Jewel City at De Young Museum

Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition at the De Young Museum closes January 10th!  This historical exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the World’s Fair in San Francisco by displaying key artworks included in its international exposition a hundred years ago.  “International” refers to American and European art only, in this case.  The exhibit explores the pivotal era between late 19th century impressionism and the early stages of modernism, as seen through a more conservative American bias at the time.  Impressionism clearly flourished, having reached a state of mastery in surprisingly diverse styles.  Sheer skies, glinting flower fields, and porcelain nudes populate scenes of natural beauty and repose.

But the paint strokes were getting broader and more unkempt by 1915 and European radicalism was beginning to interrupt the quiet delicacy of the previous era.  The exhibit encompasses this tension.  A wall of more modernist American works, slandered at the time because of their unconventional styles, appear unremarkable to our eye today.  But the final room of Italian Futurists shows just how far ahead the Europeans were conceptually.  Their more angst-filled fare expressed movement, time, fragmentation and abstraction in new ways that rocked the art world of 1915.

Spehrical Expansion of Light, Centripetal by Gino Sverini.jpg

Gino Severini, ‘Spherical Expansion of Light, Centripetal,’ 1913–1914.

Above:  Nikolay Fechin, ‘Lady in Pink (Portrait of Natalia Podbelskaya), 1912