The Columbia Museum of Art presents Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal, the first-ever museum retrospective of this treasured American painter, on view from February 20 through May 17, 2015. Charles Curran’s heart was claimed by women, children and flowers, and he devoted a lifetime to painting them in the full light of day out-of-doors.
“What normal human being,” he wrote, “can see a garden full of flowers in bloom or a hillside sprinkled with nature’s own decorations, the wild flowers, without an emotion of joy?” His goal as a painter was to capture that joy on canvas. Seeking the Ideal brings together 58 Curran masterpieces sure to astonish with their jewel-like color, soaring vistas and garden landscapes, and love for beauty.
The exhibition is organized by Dixon Gallery & Gardens in Memphis, Tenn., with the Frick Art and Historical Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., and the Columbia Museum of Art. The Columbia Museum of Art has three Curran paintings in its collection, one of which is traveling with the exhibition and included in the beautifully illustrated color catalogue. The show’s curator, Jane Faquin, is a University of South Carolina alumna.
“We are excited to present the first major museum exhibition to focus on Curran’s work and its role in furthering the American impressionist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” says CMA Executive Director Karen Brosius. “Curran’s paintings are full of sweeping beauty and are immaculately composed and detailed. They are among the finest American paintings of the era. We are very happy to be one of the very few museums in the country to have this exhibition.”
Curran’s career blossomed in the 1880s when French impressionism had changed the art world. Paintings became enlivened by outdoor light and color, and American artists responded to the innovations of impressionism. They, too, worked to capture the fleeting effects of atmosphere, but American artists also remained distinct in that they retained a sense of careful drawing and composition: Monet could dissolve trees into air, while Curran made them crisp against the sky. What they shared was a vivid palette and scintillating light in their works. Admired by critics of his time and avidly collected to this day, Curran’s work greatly contributed to the spread the impressionist tradition in America, and left a legacy of breathtaking canvases.
Working in the town of Cragsmoor in the beautiful Hudson River Valley, Curran became a much-respected leader of the art colony there in the early decades of the 20th century. He was a prolific painter of pictures of young women silhouetted against brilliant blue skies, and of children set outdoors in lush gardens. These are wistful images, each one full of optimism and grace. He looked for what was ideal in American life and made it even more so.
“The paintings of Charles Courtney Curran are, first and foremost, beautiful,” says CMA Chief Curator Will South. “He painted emerald hills, crystalline cloud-filled skies, and radiant women with consummate skill. Standing before them, we are both delighted and dazzled.”
The CMA is the last venue of only three museums nationwide to host the exhibition. It is the final opportunity to see the selection of original works by this masterful American figure and landscape painter.
The exhibition is accompanied by 120-page, full-color, softcover catalogue, which includes a critical essay on Curran’s life and work as well as individual entries on each of the works in the show. The book is available for purchase in the Museum Shop.
Curran’s paintings are found in major museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
This exhibition is presented through the generosity of Presenting Sponsors: Darnall and Susan Boyd, Dr. Suzan D. Boyd and Mr. M. Edward Sellers, Joyce and George Hill, and Hannah and Ron Rogers; Silver Sponsors: Kay and John Bachmann, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, PA, Helen and John Hill, and Dr. and Mrs. Nicholas K. Moore; Bronze Sponsors: Dr. Gail M. Morrison, Virginia E. Newell and Robert H. Wilkins; and Friends of Curran Sponsors: Mr. and Mrs. David E. Dukes, Walda Wildman; and support also provided by Anonymous, and Mr. and Mrs. James M. Myers.
PROGRAMS AND EVENTS
To purchase tickets or register for classes, visit columbiamuseum.org or call 803-799-2810.
Book a Tour and Save on Admission
Gather your friends and make a reservation to enjoy a docent-led or self-guided tour of Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal and save on admission. Hungry? Choose the tour with a lunch option or enjoy wine and cheese after your tour. Details at columbiamuseum.org.
School group visits include an in-depth guided tour of Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal and a hands-on art project that connects to language arts, social studies, and key areas of the core curriculum. For more information contact CMA Education Manager Kayleigh Vaughn at 803-343-2163 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Explorer Backpacks and Gallery Guides
Art Explorer Backpacks are designed to encourage families to have fun in the galleries with interactive activities. Each backpack includes a sketchbook with colored pencils, a pair of binoculars, a compass, and hands-on activities that relate to the theme of the backpack chosen. Themes include: pattern, color, shape, and Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal. Ask for one at the admission desk.
Gallery guides are your source to family fun. Guides include insider information about some of the works and a gallery hunt to discover shapes, patterns, and more. Available for free in the CMA lobby.
Gallery Tour: Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal
Every Saturday beginning February 21 | 1:00 p.m.
A guided tour provides an overview of the retrospective exhibition, Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal, featuring 58 Curran masterpieces sure to astonish with their jewel-like color, soaring vistas, garden landscapes, and love for beauty. Free with membership or admission.
Evening for Educators
Wednesday, February 18 | 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Enter the world of an American impressionist in the exhibition Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal. Curran’s career blossomed in the decades when French impressionism had changed the art world. Charles Curran’s heart was claimed by women, children, and flowers, and he devoted a lifetime to painting them in the full light of day. Support for Evening for Educators provided by Boeing. Free.
Opening Celebration and Member Appreciation Day
Friday, February 20 | 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Join us to celebrate Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal, organized by the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, with Spark Tours, a lecture, a film, a Member Appreciation Lounge, and more.
Spark Tours: Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal
Friday, February 20 | 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
The CMA is offering quick, 30-minute lunchtime “Spark Tours” of Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal. The tours spark the imagination of busy weekday workers and lunch-goers with limited time to visit the museum or those interested in a brief overview of the show before exploring further on their own. A guided tour provides an overview highlighting select works of this treasured American painter.
Lecture: Charles Courtney Curran: Tilting Toward Impressionism
Friday, February 20 | Noon
The paintings of Charles Courtney Curran are, first and foremost, beautiful. Thirty years ago, Curran was included in William H. Gerdts’ important book, American Impressionism, but during his lifetime Curran also exhibited in the Paris Salon where he was certainly not considered an impressionist painter. Now, with the work of this masterful painter as the focus of the new retrospective, Seeking the Ideal, CMA Chief Curator Will South asks: Was Curran really an impressionist? Or, as the show’s catalogue asks, was he a realist or an idealist, and what, if anything was truly “American” about his art? Free with membership or admission.
Film: In Open Air: A Portrait of the American Impressionists
Friday, February 20 | 3:00 p.m.
Saturdays: March 28, April 11, & May 16 | 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
In Open Air: A Portrait of the American Impressionists captures the essence of the impressionist movement in America, a pivotal period in American art from 1880 to 1915. With the pace of life quickening at the end of the 19th century, painters were seeking new ways to look at and preserve traditional American scenes that were rapidly disappearing-stone fences, open countryside, picturesque settings. These tranquil images were painted outside, in open air. Visually stunning, In Open Air features some of the finest impressionist paintings created during this period and travels to favored locales that inspired the artists’ work. It explores the influence of the French impressionists and reveals how the American painters developed their own styles. 28 minutes. Free with membership or admission.
Gladys’ Gang: Colorful Impression
Wednesday, March 4 | 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Join us for this popular series! Gladys’ Gang is a free, early childhood arts and literacy program for ages 2-5 that focuses on preparing children for kindergarten. Using art as a guide, children and their adult caregivers enjoy story time in the galleries followed by a hands-on art project in the CMA studios. The program is held the first Wednesday of each month from 10:00 until 11:00 a.m. This month visit the Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal exhibition and create a color-filled work of art in the studio. Registration required as space is limited. Free.
Seeking the Ideal Lecture and Book Signing with Jane Faquin
Friday, March 6 | Noon – 1:00 p.m.
Jane Faquin, Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal curator and author of the exhibition catalogue, will discuss Curran’s life and work in the Gilded Age and the importance of his career in American art. Seeking the Ideal is the first retrospective exhibition of Curran’s work and career since his death in 1942. It has been estimated that he produced more than 1,500 pictures during his career, mostly using family members as models, experimenting with a variety of artistic styles including impressionism, symbolism, tonalism, and naturalism. Co-sponsored by USC’s College of Arts and Sciences. Free with membership or admission.
ArtBreak: The Music of the 1893 World’s Fair with CMA Adjunct Curator of Music Peter Hoyt
Tuesday, March 17 | 10:30 a.m. – Noon
ArtBreak is a program that looks at art through a different lens. Each session features a speaker, typically from outside the art world, who gives insight into their worldview by sharing their interpretation of works of art at the CMA. This month, begin the morning at the museum with pastries and coffee sold at a pop-up café by Drip before CMA Adjunct Curator of Music Peter Hoyt discusses the music popular at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago in connection with the works in Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal. Free with membership or admission.
Artist Salon: Artists from Gallery 80808
Friday, March 27 | Noon – 1:00 p.m.
This series features gallery talks about a wide range of topics and disciplines. Gallery 80808 opened in August of 1990 as part of the Vista Studios project, a joint venture of the Columbia Development Corporation and the South Carolina Arts Commission. Since then the facility has matured into a unique venue for Columbia’s visual arts and has become a vital part of the city’s contemporary art scene. This salon features Gallery 80808 artists responding to Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal. Free with membership or admission.
CMA 2015 Gala: A Fair to Remember
Saturday, March 21 | 7:00 p.m. – Midnight
The Columbia Museum of Art’s 2015 Gala, A Fair to Remember, celebrates the major spring exhibition, Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal, with a grand party reminiscent of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where the American impressionist Curran exhibited his art and drew inspiration for several of his paintings. The Gala is the museum’s largest fundraiser of the year and raises critical funds to support our mission to provide outstanding art and arts education for lifelong learning and community enrichment for all. $150 ($75 tax deductible).
Passport to Art: Quite the Impression!
Sunday, April 12 | Noon – 3:00 p.m.
Come get your Passport to Art and make an impression-impressionistic painting that is-before viewing the Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal exhibition. This free drop-in studio program for families features a new hands-on art project each month. After spending time in our open studios, explore our galleries at your own leisure or join us for the family tour at 1:00 p.m. Free.
Days of Wine and Peonies
Thursday, April 16 | 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Enjoy a delightful evening as you explore the exhibition Charles Courtney Curran Seeking the Ideal followed by the art of flower arranging with Columbia’s own Cricket Newman. Create your own springtime arrangement inspired by the beautiful blooms in the exhibition. Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served. $60 / $50 for members.
CMA Educator Workshop: Curran’s Beautiful Day
Saturday, April 18 | 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Educators step into a world of sunlit days filled with flowers as they engage in gallery talks and lessons on American impressionism in the Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal exhibition. Enjoy an en plein air experience as you create your own impressionist masterpiece. Support for CMA Educator Workshop provided by Boeing. $30 includes lunch.
Gladys’ Gang: Magical May
Wednesday, May 6 | 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Join us for this popular series! Gladys’ Gang is a free, early childhood arts and literacy program for ages 2-5 that focuses on preparing children for kindergarten. Using art as a guide, children and their adult caregivers enjoy story time in the galleries followed by a hands-on art project in the CMA studios. The program is held the first Wednesday of each month from 10:00 until 11:00 a.m. This month visit the Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal exhibition and create a May flower inspired salt painting in the studio. Registration required as space is limited. Free.
Artist Salon: Florist Grant Lorick
Friday, May 8 | Noon – 1:00 p.m.
This series features gallery talks about a wide range of topics and disciplines. Something Special florist Grant Lorick creates arrangements in the CMA that are inspired by the exhibition, Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal. Free with membership or admission.
ArtBreak: The Victorian Language of Flowers with Horticulturalist Amanda McNulty
Tuesday, May 12 | 10:30 a.m. – Noon
ArtBreak is a program that looks at art through a different lens. Each session features a speaker, typically from outside the art world, who gives insight into their worldview by sharing their interpretation of works of art at the CMA. This month, begin the morning at the museum with pastries and coffee sold at a pop-up café by Drip before Amanda McNulty, Clemson University horticulturist and host of ETV’s award-winning “Making It Grow” program, discusses the Victorian lexicon and meanings of flowers in relation to the Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal exhibition. Free with membership or admission.
For more information, visit columbiamuseum.org