Hollyhocks

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Hollyhocks

United States, 1876
Paintings
Oil on canvas
31 1/4 x 16 1/16 in. (79.38 x 40.79 cm)
Gift of Warren J. Adelson and LaTrelle B. Adelson (M.81.250)
Currently on public view:
Art of the Americas Building, floor 3 MAP IT
Art of the Americas Building, floor 3

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Curator Notes

Few paintings from Turner’s Munich period are known....
Few paintings from Turner’s Munich period are known. Turner’s mentor in Europe, Currier, was the most active still-life painter among the Americans in Munich and may have inspired Turner to attempt to work in that genre. Turner sent two still-life paintings from Munich to the Society of American Artists’ annual in 1880. Of those known today, closest to the museum’s paintings is Still Life with Swords, 1880 (with Child’s Gallery, Boston), which bears the inscription "Munich 80." Although more finished, it shares the warm background and extremely oblong format of Hollyhocks and its concentration of incident at one end of the painting. In an article on composition in 1896 (The Art Interchange 36 [February 1896]: 34) Turner praised oriental art, and Japanese motifs had appeared in his work by the mid-1880s. Although a consciousness of Japanese design is not generally associated with Munich in the 1870s, Hollyhocks’ narrow, vertical format and flat, decorative arrangement of leaves and flowers against a lighter, somewhat golden background suggest that Turner was already aware of Japanese art and decorative concerns. The unfinish of the roughed-in lower half of the canvas also anticipates the tendency to simplification and reduction, which is seen-and was commented upon-in Turner’s later still, life compositions. However, decorative, vertical still-life paintings with light backgrounds by the Austrian artist Hans Makart (1840-1884) are known. One of the outstanding students of the Munich academy in the 1860s, Makart continued to exert a strong influence on decorative painting in Munich even after his removal to Vienna.
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About The Era

After the Jacksonian presidency (1829–37), the adolescent country began an aggressive foreign policy of territorial expansion, exemplified by the success of the Mexican-American War (1846–48)....
After the Jacksonian presidency (1829–37), the adolescent country began an aggressive foreign policy of territorial expansion, exemplified by the success of the Mexican-American War (1846–48). Economic growth, spurred by new technologies such as the railroad and telegraph, assisted the early stages of empire building. As a comfortable and expanding middle class began to demonstrate its wealth and power, a fervent nationalist spirit was celebrated in the writings of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville. Artists such as Emanuel Leutze produced history paintings re-creating the glorious past of the relatively new country. Such idealizations ignored the mounting political and social differences that threatened to split the country apart. The Civil War slowed development, affecting every fiber of society, but surprisingly was not the theme of many paintings. The war’s devastation did not destroy the American belief in progress, and there was an undercurrent of excitement due to economic expansion and increased settlement of the West.
During the postwar period Americans also began enthusiastically turning their attention abroad. They flocked to Europe to visit London, Paris, Rome, Florence, and Berlin, the major cities on the Grand Tour. Art schools in the United States offered limited classes, so the royal academies in Germany, France, and England attracted thousands of young Americans. By the 1870s American painting no longer evinced a singleness of purpose. Although Winslow Homer became the quintessential Yankee painter, with his representations of country life during the reconstruction era, European aesthetics began to infiltrate taste.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Phil Freshman.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art Report, July 1, 1981-June 30, 1983.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.