Robert Winthrop Chanler: Discovering the Fantastic
In collaboration with Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a rediscovery of a lost figure of American modernism—the early-twentieth-century American painter born into the Astor family, whose imagination and patrician clientele provide a fascinating artistic and biographical saga.
American modernism is populated with a cast of extraordinary characters, but few were as exuberant as Robert Winthrop Chanler, who made his artistic reputation with exotic and brilliantly colored lacquered screens and architectural interiors whose compositions feature fantastical avian, jungle, and aquatic creatures, many overlaid with iridescent metallic finishes. Chanler painted what entertained and interested him, while attracting wealthy Gilded Age patrons and earning popular and critical acclaim at numerous exhibitions—including the 1905 Salon d’Automne, the show featuring paintings by “les fauves,” with Henri Matisse as their leader; and the legendary “International Exhibition of Modern Art” in New York City, popularly known as the 1913 Armory Show. But, despite such a prolific career and a fascinating body of work, Chanler quickly became an obscure figure after his death in 1930.
Robert Winthrop Chanler: Discovering the Fantastic is the first comprehensive examination in more than eighty years of an artist who straddled the divide between fine and decorative art, defined notions of originality and authorship during the birth of American modernism, and posthumously challenges twenty-first century preservationists through his idiosyncratic techniques and unorthodox material choices.
Co-published with Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, which preserves Chanler’s fantastic undersea mural on the swimming pool grotto ceiling of the historic estate, the book includes essays that explore major commissions and conservation issues, all illustrated with new color photography, as well as a chronology and exhibition history, making this the definitive study on an indelible American modernist.
One of my favorite places to visit is Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Vizcaya is truly a hidden treasure in Coconut Grove. Today, this gorgeous estate is a museum that houses an incredible collection of art as well as one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever walked through. This iconic estate also has an incredible pool grotto. The ceiling of this grotto was recently restored to bring back the original and spectacular mural artwork created by artist Robert Winthrop Chanler.
Years of wear and tear had taken its toll on this mural but careful and extensive restorations have recently made it another impressive stop to enjoy and admire when visiting this museum.
I recently visited Vizcaya and was greeted with a copy of the book Robert Winthrop Chanler: Discovering the Fantastic for a review.
I was hoping to review it sooner but my busy teacher end-of-the-year schedule made it nearly impossible. Now, after a more quiet and relaxed couple of days of summer vacation, I have had the time to really read and enjoy the content of this gorgeous book. The book examines the artwork of Robert Winthrop Chanler over many years. His unique and original style is truly one to admire and enjoy as you browse and carefully admire the pictures. His artwork features brilliant colors that sparkle and have an almost magical iridescence. His work is quite spectacular. The book brings his accomplishments as an artist to life and is a fantastic addition to my bookshelves.
If you are an art collector, art lover, or simply enthusiastic about beauty, then this book is for you. Consider purchasing it for your own collection.
I gave this book 5 stars!
Thank you to Alex Serna from Vizcaya for the book.