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Robertson Kirtland Mygatt; Philadelphia Collection 74; March 2005
 
 
INTRODUCTION

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fig. 2
Robertson Kirtland Mygatt1 exhibited his paintings and etchings frequently, was active in prominent art circles in New York and New England, and often received favorable comments from critics. Nevertheless, he was destined to become one of those figures in the history of art whose reputation undeservedly fell into obscurity. This happened in part because Mygatt was an exponent of Tonalism, a movement in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American art that was eclipsed by the more popular styles of Impressionism, “Ash Can” Realism, and the various forms of European modernism that were introduced to the country at the Armory Show in New York in 1913. Tonalism was almost completely ignored by art historians until 1972, when the M. H. De Young Memorial Museum of Art in San Francisco organized the exhibition The Color of Mood: American Tonalism, 1880–1910, which was accompanied by a groundbreaking catalogue by Wanda M. Corn.

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fig. 3
Mygatt also contributed to his own critical demise by insisting that his second wife, Margaret, destroy his entire oeuvre after his death in 1919. She died in 1962 without complying with this request, and her elder sister Amelia Tyers, who had intended to fulfill it, also died before doing so. Mygatt’s family kept his work from public view for almost half a century. Over fifty of his paintings were sold at an estate sale at his former home in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 1966. The high quality of Mygatt’s work attracted the attention of the art dealer Kenneth Van Vechten Parks, who began to gather biographical material on the artist during the 1970s but abandoned the project because of the paucity (next)



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