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E. Ambrose WebsterAmerican Modern Painting by E. Ambrose Webster, Rock in the Sea, 1913
This painting of the coasts of the Azores islands by Portugal is a superb example of Webster’s mature modern work where the influence of European Fauvism comes to the fore with its large-scale, forcefully painted and vibrantly colored canvas, and a powerful sense of light. Webster has painted the sea's churning waters a vibrant shade of blue / green with the rocks themselves appearing pink and orange in the bright sun, dappled with deep purple shadows. Webster’s dynamic career spanned forty years and found him consistently in the middle of the Modernist movement. He traveled and exhibited widely, knew important artists worldwide, was acclaimed by his peers and created some of the finest and most adventurous paintings of his time. Webster was a consummate American Modernist painter. If ever an American painter reveled in light and color it was E. Ambrose Webster. He was among our first and most forceful modern painters. After initial studies under Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson in Boston, he spent nearly three years in Europe absorbing the latest developments in the Post-Impressionist art world. By 1900 he returned to the United States and, having developed his own original idiom, became a prominent member of the progressive art community. From his earliest days in Paris he admired the works of and perhaps knew Aman-Jean, Aubrey Beardsley and Renoir. Webster maintained connections in an international community of artists that included Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger and Henri Matisse. Over the years he traveled widely in France, Spain, Italy, North Africa, the Azore Islands, Jamaica and Bermuda, seeking the sunlight heightened color which inspired him. In 1906, while painting in the Caribbean, he exhibited a work which secured the Musgrave Silver Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. At home in Provincetown he was closely associated with Charles Hawthorne, Charles Demuth and Edward Hopper. By 1913 Webster was exhibiting in Boston and Cleveland with Charles Hovey Pepper, Carl G. Cutler and Maurice Prendergast and received superb reviews from the Boston critics. Several of the works were Jamaican scenes of native huts with superb use of color and light. Gail Scott writes about Webster’s first 1913 group show at Brooks Reed Gallery, “… color vibrates between pure viridian green and chrome yellow in the vegetation, bright lemon yellow highlights, and deep purple shadows. These dazzling canvases caught the attention of two anonymous but discerning critics. Webster’s masterworks are in such public collections as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Greenville County Museum of Art, South Carolina. In the last decade, his work has figured prominently in publications and exhibitions at Babcock Galleries: E. Ambrose Webster: A Retrospective of Painting, The armory show years of e. ambrose webster and E. Ambrose Webster – Chasing the Sun, in the High Art Museum’s The advent of modernism, 1987 and in William Gerdts’ 1997 landmark work The Color of Modernism: The American Fauves.
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