Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason

November 18, 2020  16:08  |  News

Named for one of the artist’s favourite Emily Dickinson poems, the new Bruce Museum exhibition “She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms”: Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason showcases the vibrant work of Emily Mason (1932-2019). Characterized by brilliant hues laid down in thin layers of varying transparency, often superimposed in surprising colour combinations, Mason’s art is the result of a rare alliance between spontaneity and premeditation.

Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason

Emily Mason (American, 1932-2019). Ask the East, 1968. Oil on paper.
© 2020 Emily Mason Studio

On view in the Bruce Museum’s main art gallery from November 22, 2020 through March 21, 2021, this new exhibition showcases Mason’s earliest experiments in oil on paper and in printmaking from two decades of intense innovation in her career: paintings from 1958 to 1968 and prints from 1985 to 1996.

While Mason was born and brought up in New York, her broad and deep artistic roots connected her to the Connecticut art world. Her ancestors included painters Anne Train Trumbull (1865–1930) and Margaret Trumbull Jennings (1896–1983) as well as the artist-patriarch of the family, early American history painter John Trumbull (1756–1843), all of whom hailed from Connecticut. Through her mother, the pioneering painter of geometric abstraction Alice Trumbull Mason (1904-1971), Mason was connected to the world of New York’s working artists and witnessed the flourishing of Abstract Expressionism.

Reflecting her exposure to innumerable artistic influences, Mason’s work is often described as lying at the intersection of Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting. During the decade that is one focus of this exhibition, 1958 to 1968, she moved beyond Abstract Expressionism, forging a style of gestural abstraction grounded in pure colour, creating a highly personal style that depends on complex effects of transparency and opacity, of layering, dripping, and bleeding oil paints on paper, to produce dynamic contrasts or colour and texture. She explored ways to manipulate oil paint in order to produce these various effects and gain mastery of her medium.

“Emily Mason’s greatest achievement is to have translated the language of Abstract Expressionism, which was always one of gesture and movement, into an abstraction of pure colour composed in delicate veils and washes,” says Robert Wolterstorff, The Susan E. Lynch Executive Director and one of the organizers of the exhibition.


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