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Installation view of Masterworks: From Cézanne to Thiebaud

Excerpt from The Hudson Review "At the Galleries"

By Karen Wilkin

Uptown, “Masterworks from Cézanne to Thiebaud,” the reopening show at Acquavella Galleries, lived up to its extravagant title—an apt way to celebrate the rebirth of the delights of looking. Just about everything installed on both floors of Acquavella’s elegant townhouse rewarded close attention. And there were some splendid surprises, such as a robust, near-monochromatic Joaquín Torres-García, Constructive Monument, 1943, a wall of stacked rows of bold, geometric, unreadable alphabets, runes, and glyphs seemingly derived from modern urban experience. Equally unexpected was a handsome Bradley Walker Tomlin, Number 3, 1953, striking for a more fluid touch and more inventive color than I usually associate with the artist, with an active field of pulsating swipes and patches of tawny ochres, oranges, and dull red, floating turquoise, and emphatic dark grays; I may have to reevaluate my conception of Tomlin. A handsome David Smith, Parrot’s Circle, 1958, kept us engaged with floating elements placed unpredictably against the eponymous ring and a rich, mottled surface. Wayne Thiebaud’s smallish, potent Dark Beach, 2003/2020, gave us a fantastic, omnipotent view of a sandbar sparsely populated by small figures in the surf of a radiant, ultramarine blue ocean, flecked with red—an idyllic holiday dreamscape. And more, including a brash Ellsworth Kelly, Untitled (Red and Yellow), 1989, demonstrating the affectionate relationship of a large square and a smaller triangle with one slightly rounded side.

Upstairs, fine works by modern masters rewarded the climb, starting with a luminous Gustave Caillebotte, The Seine at Argenteuil, 1882; lovingly rendered sailboats moored in the foreground and one in full sail, mid-stream, reminded us of the artist’s skill as a yachtsman and inventor of boating equipment. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s good- humored, sketchy Portrait of Henri Nocq, 1897, presented a studio interior with the subject, in top hat and cape, apparently turning to look quizzically at us over his shoulder, before returning his attention to a large work on an easel. Most unexpected? Perhaps Girl with Doll, 1894–96, Paul Cézanne’s surprisingly tender portrait of an introspective, chubby young girl with cropped dark hair, a painting noteworthy for its swelling forms, deemed significant enough to have been on extended loan to the National Gallery, London, some years ago. An exuberant Henri Matisse, Still Life with Mimosas on Black Background, 1944, turned clusters of yellow blooms, lemons, and incised leaf shapes into expansive shifting patterns. Until the middle of October, a more or less private viewing, by appointment, of Acquavella Galleries’ fine assort­ment was an exhilarating alternative for anyone not yet ready to brave a museum visit.