An important subculture is still active today, and thriving, thanks to the community of artists and patrons connected to the Grenning Gallery, which is currently hosting the exhibition “Painting Locally.”
From the gallery:
There is something special about the way natural light shines on the East End of Long Island, and this has attracted artists and writers for hundreds of years. Vast, glistening bodies of water surround flat, pastoral lands, just 100 miles east from bustling New York City. Walt Whitman, William Merritt Chase, and Childe Hassam are just a few big names who’ve found inspiration on the “East End.” They each translated the natural landscape into their art through realism or impressionism.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Childe Hassam and William Merritt Chase painted on the East End during the summers, with friends and students in tow, creating some of the most memorable American impressionist paintings in East Hampton and Southampton, respectively. On the North Fork, the Prellwitz studio was the center of the Peconic Art Colony. Notable American painters Irving Wiles and Henry C. White painted there and on Shelter Island during the early 20th century, and they passed the tradition on to Nelson C. White, and then to the youngest in their family line . . . our own Nelson H. White.
The latter N. H. White invited the world-famous portrait painter Pietro Annigoni to paint locally in the 1970s. An Italian realist, Annigoni was well known for his portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth in the 1950s and John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The point here is that the East End of Long Island has a long history of attracting some of the world’s finest painters — and the Grenning Gallery is doing its part to contribute to this tradition.
Nelson H. White (b. 1932) has been showing with the Grenning Gallery since its inception in 1997. As the grandson of Henry C. White, who bought 50 waterfront acres on Shelter Island in 1908, not a summer has passed without a fresh series of plein air paintings from White’s painting box. H. C. White was a prominent member of the Old Lyme Art Colony in Connecticut, painting alongside all of the now famous Connecticut impressionists. Mashomack Preserve, Dering Harbor, and Sunset Beach on Shelter Island are just a few subjects N. H. White paints every year.
Sag Harbor’s own Cappy Amundsen (1911–2001) painted his heart out, while fishing and sailing and living a familiar Sag Harbor life. Classically trained in NYC in the 1920s, Amundsen founded the Washington Square Outdoor Art Show with his friends Jackson Pollack and Willem De Kooning in 1932 in NYC. He gave up his idea of having a career in painting, and became a commercial fisherman sailing up and down the New England coast for decades, until he settled in Sag Harbor permanently in 1948. As a reluctant East End artist, selling paintings for money to live, Amundsen befriended some of the most interesting artists and writers of his time, and contributed to Sag Harbor’s community life. We have two fine examples of his work in this show.
In the spirit of classically trained mid-20th-century painters, we will also be showing two watercolors by John Whorf (1903–1959), who may have even known Cappy Amundsen, since they would have been travelling and painting the same subjects in the very same ports in New England. As one of the most respected watercolorists, and collected by John Singer Sargent, Whorf’s work is mesmerizing.
Ben Fenske (b. 1978) spends summers in Sag Harbor creating visionary works of art, not only lauded by clients but collected by many other living painters. Fenske is a painter’s painter because within each landscape or seascape we see his one major focus: Fenske’s fascination with natural light effects. In each painting, his brushwork chases the light as it changes with elements and bounces off and around his subjects. Fenske’s rigorous attention to his process results in vibrant paintings that exude spirit. Frequently, Fenske is drawn to secluded, undisturbed, peaceful beaches like Cedar Point, or his oft-painted “Secret Beach” on North Haven.
In 2016, Ben Fenske invited painters from Russia to paint the East End alongside himself and a few select American plein-air painters, forming the Russian American Painting Alliance. From this alliance, we acquired new artists: from Russia, Viktor Butko and Irina Rybakova, as well as Americans Kelly Carmody and Tim McGuire. We discovered that these artists, despite growing up in completely separate Cold War–era cultures, have almost the exact same painting ideology. Sharing a passion for painting, friendships formed, and two painters even fell in love. Soon after meeting, they became painting partners. Travelling together, and even painting the same locations, like these Cliffs of Montauk from 2017, their connection deepened. Viktor Butko married Kelly Carmody in 2018 after meeting on the first Russian American Painting Alliance trip.
Marc Dalessio (b. 1972) is one of the most globally respected plein-air painters of our time. Having representation in reputable galleries internationally, and a formidable online following, Dalessio travels the world painting out of doors in country, city, and village settings. Not only do collectors seek out Dalessio’s familiar landscapes, but artists look to Dalessio for advice and tips with their own painting techniques, evidenced by his over 40,000 active followers on Instagram. Last summer, Dalessio spent time on the East End, painting Ditch Plains in Montauk, Indian Wells in Amagansett, as well as Main Street scenes in our idyllic village.
Venezuelan Angel Ramiro Sanchez (b. 1974) has been with the Grenning Gallery since its inception and was the first artist invited to summer on the East End in 1998. He was originally hired to paint Laura Grenning’s wedding portrait. Who knew that would lead to a whole culture of patrons housing Grenning Gallery artists?! He has a keen eye for catching the romantic atmosphere that all summertime visitors bathe in year after year. Last summer, in 2018, Ramiro created a picturesque and truthful depiction of one of Sag Harbor’s most popular family beaches, Long Beach.
“Painting Locally” is on view at Grenning Gallery (NY) through March 10, 2019.