Two 'masters of technique'

10/21/2010 12:00 AM

10/21/2010 3:18 PM

Two new but very different exhibitions at the Wichita Art Museum will appeal to anyone who appreciates rich, vibrant colors and a wide array of subject matter.

"Bernard Chaet: Paintings from the 1960s through the Present" is on view now, and "British Watercolors" will open this weekend.

Chaet, a prolific artist who spent most of his career teaching at Yale rather than promoting his own work, was heavily influenced by Karl Zerbe, under whom he studied at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, said Stephen Gleissner, Wichita Art Museum chief curator.

"When looking at both of their works you can really see Zerbe's influence in Chaet's work with his expressive use of color and painting method," Gleissner said. "They were both such masters of technique."

Chaet's earliest works were also influenced by Matisse and Cezanne, as seen in his bold use of color and the gestural style with which he applied his paint.

By 1970, however, Chaet had developed his own distinctive style, evident in his works on display now, Gleissner said. Chaet's subjects range from a series of stunning self portraits in which he takes on different guises, to still-lifes of kitchen tables, rocky seascapes, and fruit and vegetables.

"His works have such a vibrant energy and he uses his colors in such an expressive way," Gleissner said.

Chaet, now 86, still paints prolifically in Cape Ann, Mass., focusing primarily on the sea and rugged landscapes that surround him.

"British Watercolors" is an exhibit that features 74 works from the museum's collection, including gifts made by Virginia and George Ablah and Friends of the Wichita Art Museum. They epitomize the Romantic Movement that swept through Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Similar to the works of the Hudson Valley River painters in the United States being made at the same time, the watercolors seem to glow from within. They range from majestic coastlines to enchanted forests, from grand cathedrals to scenes from classic literature.

Particularly strong in the collection are some of the watercolors of European architecture, Gleissner said.

"The way in which these artists captured the architectural quality of Europe is breathtaking," he said. "They have such a strong and beautiful light quality."

If you go

Wichita Art Museum

What: Two new exhibits: "Bernard Chaet: Paintings from the 1960s through the Present" and "British Watercolors."

Where: Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.

When: Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.

How much: Admission $7; free on Saturdays.

For more information, call 316-268-4921 or go to www.wichitaartmuseum.org.

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