24 January 2014

Jane Berry Judson Of Castile

Jane Berry Judson - A Bit Of The Forest At Fontainebleau,  c. 1910, private collection, U.S.

The resemblance between A Bit Of The Forest At Fontainebleau  and Edward Steichen's Pond – Moonrise may be coincidental but I doubt it.  Steichen's 1904 vision of Mamaroneck was, as a matter of fact,  a summer resort for vacationing New Yorkers.  The Forest of Fontainebleau, located southeast of Paris, was a nature preserve rather like our Adirondacks, prized as a place where nature existed in its purest state.  Jane Berry Judson would have known about wild nature.  Judson (1868-1935) grew up in Castile, New York, a small upstate village perched on the west bank of Letchworth Park.  Comprising more than a thousand acres and three of the steepest 'ribbon' waterfalls in the state, Letchworth Park is a series of gorges along the Genesee River Valley just west of the Finger Lakes. The same glacial movements that created  the Finger Lakes carved the trench for the river gorge.

When Judson was growing up, the area was the private  estate, summer home to a wealthy industrialist, William Pryor Letchworrth. Also a devout Quaker, Letchworth was active in many charitable associations so it was  natural that he gave Glen Iris (as he called the place) to New York State in 1906 to be a park, a decade after the establishment of the Adirondack Park.

Details of Jane Berry Judon's life and career are scattered, probably buried in archives of libraries and historical societies, contributing to a maddening sense that the artist was elusive when she was more likely just overlooked.

It seems misleading to label an artist as elusive when what she was more likely was overlooked.  Much as Americans went to Europe for a more worldly education in the arts, the Europeans were more open to taking prints seriously as an an artistic medium.

Judson began her art studies at Pratt Institute in 1904, the year after Arthur Wesley Dow left but she worked  his curriculum of composition and design.  After that, Judson moved to England to study  color printing with Allen W, Seaby.  Apparently she traveled to France and Belgium while abroad.   When she returned to the States, Judson moved back  to Castile. 
All the prints I have been able to find are landscapes; the few human figures are represented as part of the landscape.  As you might expect, the environs of Letchworth State Park appear frequently.  Other places Judson sought out were also in the Northeast, including Mount Monadnack in southern New Hampshire and Sheepscot River in Maine.  Fontainebleau and Bruges are the outliers then.
Judson exhibited  with the Rochester Art Club, the Buffalo Society of Artists, and the Print Club of Philadelphia.  Most of Judson's woodblock prints and etchings are still in private collections but her works are in the collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University.

Jane Berry Judson - Afterglow.  Sheepscot Bay, Maine, undated, private collection. 

None of this would matter much if the works were less evocative or less finely executed.  Trees in Judson's works are real, they are individually rendered; I believe that they existed, that we are seeing what she saw.    Who knows?  She may have worked from sketches or even photographs.  Kodak in Rochester, the nearest large city, was a monumental presence in western New York.  Judson may have looked at that bit of Fontainebleau through eyes prepared  by Steichen's Pond - Moonlight.  The Forest of Fontainebleau itself had its natural state tested by seeming legions of artists setting up easels and tripods.  The romanticizing of nature that decries total human absence may  make us privilege images of Letchworth but it coexists in the world and in Jane Berry Judson's art with the Sheepscots and the Mamaronecks as in life.

Jane Berry Judson - Twilight.- Sheepscot River, Maine, 1910s, Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Ithaca, NY.

Jane Berry Judson -  Letchworth State Park, undated, Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Ithaca, NY.

Jane Berry Judson - Mount Monadnock At Night, undated, private collection.


Tom Sarmo said...

Wow--thanks for posting your discovery. That Print of Mount Monadnock blew me away--a nice exclamation point to this post in your always appreciated blog

Jane said...

Thanks for your comments. I don't feel like I've discovered much. Judson was an accomplished artist so I can't but think that there is more of her work than we can see. As for her life, we could infer that she was married at some time from the three names but it is mostly conjecture. Even the Johnson Museum doesn't have much information that I could find. Here's hoping for more.

Anonymous said...

These pieces make me think of the Canadian Group of 7, who would have been producing artwork around this time, or just a bit later.. A.Y. Jackson, one of the 7, used to wander around the back of the farm where my husband grew up in Quebec,. Unfortunately, everything he painted during that time period was later stolen from a neighboring farm, never to be seen again. If you ever make it to Toronto, there is a lovely place called the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, which contains a wonderful collection of artwork by Thom Thomson (sp) and the Group of 7. Definitely worth seeing.

Jane said...

Dear Anonymous, how lovely to hear from you. Yes, I have been to the McMichael and you are so right. Although I knew nothing about the artists before I visited the museum, I was bowled over. I still have a book of woodcuts by Thoreau McDonald that I bought there. Sad that the paintings are gone. I had a relative who was born in Nepian, near Ottawa.