September 30, 2017-January 28, 2018

Oscar Fehrer: Reflecting and Reflections

Oscar Fehrer: Reflecting and Reflections

This exhibition takes Oscar Fehrer’s painting Reflecting and Reflections (1918) as a starting point for the investigation of the broad themes with which Fehrer’s varied oeuvre engages. Best known as a portrait painter, Fehrer arrived in Lyme in 1918 to establish a summer home for his family, the same year he completed Reflecting and Reflections. The painting’s broken brushwork and unusual color palette demonstrate a departure from the accomplished academic style of his early career and shows instead the influence of European modernism. This installation will present a selected retrospective of work from every period of Fehrer’s career—early charcoal drawings, portraits, and plein air landscapes—to reconsider Fehrer’s contribution to the art world on both a local and international level.

Born in New York to parents recently immigrated from Vienna, Fehrer studied art in New York, Munich, and Paris. In 1909 the artist moved to Munich with his young family and established himself with a convivial group of artists in Germany.

When war broke out in 1914, the Fehrers fled abruptly, leaving furniture and works of art. After setting up a studio in New York and gaining recognition as a portraitist, Fehrer began to look for a place to summer outside of the city, eventually following his friend, George Bruestle, to Lyme. Although he settled just a few miles from Florence Griswold’s boarding house, Fehrer’s relationship with the artists at the colony appears to have been remote. The reasons for his marginalization from the community have never been fully understood. A return to the artist’s vast archive yields new information about these questions and the diverse production of this understudied artist. The trajectory of Fehrer’s development will be considered against the social context of an anxious America during WWI, the reverberations of war and identity politics in a tight-knit community like Lyme, and the artist’s aesthetic reaction to the art world’s upheaval due to the rise of modernism.

The exhibition also acknowledges the fiercest advocates of Fehrer’s legacy, his daughters Catherine and Elizabeth. They preserved not only his work and archives, but made a significant and lasting impact on the town with their gift of land to the Pleasant Valley Preserve, managed by the Lyme Land Conservation Trust. At her death in 2001, Catherine Fehrer, a longtime trustee of the Florence Griswold Museum, left the museum a generous gift of the historic house where the family lived on Beaver Brook Road, including the adjoining five acres of land, and a number of his works of art. Works on view will be drawn from this extensive collection and will include archival material and books. The 2018 centennial of the artist’s arrival in Lyme represents an opportune moment for the museum to reflect on Fehrer’s work and the myriad ways it serves as a reflection of its contemporary moment.

This installation is curated by FGM’s Assistant Curator, Jenny Parsons, who lived with her husband in the Fehrer House in Lyme during 2016-2017.

Oscar Fehrer, Reflecting and Reflections, 1918, Oil on canvas, 43 x 39 in., Florence Griswold Museum