Press Releases

From Impressionist to Modernist: The Paintings of Woodstock Artist Charles Rosen


Opalescent Morning, ca. 1909 oil on canvas 32 X 40 in. James A. Michener Art Museum Gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest
James A. Michener Art Museum

NEW PALTZ -- Charles Rosen, one of the most distinguished Pennsylvania Impressionist and Woodstock artists will be honored with an exhibition composed of 50 paintings and works on paper. Rosen began his career as a successful landscape painter and later changed his work dramatically to a more modernist style. Form Radiating Life: The Paintings of Charles Rosen, opening at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz on February 24th, will include major examples of both his landscape and modernist style. As a special addition to this extraordinary exhibition, ephemera from the Rosen family’s private collection will be on view along with Rosen’s works. Form Radiating Life will open with a public reception on Saturday, February 24 from 5:00 -7:00 p.m. The exhibit will continue through May 20, 2007. The exhibition was organized by the James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

In conjunction with this exhibition, Brian H. Peterson, senior curator at the Michener Art Museum will give a lecture about Rosen’s life and work on Saturday, February 24 from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in McKenna Theatre. Additionally, Bard College professor and author Tom Wolf, will present a lecture entitled A Tale of Two Colonies: Charles Rosen's Woodstock Years on Thursday, April 5 at 7:00 p.m. in Lecture Center 108. Both lectures are free and open to all.

Form Radiating Life was initiated through a shared interest in Rosen’s work on the part of SDMA director Neil Trager and JMAM curator Brian H. Peterson. Trager facilitated relationships with Charles Rosen’s granddaughter Katherine Worthington-Taylor, a resident of Woodstock; local collectors of Rosen’s work; and Tom Wolf, professor of art history at Bard College, whose catalog essay provides insight into Rosen’s Woodstock years.

The works in the exhibition are drawn from the collections of the James. A. Michener Art Museum, as well as from other public institutions and private collections in Connecticut, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Washington, D.C.

The Roundhouse, Kingston, New York 1927 oil on canvas 30 X 40 in. James A. Michener Art Museum Gift of John P. Horton Estate
James A. Michener Art Museum

Background on Charles Rosen
For some painters a single way of working can last a lifetime. This was not Rosen’s story. He began his creative career as a highly successful landscape painter, prominently associated with the impressionist art colony located in New Hope, Pennsylvania in the early twentieth century. His best-known New Hope canvasses are large-scale snowscapes and spring views, utilizing a simple but elegant compositional style sometimes reminiscent of Japanese prints. These landscapes explore many different techniques and often exhibit a stylistic restlessness.

In his late thirties and early forties, Rosen became dissatisfied with this style of painting, and under the influence of modernist ideas his work changed radically. In 1920 he moved to Woodstock, New York, and it is there he changed his style and subject matter. Inspired by Cézanne, Rosen completely abandoned traditional landscape painting in favor of a manner of working that is described as both rhythmic and semi-abstract; one that usually used gritty industrial scenes as subjects and was based on a passionate exploration of form as a living, organic phenomenon. Rosen himself described this idea as “form that radiates life” and spoke of the “effort to achieve this in paint.”

During the Depression years, Rosen was selected to paint a series of government-sponsored post office murals. Locally, the murals were planned for Beacon and Poughkeepsie, NY. In Beacon, Rosen created panoramic scenes of the Hudson Valley region and New York City including illustrations of historic sites. In 1939 Rosen won the last of his mural commissions; a panel for the Poughkeepsie post office. In this work, Rosen depicted the early history of Poughkeepsie–providing a documentary, realistic rendering while still incorporating his modernist interest in structure. Cubic buildings, cylindrical smokestacks, and conical towers underlined by horizontal boats attest to his enthusiasm for the geometric forms utilized by Cézanne in his work.

"For ten years, studying, reading, observing, experimenting, he fought his way out of the old standards and conception of painting toward a new vision, a vision not poetical, not sentimental, but honest and sincere… He became interested in the challenge of homely things, in their structure and in their reality, and a new Charles Rosen was born." (Harry Salpeter, “About Charles Rosen: Spurning Easy Success, He Had the Courage to Build Anew on a More Honest Foundation,” Coronet 5.)

Form Radiating Life: The Paintings of Charles Rosen is accompanied by a major publication that provides an in-depth examination of the artist's life and work, examining both phases of his career and featuring paintings from major museum and private collections that demonstrate this unusual range of styles. The lavishly illustrated book, by Michener Art Museum senior curator and principal author Brian H. Peterson represents the oeuvre of an artist possessed not only of prodigious talent and vision but also of tremendous sensitivity and imagination. The publication includes an essay on Rosen’s Woodstock years by Tom Wolf, professor of Art History at Bard College. It is co-published by the Michener Art Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Brian H. Peterson has more than twenty-five years experience as a curator, critic, artist, and arts administrator in the Philadelphia area. He has organized numerous historic and contemporary exhibitions with a wide range of subject matter and genres, and is the editor and principal author of the books Pennsylvania Impressionism and The Cities, the Towns, the Crowds: The Paintings of Robert Spencer, co-published by the Michener Art Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Tom Wolf has written extensively about twentieth-century American art and artists, and the history of the art colonies in Woodstock, New York. He was the curator for Dutch Scripture Paintings; Konrad Cramer; Byrdcliffe: An American Art Colony, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi: Painter/Photographer and is the author of Konrad Cramer: A Retrospective; Woodstock’s Art Heritage; essays in Byrdcliffe: An American Art Colony; Yasuo Kuniyoshi; Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Women; Community of Creativity: A Century of MacDowell Colony Artists; and Carl Eric Lindin, from Sweden to Woodstock. He is the recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, Metropolitan Museum of Art (1992–93); Winterthur Museum and Library Fellowships (2001, 2002); and Freeman Foundation grants for research in Japan (2004, 2005).

The exhibition and lectures are free and open to all.

About the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art
The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art is dedicated to collecting, researching, interpreting, and exhibiting works of art from diverse cultures. The permanent collection spans a period of almost 4,000 years. Areas of specialization include 20th-century paintings and works on paper, Asian and Pre-Columbian art and artifacts, metals and photographs. The SDMA has a special commitment to collecting and exhibiting important works of art created by artists who have lived and worked in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions. The Museum is a major cultural resource in the Hudson Valley serving a broad-based constituency from both on and beyond the New Paltz campus.

Hours and pertinent information
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Saturday & Sunday 1-5 p.m.
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Information: (845) 257-3844

The State University of New York at New Paltz is a highly selective college of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students located in the Mid-Hudson Valley between New York City and Albany. New Paltz is ranked 8th among the best public universities and 44th among public and private universities in the North that offer bachelor's and master's degree programs, according to the U.S. News & World Report's rankings for America's Best Colleges 2007.

Degrees are offered in the liberal arts and sciences, which serve as a core for professional programs in the fine and performing arts, education, healthcare, business and engineering.

If you are a person with a disability who will require special accommodations please contact Amy Pickering at 845.257.3844
no later than one week before the event.