Got winter blues?
Ready for spring warmth and sunshine?
Well, the next best thing is close at hand.
A visit to the show opening this Saturday at Belmont, American impressionist Gari Melchers Home and Studio in Stafford County, would boost anyone’s spirits.
For starters, the exhibition’s centerpiece—a rare Melchers work titled “The Crimson Rambler”—is a vibrant, winsome delight.
The circa-1915 work is out of the ordinary for the artist, who devoted the majority of his career to figure painting, said Joanna D. Catron, curator at the national historic landmark. It is his only pure garden piece.
A lovely, loosely done work, it evokes the nature and leisure time prized in impressionist art.
“A key goal was to work out of doors,” Catron said Tuesday. “The artists’ work was affected by weather, sky, clouds and constantly changing light, which they tried to capture.”
Melchers found Turner’s Crimson Rambler, a multiflora rose climbing an arbor outside the back door of his home in Holland, to be an irresistible subject, she said. He painted it more than once, working it into several different scenes. All the rest have people in them, including his wife, Corinne, an enthusiastic gardener. “She is an emblem of the era’s cult of female beauty, as decorous as the flowers in her garden,” Catron writes in her exhibition brochure.
One element of “Rambler” moved to Virginia with the couple, the white cherub seen through the arbor. Reproduced by the Garden Club of Virginia, it is a focus of Belmont’s grounds.
Matching “Rambler” with like works by Melchers, the show illuminates America’s Colonial Revival movement, of which Virginia is chock-full of examples.
The movement lauded a simpler, supposedly more virtuous time in American history. It was all-encompassing, influencing art, architecture, furnishings, landscapes, education, travel and more. Full of nostalgia, it fueled an appetite for old gardens, especially English or cottage gardens. The Melchers’ Falmouth estate is such a place, complete with its own ‘Crimson Rambler.’
In April and May talks onsite, Catron and Belmont preservation chief Beate Jensen will trace the Colonial Revival and the garden’s role in impressionism.