SJC Long Island’s Council for the Arts (CFA) hosted a virtual tour of Planting Fields in Oyster Bay Monday, Sept. 27, during Common Hour, highlighting the special exhibition of American artist Everett Shinn.
The exhibition, titled “Operatics: Everett Shinn,” features paintings, drawings and decorative murals, including furnishings, objects and musical instruments painted by Shinn.
“Shinn developed this really unique way of working with pastels,” said Meredith Brown, director of museum affairs and chief curator at Planting Fields, as well as the guide for Monday’s tour.
“He wet the paper, and then he’d draw on the wet paper with pastel, which made the color kind of muddied and disappear,” Brown continued. “And when it dried, it came back these very vibrant pinks and blues and yellows, but without that chalkiness that pastel is known for.”
Exploring Shinn’s Artwork
The exhibit is housed inside of Coe Hall, a mansion created for William Robertson (W.R.) Coe and his wife Mai beginning in 1913. The Coes commissioned and collected art by Shinn, which remains prominently displayed throughout the estate today.
“Shinn was engaged in this art movement called Rococo Revival,” Brown said. “That Rococo Revival was very popular among American elites in the early 20th century, so think about ‘The Great Gatsby’ or those kinds of wealthy Americans. W.R. and Mai Coe were two such people, so most of the works in this exhibition were acquired by the Coes.”
Very involved in the theater, Shinn acted and started his own theatrical troop, which influenced his work. Broadway’s Belasco Theater in Manhattan features murals created by Shinn, commissioned by the theater creator David Belasco in the early 1900s.
“This kind of decorative, theatrical aesthetic really evolved in his work,” Brown explained. “He’s got these dramatic curtains — it’s as if every little panel is a stage set. It’s as if there’s a story going on, though who’s to say what story is being told.”
The tour also took viewers outside through the Italian garden and to the tea house, which was designed in part by Shinn.