The impressionists were enamored with the effects of light, viewing it scientifically and yet interpreting it through the caprices of their own imaginations. While impressionism was one of the last major movements to precede modernism, many painters at the turn of the century continued to employ impressionistic techniques while playing with abstraction. A hint of this is present in Adam Emory Albright"s painting "Agate Beach, Oregon Coast," on view now as part of the exhibition Adam"s Children: The Paintings of Adam Emory Albright at the Indiana State Museum. The figures, depicted from afar in a cove beneath a purplish cliff, are mere brushstrokes, wisps of paint.
"Home from the Harvest," by Emory Albright, part of the current exhibit at the Indiana State Museum
This painting, completed in 1947 and thus one of the artist"s late-career works, clearly was not indicative of the more pronounced abstract direction many other artists pursued at this time, yet abstraction is acknowledged. This painting is perhaps the most uncharacteristic for the artist, at least in the collection displayed here: more than 35 of Albright"s paintings of what could be described as idealized country life. They reveal what most would prefer to recall about life during the first 30 or 40 years of the last century. Paintings such as "On a Riverbank," which depicts a young boy and girl traversing the water"s edge - calling to mind Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn - have an impressionistic sweetness, and are clearly more typical of the artist"s expressions. Such is the role of some artists; they call our attention to a more peaceful vision of the best life has to offer, even while wars rage overseas and child labor persists. Albright grew up under conditions of hardship, on farms in Wisconsin and Iowa where he was number 11 out of 12 children. Living on a farm, manual labor was the norm, and Albright"s decision to pursue a career as a visual artist was a reaction to this. Albright"s children were often the subjects of his rural scenes. In "Edge of the Desert," painted in 1923, the children ponder a distant sunset, indicated only by the red glow reflected on their young faces. This brilliant red is the visual focus of the painting: All around are more muted, pastel tones. The eye is drawn to the bright flash of color, the promise of distant beauty. Albright brought his youthful subjects with him, traveling with his family in order to paint them in rural settings from California to South America. He also visited Indiana and painted here; and therein lies the connection that makes this exhibition legitimate for the Indiana State Museum. Adam"s Children: The Paintings of Adam Emory Albright is on view through Jan. 8 at the Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St.; call 232-1637 or visit www.indianamuseum.org.