21 January 2022

The Ritz Herald: Beyond Architecture – How McKim, Mead, And White Changed American Art

British landscape painter Oliver Maughan explores the influence of the American architecture firm McKim, Mead, and White, noting the impact it had both on his artistic journey and American art as a whole.

Ihave found that painting and architecture are interconnected. Practitioners develop a body of work, belong to movements, and hope to leave an impression on the culture of the day. Both artists and painters are individuals creatively expressing themselves through visual elements. Wanting to interact with their audience, these creatives aim to engage the viewer’s senses, forming a connection between the two. Architecture has an obvious social role, but it has an aesthetic role too, and the best architects strive for beauty as well as usefulness in their buildings.

During my time in New Hampshire, I would often travel to the historic city of Boston. Like any art student, I was drawn to the city’s vast number of museums and exhibits. From the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which homes my favorite collection of ‘Boston school’ painters, to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which has an extensive collection of arts and antiquities despite its famed heist, Boston has some of the world’s best museums.

While the contents of these exhibits are what initially drew me as an artist, the impressive architecture of these museums has stayed with me too. Particularly, the Boston Public Library, a museum in its own right, made a lasting impression on me.

Constructed between 1888 and 1895, the Boston Public Library is a highlight in the historic canvas of Boston. It was designed by the well-known American architecture firm McKim, Mead & White. Along with the Boston Public Library, their famous works include the Brooklyn Museum, Columbia University, Pennsylvania Station, and the renovated east and west wings of the White House. Leaving a significant stamp on American architecture in the late 19th-century, these classicist architects paved the way for other Renaissance Revival and Classical architects.

They also greatly influenced my journey as an artist.

The first time I visited the Boston Public Library I was struck by the intricate murals found within. Great American artists such as John Singer Sargent and Edwin Austen Abby, along with the French muralist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, had elegantly transformed the walls within the library with their adorning murals. Combining the power of art and architecture, this space illustrates the connection between the two.

As I stood looking at these masterpieces, I was struck by the influence these architects had on these paintings. Without the unique architecture, the base of these paintings would be completely different, altering the way these creatives would paint the space and further the way the audience would interact with it. Additionally, without this building and the many other buildings designed in the style of McKim, Mead & White, there would be nowhere to home or view these priceless pieces of art.

Since visiting the Boston Public Library, I became fascinated by the idea of incorporating painting into architecture and interiors. I had the good fortune to work on some mural projects while studying in New Hampshire under Paul Ingbretson, who was a student of R.H. Ives Gammell, a well-known American muralist connected to the ‘Boston school’ movement.

As I honed my skills in this new form of painting, which differed from my preferred landscape paintings, I understood what architects such as Charles Follen McKin, William Rutherford Mead, and Stanford White were trying to bring to the towns and cities of America. Through their works, they created a space for their communities to gather in, sharing companionship. Further, whether it was with their buildings, or the individuals congregated within them, these architects wanted to create relationships.

I aim to bring the same sense of connection to my painting. Whether my landscapes and the architecture in them remind someone of their home, their annual summer vacation spot, or a happy memory, I want my audience to have an immediate reaction and relationship with my art. After all, that is the ultimate goal for creatives.

Read the article here: https://ritzherald.com/beyond-architecture-how-mckim-mead-and-white-changed-american-art/

© Oliver Maughan. All Right Reserved. Copyright notice.
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