Monday, June 7, 2010

Hartford Museum

On the Yacht "Namouna", Venice (1890)

I had planned to visit the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut with my kids. A new pool and the arrival of friends quickly changed our plans. I was forced to wait for my wife to arrive home from work in order to leave. I headed for the museum alone, a bit apprehensive as I did not know what to expect. This type of outing was outing was new to me. The first hurtle to tackle was finding a parking place. I was thrilled to find one somewhat near the museum. The museum is currently being renovated. I somehow entered the museum from the rear and had to find my way to the front. The museum had a spider-like structure in the back that made me think I was in front of the museum. I have included a photo of the structure. I finally arrived at the front desk and I talked to the receptionist and let her know that I was a student and was here for my first museum experience.

The museum was founded in 1842 and is considered to be America’s oldest public art museum. Daniel Wadsworth, a native of Hartford founded the Wadsworth-Atheneum to share art with others. The Wadsworth was constructed on the site of the family home of Daniel Wadsworth in the heart of downtown Hartford. Its architects, Alexander Jackson Davis and Ithiel Town, designed the "castle" that is the atheneum's oldest building. Construction began in 1842 after the museum was incorporated on June 1 of that year. While "1842" can be seen clearly above the building's name above the front doors, the museum itself did not open until July 31, 1844. It has been operating continuously ever since.

From my travels through the museum, they appeared to have a large collection of oil paintings. They had many different types of furniture and even a Colt pistol on display. I was surprised to see the Colt pistol on display as I did not realize that a gun could be considered art. I had asked the receptionist if there were any special exhibitions when I arrived and she had mentioned there were a few. Some of the sections were closed due to the renovations. I never really saw the special sections because the museum was much larger than I expected. I unfortunately had to leave earlier than I would have liked due to a crisis at home. I did get to see most of the floors and many different types of art.

The painting that caught my attention was the On the Yacht “Namouna,” Venice, 1890. It shows a group of upper class citizens on a yacht. The reason I liked it was I took a trip on a sail boat once many years ago and the painting reminded me of it. The colors and the shininess of the brass on what appears to be a smokestack stood out the most to me. The brightness and life like quality of the painting surprised me as I had always thought that oil paintings resembled the $59.99 paintings I have seen at hotel art shows. I thought all oil paintings looked raised and “painted”. This painting reminded me of a photograph. It was painted by Julius L. Stewart, an American artist, 1855-1919. It was oil on canvas and was a fairly large painting.

Julius LeBlanc Stewart was born in Philadelphia and moved to Paris with his family at age 10. He ended up living there for the rest of his life. His father was a wealthy expatriate art collector and provided Julius with access to wealthy Americans and their European friends. ( He established a successful career as a portrait painter of elite American and French society. Stewart was known to exhibit his paintings at the famous Paris Salon from 1878 to 1895. He seemed to like to paint in groups of people rather than individuals. During his career, several wealthy Americans living in Paris commissioned Stewart to paint grand scale portraits of their friends and family.
A friend of Stewart’s named James Bennett, a publisher of the New York and Paris Herald, wanted Stewart to paint a group portrait of his friends. He painted a series of sailing pictures aboard James Gordon Bennett Junior’s yacht, called Namouna. The most accomplished of these, On the Yacht "Namouna", Venice (1890), showed a sailing party on the deck and included a portrait of a once famous actress named Lillie Langtry. The painting On the Yacht “Namouna,” Venice, was done as an Un-commissioned work. Yachting on the Mediterranean (1896) was his next well known painting. His next endeavor included paintings focusing on religious topics. He is probably most known however, for his portraits of nude women.

The research I conducted about Julius Stewart and his works did not lead me to any conclusion regarding the movement that Mr. Stewart’s work falls into. I originally thought that his work may fit into the category of impressionism but was unable to find any of his works associated with the movement. The closest reference I found was a statement about one particular painting. The Baptism, with its illusionism, elaborate composition, implied narrative, and slow ceremonial pace, is a tour de force and technical skill and a prime example of late nineteenth- century aesthetics. (

1 comment:

  1. Nice job with your paper... :) Using my suggested template helped get organized and helped you to hit the main points...Trying to discover what "movement" Stewart belonged to was a little tricky... my first impression was classic academic painting, before the advent of all the "isms" starting with impressionism... His teacher was Jean-Leon-Gerome who taught at the school of the Beaux Arts and was know for his conservative and classic approachéon_Gérôme

    The only other suggestion would be to take a few more (and better) piscures of your chosen piece... Do some close-up, etc... stand squarely in front of the piece and hold the camera still, squeeze the shutter gently and slowly and things should improve...

    I am looking for a total of 4 papers like this and 2 "photo essays" of hightlights of 2 other museums for a total of 6 museums... You can also photograph the information cards next to the work so save on note taking...