Gifts in Kind: The Jo Anne Schneider Collection
Recently, Jo Anne Schneider (1919-2017) made a generous donation through her estate of 66 works of art, of which 40 were by her hand. Schneider worked in a variety of media, including pastel, oil, charcoal, and pencil. She was intrigued with representing objects from daily life: cups and saucers, wine racks, and vegetables such as corn and string beans. Other less expected items included electric cords, corkscrews and the base of a juicer/food processor.
Still life was a popular and prevalent subject in Schneider’s paintings. Cardboard boxes and paper bags, while subjectively simple, enabled a subtle representation and examination of space. Boxes [Box Series 3], 1970, presents two opened boxes offset against a deep and dramatic charcoal background. Their shapes and placement establish space which the neutral background leaves undefined.
Two Bags [Bag Series 3], 1972, aggressively pushes a pair of used paper bags to the very front of the picture plane. Use has weakened the paper causing partial collapse. Aesthetically, the resulting composition offers a different examination of space, one built on conjoined, planar surfaces. These planes are constructed from a soft, elevated frontal light source that colors the scene in pastel shades rose, yellow and gray.
Works by other artists Schneider collected were also donated to the university, among which is a mixed media painting by Milton Avery. This piece, titled Bucolic Landscape, 1956, is a seemingly simple landscape painted from a limited palette. Avery’s artistic career began in the first decade of the 20th-century, at a time when American art was transitioning from representation to an early modern style containing more abstract elements. Born in Altmar, NY in 1895, Avery’s family moved to Wilson Station, CT in 1898. His first jobs were either in the mechanical or construction fields. A lettering course in Hartford encouraged his artistic inclinations and he eventually enrolled in the city’s School of the Art Society. Moving to New York in 1925, he married in 1926 and attended evening classes at the Art Students League. Inclusion in group exhibitions led him to meet other artists like Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb and Barnett Newman, all of whom were leading abstract painters. Avery sympathized with their views but never fully committed to non-representational painting.
Bucolic Landscape joins two other Avery paintings already in the permanent collection, Cloudy Sky, 1926 and Donkey with Cart, 1941, to better explain the artist’s aesthetic development. Cloudy Sky, completed while at the Art Students League, describes his early exploration of form, color and composition through a pastoral landscape offering the slightest hint of the artist’s future style. Oil paint and its application attract immediate attention in this rather small (16 x 20 inches) painting. This early work reveals Avery’s recognition of contemporary aesthetics and an interest in experimenting with media.