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Purchase made possible by Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has acquired Tanis, one of the best-known paintings by Daniel Garber (American, 1880-1958), a leading Pennsylvania Impressionist and one of the most significant artists working in Philadelphia in the first several decades of the 20th century. This extraordinary work depicts the artist’s eight-year-old daughter standing in the doorway of Garber’s studio at his farm in Cuttalossa Glen near New Hope in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Painted in 1915, it was awarded a prize when first exhibited that year at the National Academy of Design in New York.
Tanis was purchased from the Westervelt Company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, through the generosity of Marguerite and H. F. (Gerry) Lenfest, Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It has been placed on public view at the Museum in gallery 119 as the centerpiece of a new installation dedicated to Garber, his fellow artists of the New Hope School, and members of the Ashcan School, many of whom were, like Garber, students or faculty at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
“We are deeply indebted to Marguerite and Gerry whose generosity made this exceptional acquisition possible,” said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO. “Garber, as a leader of the New Hope School, helped establish the national reputation of the Pennsylvania Impressionists, and we are delighted to be able to represent him at his best in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In recognition of the importance of Bucks County to the artist and of the significance of the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown as another major repository of works by Garber and his circle, we are also pleased to announce that our Museum will be lending the painting periodically to the Michener in accordance with the Lenfests’ wishes.” Tanis will travel to the Michener Art Museum in the fall of 2011 where it will be placed on view as part of the upcoming exhibition The Painterly Voice: Bucks County’s Fertile Ground, on view from October 2011 through March 2012.
The distinctive pictorial style that Garber developed at this time—based on intense study of nature and the human form, transformed by the iridescent color and light of Impressionism—reflects histraining under Thomas Anshutz (American, 1851-1913) at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Tanis is among the finest of Garber’s works. Slowly composed over several months in the summer of 1915, its surface is animated by the signature broken stroke that Garber’s contemporaries likened to tapestry. A study in contrast between the shadowed foreground and brilliantly lit garden beyond the door in which Tanis stands, this work is also a bouquet to the artist’s beautiful young daughter. A contemporary critic referred to the painting as “a tour de force splendidly handled,” referring particularly to the handling of the strong back-lighting that illuminates the figure of the girl and glimmers through her translucent smock. The most beautiful and luminous of his figure paintings, Tanis has remained an icon of Garber’s artistic achievement.
“Tanis is the most brilliant of Garber’s figure paintings in terms of color and light, and it epitomizes the joy and serenity in his work, which always sought the beauty in everyday life,” said Kathleen Foster, The Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Senior Curator of American Art, and Director, Center for American Art. She noted that Lance Humphries, the author of the catalogue raisonné of Garber’s work, describes Tanis as ”perhaps the earliest in-depth exploration of the passage of light” in Garber’s painting, reflecting “the artist’s desire to capture the child for eternity in a frieze-like golden summer.”
Born in Indiana and trained first in Cincinnati and then in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), Garber was for more than 40 years a mainstay of the PAFA faculty and a leader of the colony of artists working around New Hope, Pennsylvania. He studied abroad for two years, during which time he began to paint small, plein-air landscapes. Upon return to Pennsylvania in 1907, Garber and his wife, artist Mary Franklin Garber, moved to Cuttalossa Farm in Bucks County. Both Mary Garber and daughter Tanis appear in many of Garber’s figure paintings, including The Orchard Window (1918) and Morning Light, Interior (1923), also in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1909, Garber was invited to join the faculty at PAFA, where he remained until 1950.