1 The Providence School
by Catherine Little Bert
Since the 1830’s artists have set up studios in Providence, entrepreneurs found galleries (Vose Gallery 1842, Bert Gallery 1985); collectors acquired paintings and philanthropists established cultural institutions (RISD, Providence Art Club, Handicraft Club & Providence Athenaeum).
Providence became the cultural center for artists from the city, state, region and ex-patriots. The capital city has always served this role for the state through good times and bad. With the ebb and flow of American progress the talents of 19th & 20th century regional American artists have escaped recognition among art historians, art dealers and collectors. Much of this has to do with the foibles of the art world; what is fashionable to collect, curatorial snobbery, art dealer dalliances and auction market gyrations.
Nineteenth and Twentieth century American painting in general has always suffered. The 1980’s saw an upswing, a re-discovery of national artists among collectors and curators. Followed by a market stumble in the most recent economic slump.
Three new initiatives have resuscitated the market –
- The founding of the remarkable Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
- The American Encounters series of exhibitions funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
- The formation of an American Art Collaborative by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The convergence of these initiatives will surely impact the art world and all come during the Bert Gallery 30th Anniversary year!
Within the context of these exciting initiatives Bert Gallery launches the web project - Thirty Stories of American Regional Painting to challenge auctions, dealers, collectors and curators to re-examine the importance of artists from The Providence School and their contributions to American Art in the 19th and 20th Century. Artists are examined through the lens of the American Encounter’s nomenclature to see how artists from the Providence School compare to other notable American artists.