By Susan Froyd
By Byron Graham
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davies
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Bree Davies
By Susan Froyd
By Kate Gibbons
Another reason he decided to open the new gallery was his purchase of a portion of the Carlson estate. An East Coast dealer had acquired it from the artist's descendants and sold Cook all of the Colorado landscapes. And although the fine art gallery has been open for months, the Carlson show is its official premiere.
Although Carlson was born in Sweden in 1875 and spent most of his life in Woodstock, New York, where he died in 1945, he is relevant to us because of the Colorado landscapes he painted during the two summers he lived here.
In 1920, he became the director of the Broadmoor Academy, which had been founded the year before. Since he was already famous, he commanded a high salary for the times -- the enormous sum of $1,000 a month. (This detail and many others are in a catalogue written by local art historian Stanley Cuba that accompanies the show.) After the 1921 summer session, Carlson resigned and returned to New York. Because he didn't live here long, his Colorado scenes are rare.
Carlson's magnificent "Shadowy Valley," an oil on canvas circa 1920, starts off the show in the lobby. If the DAM's staff were collecting Colorado material, they'd surely want to take a close look at this one.
Carlson adeptly paints an early winter scene that shows the Front Range being engulfed by snow clouds. In the background sit the shrouded mountains; the foreground is filled with evergreen trees. The essentially dark palette is exquisite. The deep purples and greens are particularly effective since they are used against the white ground and gray sky. Carlson's expressionist painting technique -- in which he applies the paint thickly and preserves the mark of the brush -- is stunning.
"Windy Headlands," an oil on canvas, also circa 1920, depicts a majestic sky floating above a well-lighted, rock-strewn field dotted with monoliths. Although clouds, trees and rocks gave Carlson an opportunity to explore abstraction, none of these paintings are truly abstract. But some come close, notably "Crazy Quilt Sketch," an oil on board.
As the show's title indicates, Cook has placed Carlson in the context of the other artists from the Broadmoor Academy and the CSFAC School. He sees Carlson, along with Robert Reid, Birger Sandzen and Ernest Lawson, as the "big four" of the Broadmoor Academy and has chosen some of their paintings for the show as well.
"View From a Mountaintop," by Reid, is a look at the back of the Broadmoor Hotel from the heights of Cheyenne Mountain. The palette is dominated by a creamy pink accented by sage green. It is an excellent example of his work. Like Carlson, Reid was hired to teach at the Broadmoor Academy in 1920, but he remained until 1927 and was one of the most important artists to have worked in the state. It would be a shame if "View From a Mountaintop" wound up hanging over some billionaire's fireplace -- which is what will most likely happen -- instead of in a local museum like the DAM.
Sandzen and Lawson are also represented by fine characteristic works. Sandzen's paintings are vividly hued and sport theatrical brushwork; Lawson's feature a quieter palette and a more restrained technique. The better of the two Lawsons, a 1920s-era oil on canvas called "Little Ranch, Colorado," is hung on the lower level at Cook's, as is another masterful Carlson, "The Barrier," circa 1920. This piece is every bit as good as "Shadowy Valley" and would look every bit as good at the DAM.
Elsewhere in the show is the work of many other artists from the Broadmoor Academy, as well as those who came to Colorado Springs after 1936, when the academy became the CSFAC School. These include the longtime director of the school, Boardman Robinson, who was there from 1930 to 1947, and Charles Bunnell, a student of both Robinson's and Lawson's during the 1930s.
Cook was able to purchase some 25 Bunnells from the estate, including "Hills and Houses," a mixed media on paper from 1934, and "Untitled Mining Town," an oil on canvas from 1933. Both of these are displayed upstairs, but there's an entire room downstairs devoted to Bunnell's later work.
Another room is given over to the lithographs produced at the nationally known printmaking facility that was part of the CSFAC School. Most of these were executed by master printer Lawrence Barrett, including examples by Ward Lockwood, Adolph Dehn and Yasuo Kuniyoshi.
The exhibition catalogue and the presence of these masterpieces make this exhibit more like a museum show than a commercial gallery offering. It is a must-see, and it connects beautifully with Vanguard Art in Colorado: 1940-1970, at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. And the Boulder show is itself linked to the two-part Colorado Abstraction: 1975-1999 at the Arvada Center.
So for the next couple of weeks (since the Arvada show is set to close on November 21), it's possible in a single day to take in the big picture of artistic development in Colorado from 1920 to the present.
It's something, unfortunately, that's never been true at the DAM, so you can't pass up the opportunity.
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