July 21, 2013

Art Review: Depth under the hoopla about the Lunder Collection


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The three-story Sol Lewitt wall drawing in the new Alfond-Lunder pavilion.

Courtesy photos

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Above: “Brooklyn Bridge” by John Marin.

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville

WHEN: On view though June 8, 2014.

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday


INFO: 859-5600; colby.edu/academics_cs/museum


In addition to opening the Lunder Collection exhibition, the Colby College Museum of Art has other new exhibitions that may be overshadowed. Among them:

"A Thing Alive: Modern Landscapes from the Marin Collection," featuring works from Colby's John Marin collection supplemented by photographs from the Norma B. Marin collection. On view through Oct. 6.

"Alex Katz: A Matter of Light," on view through Sept. 15. This show features prints, drawings and paintings from the museum's permanent collection that demonstrate Katz' study of light and shadow.

"Here and There: Contemporary Art from the Alex Katz Foundation," through Dec. 31. Recent acquisitions of contemporary art through the Katz Foundation.

The luster fades a bit by the time you get to the Lunder Collection's art of the American West, featuring mostly anthropologically-flavored Taos School paintings of Native Americans.

There are four art spaces in the new pavilion: The sophisticated lobby; the large and impressively spacious first gallery; the second, which takes a back seat to the major modernist works it holds (three Georgia O'Keeffes and strong works ranging from Andrew Wyeth and Rockwell Kent to Jacob Lawrence and Alexander Calder); and then the space with the works of the American West.

These latter works interest me the least, but this is an unusually notable collection -- particularly for the Northeast. And the strangest contrast of the museum is stepping from this room to the Lunder Wing, with its colonial stairs and some particularly strong paintings, including several John Singer Sargents and works by Mary Cassatt.

The Lunder Collection's greatest strengths begin with sculpture. One name it may help elevate to deserved recognition is Paul Manship, whose work helped lead the way for Art Deco.

Just as the exhibition features another Winslow Homer hiding practically around each corner, it treats the viewer to a surprising number of works by Augustus Saint-Gaudens -- arguably America's greatest sculptor.

But it includes many great and notable sculptures -- a surprising number of which will be recognized by the public -- Macmonnies' "Diana," Daniel Chester French's "Minuteman," Remington's "Bronco Buster," etc.

Manship's 1916 "Flight of Night" is my favorite sculpture in the state -- and maybe anywhere.

With more than 300 of his works, Colby now houses one of the world's greatest collections of Whistler. Moreover, the extent to which this is important becomes clear simply by wandering through the galleries. Whistler's effect on important artists such as George Inness, Edward Steichen and Thomas Dewing is expansively apparent.

At the same time, Colby's strength in what is often called the Aesthetic Movement and the role the movement played in the development of American art becomes apparent. Alone, these pieces are hard to categorize, but together their visually sophisticated (and beautifully painted) appeal gives an unusually clear image of art in America at the turn of the century.

This is the new and improved Colby Museum of Art: It now features the range of American art from its earliest bright spots (the show of American weather vanes is very fun) to the most important cutting edge (for example, a terrific Anish Kapoor greets the entering visitor).

Colby may be a private institution, but it is free and open to the public. Architecturally, Fisher has seamlessly placed the museum within the campus, while museum director Sharon Corwin is perfectly poised to both serve the Colby community and welcome the public at large.

The Colby Museum of Art is now the crown jewel of Maine's art landscape -- and a national treasure.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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Pagoda tile from Chinese Qi dynasty.


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