The Church
by Arthur B. Carles
30.8-Carles_TheChurch-MMA-ART446657
Arthur B. Carles (American, 1882-1952), The Church, ca. 1910. Oil on canvas, 31 x 39 in. (78.7 x 99.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1962 (62.203)

The Church
Carles painted The Church during one of his several visits the American artist made between 1907 and 1910 to the small village of Voulangis, situated on the Seine about 25 miles east of Paris. He painted the simple Romanesque church at the heart of the village from the high vantage point of his window at the inn where he lodged. 1 The influence of both Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne is clear in the color and composition. Carles painted in the Post-Impressionist style, using pure blocks of color and lush impasto strokes. He captured yellow, mauve, and blue in the dull gray walls of the church, and the palette he used for the garden in the lower half of the composition recalls that of Paul Gauguin.

To the Armory Show
Carles was invited to exhibit two oils at the Armory Show in New York—the other is not identified. He also exhibited an unidentified interior scene in the show’s Chicago venue. The works do not seem to have been for sale, as no prices appear in the organizers’ records. Nor do they seem to have captured the critics’ attention, for they don’t appear in any of the reviews.

A spokesman for modern art
After the Armory Show, Carles became recognized as a spokesman for modern art in the United States. In an interview with a writer for the Philadelphia Press published in July 1913 he set out his theories and beliefs, rejecting imitation as the aim of painting and asserting that art should be experienced as “an affair of the emotions.” 2 As long as people were looking to art for verisimilitude, he argued, they would never understand the expressive qualities of Pablo Picasso’s cubist works, for instance, or the emotional force of Matisse’s paintings of dancers, which to him were undeniable. Carles continued to advocate for modern art, bringing French and American modernism to young artists and the public through a series of important loan exhibitions he organized in the 1920s at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where his enthusiasm for French art helped make him one of the most popular teachers in the school. 3

[1] Barbara Ann Boese Wolanin, The Orchestration of Color: The Paintings of Arthur B. Carles (New York: Hollis Taggart Galleries, 2000), 37.

[2] “‘True Art Emotional,’ Carles Says,” Philadelphia Press, July 21, 1913, 7.

[3] Carles taught at the Pennsylvania Academy through 1925. Wolanin, 48-50

Arthur B. Carles (1882-1952)

Arthur B. Carles was born in Philadelphia and studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts between 1900 and 1907. He worked under William Merritt Chase, Cecilia Beaux, and Thomas Anschutz. He was an accomplished pupil: in his final year he won both the prize for best figure composition and a coveted two-year scholarship for travel abroad. From 1907 to 1910 he was in Paris, where he became close to the artists John Marin and Edward Steichen and befriended the influential patrons Gertrude and Leo Stein. It was probably through the Steins that he met Henri Matisse, who critiqued his work and profoundly influenced Carles’s use of color. Scholars have written that Carles was among the group of American painters who studied at the school Matisse ran in Paris from 1907 to 1911, but there is no evidence that he attended any of those classes. [1]

After the Armory Show, Carles became recognized as a spokesman for modern art in the United States. In 1917 he returned to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as a teacher, bringing French and American modernism to young artists and the public through a series of important loan exhibitions he organized there in the 1920s. [2] His later years were marked by bouts of alcohol abuse and in December 1941 he suffered a stroke that left him an invalid until his death in 1952.

[1] Barbara Ann Boese Wolanin, The Orchestration of Color: The Paintings of Arthur B. Carles, exh. cat. (New York: Hollis Taggart Galleries, 2000), 34.

[2] Carles taught at the Pennsylvania Academy through 1925. Wolanin, 48-50.

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