86. Santa Piscal, Taxco ; oil on canvas, 20 x 24.
87. Self Portrait, 1940 ; oil on canvas, 22 x 18.
88. Autumn Landscape ; oil on canvas, 20 x 24.
89. Self Portrait in His Studio ; oil on canvas, 35-3/4 x 24.
90. The Amphora ; oil on canvas, 40 x 30.
91. Portrait of Emil ; oil on canvas, 18 x 14.”
WORKS BY EMIL CARLSEN
Digital-born Document Number:
Digital Document Provenance:
Original compiled and researched document by the Emil Carlsen Archives, 266 West 21st Street, Suite 4E, New York, NY 10011.
Creative Commons Corporation shareAlike (sa) license. Some of the information contained within this document may hold further publication restrictions depending on final use. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine.
The author of this artwork died more than 70 years ago. According to U.S. Copyright Law, copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death. In other countries, legislation may differ.
Record Birth Date:
February 3, 2017
February 4, 2017