CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

Five American Artists and Their Unique Perspectives

As we reflect on the independence of the United States this month, we at M.S. Rau can’t help but think of the great artists that have shown us their America through art. Impressionist artists like Chile Hassam and Mary Cassatt brought an American twist to French Impressionism. Illustrators like Norman Rockwell showed us the quintessential Americana of the early 1900s. And artists like LeRoy Neiman and Andy Warhol showed us the beauty and artistic value of popular culture.
 
Join us as we explore these artists and how they show us America through their unique perspectives.
 

LeRoy Neiman - Braham, MN

LeRoy Neiman considered himself an illustrator from an early age, and rightly so — as a young teenager, he was already illustrating signs for a local grocery store. After serving in Germany during WWII, he ventured back to the Midwest, where he attended the Art Institute of Chicago on the G.I. Bill. Neiman soon found a highly expressive and colorful illustration technique that set him apart from his peers.

 

While working as a professional illustrator in the early 1950s, Neiman met Hugh Hefner, a man that would accelerate and boom Neiman’s artistic career. Hefner invited Neiman to create an illustration for Playboy magazine, a move that launched a partnership that lasted more than 50 years. Through his success at Playboy, Neiman expanded his horizons and illustrated some of the most popular entertainers and sports stars of the latter half of the 20th century. Some of these stars include Muhammad Ali, Sylvester Stallone and Joe Namath. He had a particular talent for showing the dynamic elements of sports; many of Neiman’s color-saturated illustrations showcased action shots of U.S. Olympians and other professional major sports teams throughout America. Neiman’s work is highly collectible as it highlights some of the most exciting aspects of American pop culture from the latter half of the 20th century.

 
Greyhounds by LeRoy Neiman, dated 1985


Greyhounds by LeRoy Neiman, dated 1985. The present work, Greyhounds, exhibits the stunning and graceful nature of these racing dogs.

 

 

Childe Hassam - Dorchester, MA

Childe Hassam started his career in 1882 as a freelance artist for publications such as The Century, Scribner’s Monthly and Harper’s Weekly. His first solo exhibition, a watercolor show in Boston in 1883, quickly launched him into the worldwide art scene. Soon after, Hassam traveled to Paris, where he spent several years studying and learning much from the French Impressionists.

 

After this training, Hassam returned to America and continued to paint and live in New York. His most beloved works show the vast beauty of New England — from the urban areas of Boston and New York to the quaint nature of Hassam’s coastal vacation spots.

 

Hassam’s successes grew throughout his lifetime, and he attended the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889, where he received a bronze medal. Additional accolades include the Webb Prize from the Society of American Artists for a landscape, the Gold Medal for Distinguished Services to Fine art from the American Dealers Association. Hassam is regarded as one of America’s leading Impressionist artists and is credited with popularizing the style in the states.

 
The Violinist by Childe Hassam


The Violinist by Childe Hassam, dated 1912.

 

 

Norman Rockwell - New York, NY

Norman Rockwell is regarded as one of America’s finest visual storytellers. Starting young, Rockwell’s first commission came when he was just 16 years old. This early start led to a long and prosperous career as an illustrator for magazines and advertisements alike. Rockwell fostered close relationships with periodicals like the Saturday Evening Post, Country Gentleman, Literary Digest and Look; his works graced the covers of all of these magazines frequently. His work is so highly regarded in American society that he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the highest honor bestowed upon an American civilian.

 

Rockwell is best known for his ability to capture the feeling of early 20th-century America so succinctly in his paintings. He once even said, “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” This ability to capture the subtle moments of the everyday American man, woman and child is what makes his work so desirable.

 

 

A Bright Future for Banking by Norman Rockwell


A Bright Future for Banking by Norman Rockwell, painted in 1955.

 

 

Mary Cassatt - Allegheny, PA

Mary Cassatt is one of America’s most famous female artists and simultaneously the only American member of the original French Impressionist circle. This astounding position in art history brings a unique quality and desirability to her works.

 

Against her parents' wishes, Cassatt knew she wanted to be a professional artist from a young age. She began studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the age of 15, but, unimpressed by the slow pace of teaching of the male-dominated school, she decided to leave. Cassatt moved to France early in her adult years, where she soon met and befriended the French Impressionists. Since women could not yet attend École des Beaux-Arts, she instead studied privately with the masters of the school.

 

Cassatt had a special ability to depict intimate portrayals of women, children and the mother-child relationship, and she was a vital contributor to the early French Impressionist movement. As one of just four females and the only American member of this circle of artists, Mary Cassatt stands out. She lived most of her adult life in France, where she eventually befriended Edgar Degas. At his invitation, she joined a group that would become known as the Impressionists and, under his influence, developed a love for drawing and mastery over pastels. Today, her works can be found in important collections the world over, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musée du Louvre and Musée d'Orsay.

 
Woman Reading a Book by Mary Cassatt


Woman Reading a Book by Mary Cassatt, painted in 1911.

 

 

Andy Warhol - Pittsburgh, PA

One of the most iconic artists in history, Warhol was known for making art his “brand” and raising questions about originality and reproduction, as well as the nature of celebrity, persona and the outward image. Born Andrej Varhola, Jr. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928, Warhol first made a name for himself as a commercial artist, quickly becoming one of the most successful illustrators of his time. He won numerous awards for his work from the Art Directors Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and his clients included Tiffany & Co., The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and others. It was in the late 1950s that he focused more of his attention on his fine art pursuits.

 

The artist's 1962 series of Campbell's Soup Cans created a sensation in the art world and launched him into the realm of celebrity. His iconic studio, painted silver and known as the Factory, became the place to be in New York. Surrounding himself with an ever-rotating group of hipsters and starlets like The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground and Edie Sedgwick, he also extended his talents into other fields such as film, publishing, writing, television and music. Except for a brief period in the mid-1960s, he would continue to paint until the end of his life. He was a mentor and inspiration to such artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, and by the time of his death, he was one of the most prolific and well-known artists the world had ever seen.

 
Shadow by Andy Warhol


Shadow by Andy Warhol, circa 1979.

 

 

Explore M.S. Rau’s entire collection of American art here.

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