'An American Impressionist' In Fairfield

'Gari Melchers: An American Impressionist At Home And Abroad' In Fairfield

In its history, Connecticut has seen more than its fair share of fine impressionist painters. Gari Melchers was not one of them. He was based in the Netherlands and Virginia. It's understandable that Connecticut residents may not be as familiar with Melchers' work than work by artists based at the Lyme, Greenwich or Kent colonies, which fill galleries in this state on a regular basis.

This makes the new 23-piece exhibit at Bellarmine Museum of Art on the Fairfield University campus a delightful discovery. Carey Mack Weber, registrar and collection manager at the university, says this is the first one-man show of Melchers' work in New England in 25 years.

Julius Garibaldi "Gari" Melchers (1860-1932) is notable for the wide variety in his media — gouache, watercolors, oils, drawings — and styles. His influences are varied: Monet's haystacks, Cassatt's images of mothers with children, Millet's images of the outdoor working classes, Homer's nautical scenes.

A particularly striking example is his "Homeward," a watercolor of a Dutch girl on a beach, her back to the artist, heading home with a clamdigging rake over her shoulder and a wicker basket strapped to her back. "Julia & Ivan," a pastel on paper, is a sweet scene of a woman breastfeeding her infant son. "The Landing, Bermuda" is a sunny, cheerful gouache of a Caribbean harbor. Two oil portraits hung side-by-side, "A Girls's Head," of a young blonde woman, and "Uncle Jim," of a middle-aged black man, show Melchers' dexterity with a variety of palettes, in both skin tone and background. "Kneeling Monk in a Church" is a surprise, not resembling anything else in the exhibit in either style or subject.

The show will be up until May 22. The opening reception, postponed by weather, has been rescheduled to Monday, March 23, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a lecture by Joanna Catron of The Belmont, the Melchers estate and gallery in Fredericksburg, Va.

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