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ROBERTSON KIRTLAND MYGATT: THE POETIC IMPULSE

[view exhibition online]

APRIL 1–JULY 31, 2005

PHILADELPHIA—The Schwarz Gallery's spring season will commence with a notable exhibition featuring Robertson Kirtland Mygatt, a rediscovered member of the American Tonalist movement of the late nineteenth-century. This exhibition is the largest and most extensive show of Mygatt's work ever held. The collection offers eighty-six oils and sixteen etchings which are on display in the Gallery's center-city townhouse just off Rittenhouse Square.

Robertson Kirtland Mygatt (Landscape with Variegated Ground)
Born in New York City on October 12, 1862, Mygatt attended the Art Students' League in New York where he was taught by John Henry Twachtman (1853–1902). It was during his student years that Mygatt began to make etchings, which he first exhibited at the New York Etching Club in 1889. By 1893 he had joined the Salmagundi Club in New York where many prominent American painters of the period were members. During this period he was profoundly influenced by the leading Tonalist landscape painters around him and had become amply well known. In one flattering review a critic summarized his paintings by foretelling that Mygatt's work "will soon be sought for in every important American Collection." This prediction would not transpire. Mygatt insisted that his second wife destroy his entire oeuvre upon his death in 1919, and while his request was never carried out his family choose to keep his work from public view for half a century.

Robertson Kirtland Mygatt (Rural Field with a Hill)
With the exception of one work, Mygatt's paintings in this exhibition are all small, mostly horizontal landscapes painted on wood panels taken from cigar boxes. Works of this size were denoted as being "thumb box sketches" with the box being easily held by the thumb and forefinger. The use of the term "sketch" to describe his small paintings is misleading, because it implies that he painted them in a spontaneous manner. On the contrary he executed his intimate landscapes meticulously, carefully signing and dating each work when it was completed. His elegantly arranged landscapes of mood and mystery effectively evoke a reflective state within the mind of the viewer. Working with few colors and subtle effects of light he produced a world of serene bucolic environments most often in transitional periods of dusk and dawn or spring and summer.

The 20 page, full-color catalogue illustrating 12 of the paintings in the exhibition is available for $20, postpaid, from the Schwarz Gallery, 1806 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

[view exhibition online]

[Gallery hours are 9:00–5:30, Monday-Friday & 10:00–5:00, Saturday]
 
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