Permanent Collection: Paintings - Notable Artists
Portrait of George Laughlin III, 1919
Oil on canvas, 47 1/8” x 36”
Gift of William R. Blair (97.262)
Alla prima (one sitting) portraits were a specialty of Wayman Adams, whose virtuoso painting technique was likened to that of a swordsman or tennis player. The Museum’s Portrait of George Laughlin III is a fine example not only of the artist’s deft brushwork, but his intuitive ability to capture the essence of his subject. Here, the slightly distorted proportions of the seated figure emphasize the chest and shoulders, underscoring the sitter’s military bearing; yet the expressively clasped hands suggest an inner sensitivity that lies behind the martial façade.
A native of Muncie, Indiana, Adams studied at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis before completing his training in Europe under William Merritt Chase and, later, Robert Henri. Chase and Henri were powerful influences on Adams, who took to heart each instructor’s emphasis on working quickly and with first impressions. After winning his first major prize at the National Academy of Design in 1914, Adams’ career quickly accelerated, and by the 1920s, he was a nationally recognized portraitist working out of several studios in Indiana and New York. Among his many notable sitters were U.S. presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover; at the same time, Adams loved to paint ordinary people from all classes and vocations. Later in his career, the artist moved to Austin, Texas, where he lived and worked until his death in 1959.
Pasture Spring, 1976
Watercolor on paper, 43” x 29”
Gift of Harold H. Stream III (85.003)
Known for his large and highly detailed watercolor paintings, David Armstrong combines intense observation with the introspective poetry of Andrew Wyeth and his own mentor, Eric Sloane. A mood of quiet strength pervades works such as Pasture Spring, which depicts an anonymous corner of farmland dominated by a grand old tree. Faintly anthropomorphic, the tree raises its branches skyward, as if supporting the heavens themselves. Tacked to its mighty trunk, a faded sign and a tumbledown fence contrast the enduring power of nature with the evanescent workings of Man, a theme that sympathizes with Armstrong’s own efforts as a conservationist.
Born in Kent, Connecticut, in 1947, Armstrong turned to art as a result of boyhood rambles on his father’s sheep farm. His training included a summer at Maine’s Skowhegan School of Painting in 1966, followed by coursework at Bucknell University and Indiana University. After graduating with the degree of MFA from the latter in 1971, Armstrong went on to a successful career that included museum exhibitions at the Pennsylvania State Museum and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio.