Lockhart Gallery opened its doors for its latest exhibition and opening titled “1888 in America: William Trost Richards’ Seascapes Contextualized” on Oct. 24. The gallery featured the works of the late Richards, whose pieces revolved around the peak of America’s Gilded Age. Most of the works were seascapes, but there were also works of American landscapes, birds and some portraits. Institutions such as The New York State Museum, The Adirondack Museum, the Leroy Historical Society and Geneseo’s own Livingston Historical Society loaned the works specifically for this exhibition. The 19th century works were composed of mainly oil paint and most were displayed in original frames which were pieces of art themselves, elaborately decorated with gold and large in size.
The majestic landscapes were reminiscent of the work of American Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole, while the seascapes themselves evoked another Hudson River School artist, Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 “Niagara Falls.” Similar to the Hudson River School movement, “1888 in America” embraces the overwhelming presence and wonder of nature coinciding with Westward expansion in the United States, except it focuses on the continental sea-to-sea aspect of this period in history.
Richards’ oil painting “Seascape 1888” was the focal point of the exhibition, reinforcing the ominous and mysterious quality of the sea. Richards paints a vast seascape washing against a sandy shore. The sky and the sea touch at a moment in which the sun appears to be rising, most likely symbolizing the hope Americans felt while expanding west.
The gallery space itself was set up differently this time. Rows of chairs were lined up for guests to sit and listen to the special performance of the Geneseo String Band, along with soprano senior Jane Coons and lecturer of music Jim Kimball playing the reed organ.
Kimball introduced the meaning behind the songs, which were meant to mimic the theme of the show: the great wonder of the sea. He explained that the selected compositions “Songs of the Sea” were written in the 1840s and taken from a book titled Songs that Never Die. Coon’s voice took the audience back in time, especially with her final piece “Sailing, Sailing,” which had the entire audience cheerily smiling, swaying and singing along.
The turnout was a satisfying mix of students, faculty and community members. Also in attendance was Interim President Carol Long, who was enthusiastically nodding along to the musical performance all while showing her support for the arts.
“1888 in America: William Trost Richards’ Seascapes Contextualized” is concurrent with Susan Leshnoff’s “SkyVisions” at the Bertha V.B Lederer Gallery and the Gallery B2: “Anna Richards Brewster: The Painter’s Daughter.” The exhibition will remain on view until Dec. 6.