"ART SHOULD not be isolated from everyday experience," Eugene Kingman argued.
The artist, who also served as the Joslyn art Museum's director after World War II, saw it as related to everything we do and fundamental to being human.
Nowhere was that perhaps more evident to Kingman, who died in 1975, than during the time he spent painting outdoors — "en plein air" - capturing the bucolic stretches of land surrounding Omaha as well as landscapes throughout the u.s. and Europe.
Some of those works will be on view starting this weekend at gallery 1516 in "Plein air artists: Kingman-dunbier-gilder," a show that also includes the work of Kingman's contemporaries augustus dunbier and robert gilder. Together, the three comprise some of the finest plein air painters who have worked in Nebraska.
"These three artists all knew each other and were very well known in the arts community," gallery director Patrick drickey said of the painters, who were active from roughly the late 19th century well into the 20th century. "you really were not a member of society unless you owned a gilder, dunbier or Kingman."
Their popularity derived from each artist's considerable skill at distilling the feel of the landscape into a style that was inimitably his own. gilder lived and worked in Fontenelle Forest in a log cabin he dubbed "Wake robin," after a book on bird watching. his winters capes, for which he became famous, beautifully depicted the majesty and solitude of the wooded area.
Kingman often captured the rural areas just outside Omaha. he kept a painting kit in the trunk of his car, and after finishing the day at Joslyn, he often headed west to spend several hours capturing farms, fields and barns dappled with sunlight — places long since lost to the city's urban expansion.
Dunbier considered himself an impressionist, and his paintings communicate the mood and feeling of a place as much as the physical landscape. his depiction of a harvest Festival in Brownville brims with activity, perfectly communicating the enthusiastic hum of the crowd.
What's particularly compelling about gallery 1516's show is the timeless quality of some of the views the three artists painted. dunbier's devil's slide at hummel Park, Kingman's Memorial Park and gilder's Fontenelle Forest images, while very much of their time, feel contemporary to today.
"These paintings are important to Omaha, the history of painting in Omaha and to history, period," drickey said. "They give us a good sense of where we were at the turn of the last century."
Gallery 1516, 1516 Leavenworth st. "Plein air artists: Kingman-dunbier-gilder". Opening reception: 6:30 to 9 p.m. saturday. Through Oct. 13. gallery1516.org or 402-305-1510.