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Bruce Museum Paints Picture Of Pioneering Impressionist From Connecticut

Bruce Museum Executive Director Peter C. Sutton gives a tour of the works of American artist Charles Harold Davis. The exhibit is open to the public beginning Saturday and continues until Jan. 3. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
"Change of Wind" by Charles Harold Davis. Photo Credit: Allen Phillips/Wadsworth Atheneum
Clouds After Storm
Charles Harold Davis .Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College Photo Credit: Submitted

GREENWICH, Conn. -- The Bruce Museum in Greenwich is holding an exhibition of paintings by an acclaimed American artist who was compared to the cultural giants of his time but who has receded into the background in the eight decades since his death.

"Charles Harold Davis (1856-1933): Mystic Impressionist" opens to the public Saturday and runs until Jan. 3.

During a tour of the exhibit Friday, the museum’s executive director, Peter C. Sutton, said Davis was a well-known painter who founded the Mystic Art Colony in his hometown, yet few know of him today.

“He’s a remarkable figure because he has been virtually forgotten, although he was in his day as renowned as many of the leading Impressionists of the last decade of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century,” Sutton said. “It is remarkable that he has been rather eclipsed.”

Born in Massachusetts, Davis moved to France in 1880 and fell under the influence of the Barbizon school of Realist French painters who focused on nature. After achieving acclaim in France, he returned to America in 1891 with his French wife and settled in Mystic, where he drew upon its rugged landscape for his work.

Davis became well known for his “cloudscapes” and paintings of soaring skies so much so that he was also asked to create that theme, Sutton said.

“Clouds became a burden for him. He was expected to do that,” Sutton said.

At his death, Davis was compared to cultural giants of the late 19th century, such as Leo Tolstoy and French painter Jean-François Millet.

“These were very large compliments indeed and yet very soon after he was forgotten,” Sutton said of Davis. “He has not had the attention he deserves.”

Sutton said he “stumbled on his virtues” when Davis was included in the museum’s “From Pasture To Pond” exhibit of Connecticut Impressionists last year. He then decided Davis deserved his own exhibit.

Very early in its existence, the Bruce Museum recognized Davis's talent and featured him in a 1912 show. In 1919, it purchased, “The Cow Pasture,” from him and it is one of the seminal works in the museum’s collection.

The exhibit is curated by guest curator Valerie Ann Leeds with the assistance of Tara Contractor, the museum’s 2014-2015 Samuel H. Kress Interpretive Fellow.

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