BOLTON BROWN: STRENGTH AND SOLITUDE
This exhibition examines the lithographs and paintings of one of Byrdcliffe’s founders, Bolton Coit Brown, renowned for his expertise in lithography and as a mountaineer. Talks by Ronald Netsky, Professor of Art at Nazareth College, and Dr. Patricia Phagan, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College. Curated by Derin Tanyol.
Exhibition Dates: January 17 – March 2, 2014
Gallery Talks: Saturday, January 18, 2014, 2:30 pm
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 18, 2014, 4:00 -6:00 pm
Location: BYRDCLIFFE Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY
Byrdcliffe announces its exhibition Bolton Brown: Strength and Solitude, on view from January 17 through March 2, 2014. On January 18, starting at 2:30 pm, two experts on Bolton Brown and printmaking will speak: Ronald Netsky, Professor of Art at Nazareth College, and Patricia Phagan, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College. Derin Tanyol, Exhibition Curator, will give an introductory talk. A reception follows from 4:00 – 6:00 pm.
Visitors should make note that, due to the number of speakers, talks begin at 2:30 pm rather than the Kleinert/James’ regular 3:00 pm start-time.
Bolton Brown (1864-1936), to all who knew him, was a tough man: tough in good ways (strong, spirited, intellectually peerless), and tough in ways that can only be defined as intractable (hyper-critical, stubborn, undiplomatic in the extreme). Whatever psychological foundations underlie this intractability, Brown’s toughness engendered an artistic dedication and theoretical precision that have led to his identification as the father of American lithography. As of 1915, lithography was his métier and his obsession, resulting not only in an enormous quantity of prints, but three book-length studies of the medium and volumes of notes that stand as testimony to his technical prowess, scientific clarity, and dual mastery of the visual and the literary.
Brown was a key player in the founding of Byrdcliffe in 1902. As artist, teacher, and (explained in the exhibition catalogue essay) an expert mountaineer, Brown was an obvious candidate to scout out a locale for Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead’s utopian colony. Informed by the aesthetic ideals of John Ruskin, Whitehead required the colony be at an elevation of at least 1500 feet – the minimum at which supreme creativity could thrive. For Bolton Brown, 1500 feet was nothing; his extreme first ascents in California’s Sierra Nevada Range were unprecedented in nineteenth-century American climbing.
Bolton Brown: Strength and Solitude consists of lithographs, original drawings, Brown’s rare oil paintings, and one of his personal notebooks, never before seen by the public. The show is organized thematically: nudes; biographical imagery including Brown’s various residences in California and Woodstock; atmospheric, tonalist imagery of the likes that no other artist achieved in lithography; and, comprising the largest category, mountains and rocks in the Sierras and Catskills. Rock formations were recurrent visual reference points for Brown, not only because of his mountaineering exploits, but because of his insistence on the predominance of stone–what he called “the most perfect of surfaces”–rather than paper and ink in the lithographic process. Stone aptly characterizes Brown himself: athletically fit for most of his life, he wrote proudly of being “in perfect training” and “hard as nails.” Brown’s personality was hard as well, which led to constant difficulties both personal and professional, including being dismissed by Whitehead shortly after Byrdcliffe’s founding. And so Bolton Brown, physically strong and unrelentingly strong-willed, spent much of his life alone: but this solitude, characterized by neither regrets nor overt loneliness, afforded Brown an intensity of intellect and creative focus that no stone could break.
Bolton Brown: Strength and Solitude, on view from January 17 through March 2, includes a catalogue with essay by curator Derin Tanyol.
Bolton Brown, Two Peaks, 1924, lithograph on paper, 8.5 x 12 inches, collection of David B. Gubits and Mariella Bisson.