Housed in the historic McClellan House on Main Street, Geneseo’s Lockhart Gallery is helping to bring Western New York’s art scene back into the limelight. The gallery is currently housing the exhibit “Rose Shave, the artist from Nunda,” which had its open reception on Feb. 10. Shave was an artist from Western New York who was well known for her oil and watercolor landscapes and still lifes at the start of the 20th century. The works featured in the gallery evoke a sort of coziness through the thick pastels of her idealistic oil landscapes and her light, airy watercolors of flowers, which she was renowned for throughout the country.
The oil landscapes are very seasonal, either featuring an intensely snowy winter, a bright red-yellow autumn or a blossoming spring. Looking at them up close, one is able to see Shave’s slight use of impasto and the subtle scratching of her brushwork—all adding up to a very elegant yet lively piece of work. The oil pieces sometimes feature small human figures, which add to the paintings’ assertion of the beautiful power of the elements.
The watercolor pieces included in the exhibit are breathtaking in their attention to color. “Pink Roses” (1904), “Mums” (1910) and “Grape Still Life” (1911) are all representative of Shave’s national success. In fact, Shave was ranked third in the country in watercolor paintings of flowers in 1895; paintings which she showed in exhibits all across the United States.
Two very unique pieces included in the exhibit are the “Sampler” pieces. “R. Shave Sampler – Lg” (ca. 1900) and R. Shave Sampler – Sm.” (ca. 1900) are essentially a group of small paintings compiled on one sheet of paper. The mini paintings are all framed in different shapes: circles, rectangles and arches. Some of them meander outside of their borders, like in “R. Shave Sampler –Sm,” which includes a circular work whose tree branches venture out onto the page.
All of the works are a part of the Nunda Historical Society’s Rose M. Shave Collection, an organization that played a large role in conserving and framing 41 Shave paintings over the years. The Society is very proud of its collection, with Shave being a native of the town of Nunda, which lies southwest of Geneseo. Shave chose to live and work there for most of her life. Thus, the subjects of Shave’s paintings are all original compositions of the New York landscape—from Nunda to Long Island.
At the gallery’s opening, Nunda Historical Society representative Joan Schumaker gave a talk on the life and work of Shave. The accompanying presentation showed more of Shave’s works, including her paintings on ceramics. Schumaker explained to the audience that almost all of the information that the society learns about Shave is uncovered in old newspaper articles and ads.
From these artifacts, the Society learned that Shave taught art classes out of her own home in Nunda. She graduated and later taught at the U.S.’s very first women’s college: Ingham University. This lack of concrete information, however, means that the organization can only make educated guesses about Shave’s relationship with her sister Belle—who lived with Rose until she died in Nunda and was also an artist.
Despite questions that art lovers may still have about Shave’s personal life, here in Geneseo we have the great opportunity to experience and to appreciate the legacy of one of Western New York’s most talented artists.