An Ohio Impressionist Rises
When the Toledo Tile Club offered a solo exhibition
of Van Gorder’s work in 1903, the event served as a homecoming
for a man who had risen from the antebellum plains of Warren,
Ohio to become an artist of international reputation. His career
as a professional painter had begun in 1886, when Van Gorder
left his position with Toledo's The Blade, to study
under William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) at the Art Students’ League
in New York.
Chase’s mentorship propelled Van Gorder into a world of light and color bending across sweeping landscapes. Jennifer Krieger writes: “It was through Chase’s prototypes that Van Gorder absorbed the Impressionist facture with its bright and fresh plein-air effects, vigorous brushwork and spontaneous application of pigment. One critic noted Van Gorder’s penchant for airy landscapes of sun-drenched color when he wrote, ‘as a colorist, one will not deny him a full need of praise’” (The Lost Works of Luther Emerson Van Gorder, exhibition catalogue, 2001).
Van Gorder’s sophistication as a “colorist” is evident in such works as Through the Fields (pictured above), Haystacks at Dusk, Lilypads, and others offered in our collection. In 1894, Van Gorder sailed the Impressionist seaway to Paris, where, attached to Charles-Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran (1838-1917), his work rose in reputation to garner favorable comparisons to Edgar Degas (1834-1917).
Van Gorder returned to New York in 1896 and eventually to Ohio by 1903. Despite a strong regional reputation, perhaps Van Gorder’s relocation to the Midwest at the height of his powers derailed his ascent as a preeminent American Impressionist. We present, then, an opportunity. The scholarly community is beginning to remember Van Gorder. His reputation, once again, is rising.