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Belle Emerson Keith, Home Views (Expectations), 1892, Gift of Mrs. Edward P. Lathrop

American Masters

The American Masters Collection at Rockford Art Museum represents a blend of styles that were created between 1830 and 1940.  Many of the earliest paintings were produced by artists working the Midwest including George Robertson, the first artist to have permanently settled in Rockford, Elbridge Ayer Burbank, who produced the only known painting of Geronimo from life, and Lorado Taft, founder of the Eagles Nest Colony in Oregon, Illinois.  Since the founding of the Rockford Art Association in 1913, artwork from across the United States found its way into the city and the museum acquired some of its most important pieces of American Impressionism and Taos Society of New Mexico artists during its first two decades. 

Taos Society of New Mexico

The Taos Society of New Mexico was a small commune of artists experimenting with styles ranging from illustration to impressionism.  What tied this band together was a desire to seek a more real subject matter than the rather docile scene of American art of the time.  The American West captured their imaginations.  In 1915, the first few artists settled in New Mexico, drawn to the wild landscape and the diverse Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American cultures there.  Since there were no galleries in Taos, the group used their solidarity to organize shows across the United States, including exhibitions with the Rockford Art Association and the Belle Keith Gallery in Rockford.

Walter Ufer
Walter Ufer was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and educated at the Royal Applied Art Schools and the Royal Academy in Dresden, Germany. He also attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the J. Francis Smith Art School in Chicago. In 1911, he married Mary Fredericksen, a Danish-born artist. The couple spent two years painting in Paris, Italy and North Africa before returning to the United States. After their return, Ufer and his wife were invited to join the Taos Society of Artists. more...

Leon Gaspard
The son of a retired Russian officer and fur trader, Leon Gaspard studied art in Odessa and Moscow before enrolling in the Julian Academy in Paris at age seventeen. Gaspard married American ballet student Evelyn Adell, with whom he traveled widely through Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. Sketches made during his travels were the basis for many of his paintings. The Gaspards settled in Taos, New Mexico, in 1918. The artist loved the indigenous culture that reminded him of his native country. more...

Victor Higgins
Victor Higgins was born into a farming family in Shelbyville, Indiana. At age fifteen he left for Chicago to study at the Art Institute and the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, followed by training in Paris and Munich. Upon Higgins returning to Chicago Higgins accepted a commission to paint the landscape of Taos, New Mexico, which was at the time gaining recognition as a notable artist colony. He was so entranced by the town and its people that he chose to stay and in 1915 was invited to join the exclusive Taos Society of Artists. more...

American Impressionism

Pauline Palmer
Pauline Palmer was born in McHenry, Illinois, in 1867 and attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Palmer also studied in Paris under artists Simon, Collin, and Courtois. In 1891, she married Dr. Albert Palmer of Chicago, who encouraged her development as an artist. more...

Ernest Lawson
Ernest Lawson was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He moved to the United States to attend the Kansas City Art School, then later moved to New York City and studied at the Art Students League. In 1898, Lawson moved to Washington Heights in Manhattan, where he had an unobstructed view of one of his favorite subjects, the Hudson River. The urban environment of early 20th-century New York fascinated Lawson. Many of his pieces focused on the influence of human beings on the landscape, quite often with the suggestion that someone has just left a scene. more...

Walter Elmer Schofield
As a compulsive traveler, Walter Elmer Schofield captured both the American and European landscapes en plain air.  During his active years he would often spend months away from his family-in Europe when living in Pennsylvania and in the United States when living in England.

American Impressionism began in earnest in 1893 with an exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  By this time hundreds of American artists had traveled to France and been exposed to the boldness of the new style of painting. more...

Reginald Marsh
Generations of painters had found a special magic in New York City, and Marsh was on e of the several key painters to record the energy and vitality of the era.  As a member of the 4th Street School, his depictions of the physical and social life of the newly commercialized city widened the range of Realist art initiated by the Ash Can Painters. more...

Local Artists

Rockford Art Museum traces its lineage through the Rockford Art Association, founded in 1913 and even further back to the Rockford Sketch Club, founded in 1880's.  Anna Coy (Rockford Art Association's first president), Katharine Pearman, Belle Emerson Keith, all professional artists, were members of the sketch club who became founding members of Rockford Art Association.

George Robertson
The son of a Presbyterian minister, George J. Robertson was born in 1810 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts in London from 1826 to 1836, exhibiting there regularly alongside John Constable and other important artists of the era before immigrating to the United States in 1842, working in Cleveland and Milwaukee before settling in Rockford by 1857. more...

Belle Emerson Keith
Belle Emerson Keith was the youngest of four daughters born to Adelaide (nee Talcott) and Ralph Emerson, whose families were considered social and cultural leaders of Rockford. She displayed a genuine gift for painting and studied at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and later under American expatriate Impressionist Charles von Marr in Munich, and under Charles Lazar in Paris. She later became an accomplished gardener, forged progress in modern education, and painted. She exhibited regularly with the Rockford Sketch Club, which became the Rockford Art Association (now Rockford Art Museum) more...

Elbridge Ayer Burbank
Born and raised in Harvard, Illinois, Elbridge Ayer Burbank began his studies at the Academy of Design, Chicago (now the Art Institute of Chicago), and finished in Munich and Paris. He returned to Chicago and exhibited at Thurber Galleries and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1897, Edward E. Ayer, an uncle of the artist and first president of the Field Museum, commissioned him to paint portraits of Geronimo and other Native American chiefs at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. more...

Horace Brown
Born in Rockford and a perpetual friend of the Rockford Art Association, Horace Brown became one of the noted impressionist painters of the Vermont countryside. His is father's career with Spalding's took him from Rockford to Chicago, Michigan, Massachusetts and New Jersey.  In  1903, Horace Brown became the owner of North Mowing, a farm in North Springfield Vermont, which had been in the Brown family since the 1700's. more...



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