Beyond the reach of the darker green shadows that surround the seated figure, the loosely brushed foliage and building in the background shine in the morning light. Stark was working in the American Impressionist style, with the intention of capturing the true feeling of a specific moment of light, color, and atmosphere.
Similar to American Impressionist painters who worked on the East Coast or in France, as seen in gallery K208, Stark chose to paint a refined young woman in a private garden. The subject is the artist’s daughter Gretchen at The Hermitage—his friend J. Ottis Adam’s creative retreat in Brookville, Indiana, where many artists spent summers painting the landscape. Years later, Gretchen donated this painting to the IMA.
Otto Stark was born in Indianapolis and apprenticed at the age of twelve to lithography. At age sixteen, he studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and then entered the Art Students League of New York. He later went to Paris where he continued his studies at the Académie Julian and became a member of the Sociéte des Beaux Arts et Belles Lettres. He exhibited twice at the Paris Salon, the International Exhibition of Art and History in Rome and the Panama Pacific Exhibition, where he was in charge of the Indiana Exhibition. For twenty years, Stark was the head of the Art Department of Emmerich Manual Training High School and an instructor in composition at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis. He was one of the five members of the Hoosier Group, which included Indiana’s most important Impressionist painters, J. Ottis Adams, T. C. Steele, William Forsyth and Richard Gruelle.
Stark took up residence in New York City, after completing his training in Paris. When his wife died, he came back to his native Indiana. A Summer Morning was painted while Stark was visiting the Hermitage, J. Ottis Adams’ Brookville home. It portrays the artist’s eldest daughter Gretchen, seated in shade with her back to sunlit lawn, engrossed in her needlework. This solidly painted figure, posed against a loosely constructed landscape, exemplifies the American Impressionist style.
Wilbur David Peat. Pioneer Painters of Indiana, Indianapolis: Art Association of Indianapolis, Indiana, 1954. ASIN: B0007DFBR2
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