‘Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection’
The wealthy Gilded Age Philadelphia lawyer John G. Johnson, writes Avis Berman in the NYR Daily, “chiefly collected medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque painting, but the glorious eye-opener of the show turns out to be his discerning response to the art of his own time. Schooled first in conventional realist painting, he became a believer in the man who revolutionized it. Johnson was partial to landscapes, seascapes, and portraits by Gustave Courbet, and the lambent Marine is on view. In this seascape painted in Trouville in 1866, Courbet records the phenomenon of a waterspout, a column of water and spray churning in the sky. The painting is radically direct. Courbet faces the sea, orchestrating our impression of being in the scene by contriving a low horizon and a great space for the forceful play of clouds, atmosphere, and sky. The exquisitely calibrated variations of light and weather over the English Channel reminds us of Turner and presages Impressionism, but the materiality of thick paint and his liberal use of a palette knife to apply it are pure Courbet.”
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