Artist Views of New Orleans
Part One, Two and Three
This three part series featuring works from the Ogden collection and curated by Museum Director Rick Gruber offers a unique look at the Crescent City as it evolved from the heady antebellum years to the close of the 20th century.
The first segment included paintings, primarily landscapes, and a few early photographs from 1848 to 1899 by artists such as Lulu King Saxon, aunt of famous local writer Lyle Saxon, Ellsworth Woodward, Richard Clague, Marie Seebold Molinary and William Aiken Walker.
In his review, Times-Picayune Art Critic Douglas MacCash, points out that most of the work in Part One depicts the more rustic landscape of the city's outskirts rather than its neighborhoods. He attributes this to both Roger Ogden's eye as well as the fascination of artists with "the insanely fecund environment of the deep South." He also suggests these classic landscapes represents in a stylistic sense the calm, classicism of art in the late nineteenth century that predated by a matter of years the Modernist movement of artists like Picasso and Matisse.
Part Two: 1900 to 1950 reflects the impact of modernity on New Orleans, the rush to progress and preservation. The population nearly doubled during this time. The automobile, electric streetcars, movie theatres and radio changed everyday life. Even as "skyscrapers" made their mark on the skyline, preservationists realized the value of the French Quarter's dilapidated architecture and began efforts to save it. Artists and writers flocked to the quarter making it a part of the "American Scene" movement. Once mundane sights such as the praline lady or the mule-drawn produce wagon became studies for artists like Sadie A.E. Irvine and photographer Joseph Woodson "Pops" Whitesell.
The WPA's Gulf States Public Works of Art Project, led by Newcomb Art School Director Ellsworth Woodward, provided ample work for New Orleans artists during this time. Included in the show were works by Clarence John Laughlin - known for his eerie imgs of the Mississippi River, ruined plantations and surreal city scene - and emerging modernist like John McCrady and Will Henry Stevens who were inspired by time spent in New Orleans.
The final segment in the series looks at the second half of the 20th century, 1951 - 1999, featuring work by a number of photographers like Judy Cooper, William K. Greiner, Michael Palumbo and Michael P. Smith; painters Noel Rockmore, Roy Ferdinand, Shirley Robey Masinter, Reginald Minters and others. The show documents the hard times that plagued most southern urban centers during the post war years and the civil rights movement as well as the singular culture of music, food and people that uniquely defines New Orleans.
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