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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Daniel Garber

Hawk's Nest, 1917, Daniel Garber
Daniel Garber Self-portrait, 1911
When people talk about Impressionism, it's only natural they should think first of the 19th century French Impressionism of Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir and a few others. Though there were subtle differences in the work of these men, they can quite reasonably be lumped together. HOWEVER (and that's a BIG however) that's not the case once you begin crossing national borders, and especially when you start crossing oceans. As some readers may have noticed as I've been exploring the work of American Impressionist recently, their brand of this style or mode of painting varies a great deal--one might say from "fairly" to "barely." Let me display the work of one American Impressionist here as an example--the New Hope Art Colony's Daniel Garber.
 
Fanny, 1943, Daniel Garber.
Impressionism apparently wears off
with the passing years.
First, a little background. Garber was born in 1880 in Indiana. He garnered his painting credentials at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts around the turn of the century. Then he and his wife dutifully caught the next steamer to France for a couple of years where Garber hopped on the Impressionist bandwagon about the time most of the upcoming 20th century European artists had long since hopped off in favor of the myriad movements associated with Post-impressionism. Back in the U.S. by 1907, Garber settled in along the west side of the Delaware river running between Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the little hamlet of Cuttalossa, not far from Lumberville, which is not far from New Hope. New Hope, then and now, is quite a lovely area, something of a venerable, old "arty" community. Garber was, even then, a second generation émigré. But, if you wanted to paint Impressionist landscapes, it was as good a place as any to settle down.

Rural Scene, Wormwood Scrubs, 1905, Daniel Garber
--Impressionist in style perhaps, but where's the vivid, glorious Impressionist color?
Moreover, when he was faithful to the in plein air calling of true, dyed-in-the-wool Impressionists, Garber was as good as any. His Hawk's Nest (top) from 1917 is about as "Frenchy" as one could ask, both stylistically and as to color. But then take a look at Rural Scene, Wormwood Scrubs (above) from 1905 (obviously, before he went to Europe). The loose handling and painterly style of Impressionism is there but there's certainly no Monet, no Pissarro, no Renoir to be found. Without them, Garber's landscape, and American Impressionism in general, simply dies. Garber's charming little portrait of Fanny (above, right), from 1943, in fact has neither an Impressionist handling of the paint or color. It's simply 1940s vintage American portraiture.
 
In the Studio, 1922, Daniel Garber--Impressionism but only up to a certain point.
In the Studio (detail), 1922, Daniel Garber
In terms of Impressionism, Daniel Garber was, at best, inconsistent. His In the Studio (above) has pretty much all the expected technical traits of Impressionism. The detail enlargement (right) illustrates what I mean. Yet, there's little in the way of "yellow and blue make green" visual color blending in the lush foliage outside the massive glass wall of his studio. Garber, instead, defaults to various manifestations of viridian with yellows along with white. Inside, he seems to prefer the simplicity of straight-from-the tube umbers, even black (a real Impressionist no-no) for his shadows. His Students Painting (below) from 1923 is even more egregious in this regard, though his massive walls stop just short of flat black with their swirls of what appears to be a bluish wash applied, seemingly as an afterthought (a wash? in Impressionism?). Only in the figures do we see any remnants of Impressionist influences. That's what American Impression had largely become by the 1920s.

Students Painting, 1923, Daniel Garber--American Impressionism, 1920s vintage.
Mother and Son, 1933,
 Daniel Garber
Garber's Mother and Son (right), which I like very much, demonstrates an almost complete veering away from even the American version of Impressionism. It has more to do with Edward Hopper than with Monet or even William Merritt Chase. The detail (below, left) illustrates this "second style" Garber seems to have developed as the French influences appear to have melted away over the years. Garber died in 1958 at the age of seventy-eight.
Mother and Son (detail),
Daniel Garber

A fellow blogger by the name of Charley Parker (not the Charley Parker) has tagged Garber as a "Romantic Realist." Others have simply assigned Garber two separate styles, which he, consciously or unconsciously, appears to have employed interchangeably. In that regard, it would seem that Garber was more like Manet, than Monet. His exquisite little portrait of his daughter, Tanis (below) is true to Garber's Impressionist yearnings in every respect, yet his figure bears all the "Romantic Realism" traits Parker so aptly identifies. Like Manet, Garber seems to have been an Impressionist only when he wanted to be.

Tanis, 1915, Daniel Garber--his daughter.





 

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