While there are many exhibits at the Georgia Museum of Art that are worthy of your time, a new exhibit provides insight about an artist and a timescape for the first time. The work of lesser known printmaker, F. Townsend Morgan, is on display for the first time since he died in 1965 in an exhibit called "Avocation to Vocation: Prints by F. Townsend Morgan." While the works and the artist are not well-known to even many art historians, experts agree they are of high quality. According to historical researchers, the artist turned a pasttime into a career when he fell on hard times during the Great Depression.
Guest curator and independent scholar Stephen Goldfarb studies prints from the years between World War I and II, which is when Morgan mostly worked. Morgan's prints of sailboats, in particular, caught Goldfarb's eye. They reminded him of James McNeill Whistler's images of similar subjects, rendered with minimal detail that nonetheless captures sky, sea, boat and land. Indeed, Morgan studied with artist Joseph Pennell in Philadelphia, who knew Whistler and served as his first biographer. Although Morgan's work was not well known, its quality was high.
A retired librarian who has served as guest curator of several previous shows at the museum, Goldfarb started researching Morgan's life. He found descendants scattered around the U.S., including one granddaughter who had saved boxes and boxes of Morgan's
papers. Morgan had started off making art as a hobby while working in the family steel business, and when the Great Depression hit and caused that business to go bankrupt, he turned to his pastime to try to make a living, making hundreds of figurative prints.
"Avocation to Vocation: Prints by F. Townsend Morgan" will be on view at the museum from June 17 through Sept. 10. It includes about 30 of Morgan's prints, a watercolor he made while in the U.S. Virgin Islands, several drawings, studies for prints and some ephemera. If anything, the fact that Morgan is almost unknown is the reason to present the exhibition, to correct the art historical record in a small way, said Goldfarb.
Morgan was born in 1883 and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He studied art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and the Art Students League in New York City, learning from artists Arthur Dow, George Bridgman and John F. Carlson. In Philadelphia, he was associated with the Sketch Club, the Print Club and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. When he and his family fell on hard times, he found work with various New Deal art programs, traveling to the Virgin Islands and Florida.
Be sure to check out other coinciding events with this exhibit including: a film series focusing on Key West ("Reap the Wild Wind," "Key Largo" and "Matinee"), starting June 22; 90 Carlton: Summer, the museum's quarterly reception on July 28 at 5:30 p.m.; and public tours on Aug. 23 at 2 p.m. and Sept. 10 at 3 p.m.
Exhibits such as this that highlight lesser known artists provide art enthusiasts with a unique experience. The University of Georgia and the city of Athens is lucky to have such a well-curated and established museum in our campus. Events and exhibits held there all year, but especially during the slower months of the summer, provides an important cultural educational experience for our community and draws visitors to Athens and UGA. For more information, visit: http://georgiamuseum.org/.