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  • Museum's Exhibition Highlights Career of Worcester's Own Impressionist

    “The poetry of nature is at its best near at hand. I have traveled far, but I always come happily home to Worcester.”
      - Joseph H. Greenwood

    (WORCESTER, Mass., February 9, 2004) - The Worcester Art Museum organizes the first solo exhibition of Joseph H. Greenwood, the city's most noted landscape painter, since the artist's death over 75 years ago.

    An American Impressionist: Joseph H. Greenwood, on view March 6 through Aug. 8, 2004, brings together approximately 25 landscape paintings by the artist from private collections and institutions throughout Central Massachusetts. The paintings depict rural scenes from Central New England and the Massachusetts coastline. The exhibition complements the Museum's major showing of Barbizon and Impressionist masterworks in Paths to Impressionism: French and American Landscape Paintings from the Worcester Art Museum, on view through June 27.

    The Worcester Art Museum hosts an exhibition opening party on Friday, March 5 from 5-8 p.m. Featuring live music, hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar, the evening is free for Museum members, $8 nonmember adults, $6 senior citizens and students with college ID, and free for ages 17 and under. For a complete schedule of exhibition-related programs, visit the Museum's web site at www.worcesterart.org.

    Greenwood (1857-1927) rose to national fame in his lifetime for paintings from Worcester's Green Hill Park, Tatnuck Brook, Lake Quinsigamond and other locales. Born in Spencer, Mass., Greenwood was the son of French-Canadian immigrants. At age 11, he left school to work in a shoe factory and later a wire mill in Spencer. Meanwhile, he showed an early interest in art. According to local legend, Greenwood's first paints were mixed from pigments in wallpaper scraps, and his brushes were fashioned from chicken feathers.

    His employer, the wealthy mill owner Joel E. Prouty, recognized the boy's talent and financed Greenwood's education at Wilbraham Academy, where he pursued oil painting and English. After two terms at the Academy, Greenwood returned to Spencer to practice his art. While he produced portraits for income, he clearly preferred landscape painting.

    “Greenwood painted almost exclusively in the area around Worcester County, shedding new light on the local meadows and hillsides,” said exhibition curator Nicole Nicas. “He never wandered far from home, perhaps denying himself the opportunity for greater acclaim.”

    In 1881, Greenwood relocated to Worcester and lived much of his adulthood there. He sometimes summered in New Bedford and Nonquitt, Mass., where he studied with one of America's foremost artists R. Swain Gifford. Greenwood also worked with artist J. Appleton Brown in Boston. Under the guidance of these successful artists, Greenwood began exhibiting his work in Boston and New York. In 1892, he became the only artist from Worcester chosen to exhibit his work at the Chicago World's Fair, marking the height of his national exposure. Through his association with the Vose Gallery in Boston and Providence, Greenwood was featured among celebrated artists such as George Inness, Dwight W. Tryon, Bruce Crane and others in a 1926 exhibition titled “Selected Paintings by Modern Masters.”

    In Worcester, Greenwood embraced the local artist community and the Worcester Art Museum, upon its founding in 1896. He became a corporator of the Museum, exhibited there, and taught outdoor sketching classes at the Museum School.

    In 1905, the same year the Worcester Art Museum acquired its first landscape paintings, works by Barbizon school artists Louis Eugene Boudin, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, John Joseph Enneking and Inness, the Museum mounted a one-man show of paintings by Greenwood.

    Greenwood's early landscapes incorporated the painting styles of Barbizon artists. Locally, he was called “Pere Corot,” a reference to the French realist painter Corot, who is closely associated with the Barbizon school. Greenwood's work also shows the influence of American painter Inness. Greenwood's later paintings adopted the quick brushwork and light palette of the Impressionists. Even so, Greenwood adamantly rejected the Impressionist label.

    “Greenwood was staunchly independent and refused to attach any label to his work,” said Nicas. “He asserted that ‘fashion in art is fatal.’”

    A prolific painter, Greenwood demonstrated frugality in his art. He sometimes painted on cigar box lids rather than expensive canvas, he used paints sparingly, and he reused materials like frames and stretchers. He also crafted his own frames, which were painted rather than gilt.

    Nicas, with Museum Director James A. Welu and other staff, examined more than 175 works by Greenwood before selecting approximately 25 paintings for the exhibition. The paintings derive from 19 private collections and four institutions, including one from the Worcester Art Museum. The exhibition also includes drawings from the Museum's collection and photographs attributed to Greenwood. Many of the works included in the exhibition were evaluated, treated and cleaned in the Worcester Art Museum's conservation laboratory.

    “An American Impressionist: Joseph H. Greenwood” is sponsored by UnumProvident Corporation. Additional generous support has been provided by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and WCRB Classical 102.5 FM Boston.

    About the Worcester Art Museum
    The Worcester Art Museum, which opened to the public in 1898, is world-renowned for its 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints, drawings and new media. The works span 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from ancient Roman mosaics to Colonial silver, Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Dedicated to the promotion of art and art education, the Museum offers a year-round studio art and art appreciation program that enrolls over 6,000 adult and youth students each year. Public tours are offered Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m., September through May. Audio tours are also available in English and Spanish.

    Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (evening hours sponsored by Commerce Bank), and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and full-time college students with current ID, and FREE for Members and all youth 17 and under. Admission is also FREE for everyone on Saturday mornings, 10 a.m.-noon (sponsored by The TJX Companies, Inc. and Massachusetts Electric, a National Grid Company). The Museum is located at 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, Mass., easily accessible from the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), Route 290 and Route 9. Free parking is available near entrances on Salisbury, Lancaster and Tuckerman streets. For more information, call (508) 799-4406.