Frank Bicknell has traditionally held the distinction of having the shortest biography among all the Old Lyme Art Colony artists. No photograph was thought to exist; no one could identify the source of his rumored personal wealth. His output, his American Barbizon landscapes, his Impressionist forest interiors blooming with mountain laurel, his highly-keyed views of the Monhegan in all of its fierce majesty – served as bits of visual biography in place of textual evidence.
This exhibition, A World of Delight at The Cooley Gallery, on view through June 15th, 2013, is an artistic documentary of aspects of Bicknell's successful and well-lived life. Frank Bicknell was born in Augusta, Maine on February 17th, 1866. His father, James Austin Bicknell, a prominent member of the Augusta community and successful entrepreneur, served in the state legislature and was appointed postmaster of Augusta in 1861 by President Lincoln. James Bicknell was a connected man. James G. Blaine (1830-1893), the influential United States Senator, Secretary of State in two administrations, and eventual (albeit failed) presidential candidate, accepted the elder Bicknell’s invitation to become Frank’s godfather. Blaine owed a great deal of his political success to James Bicknell’s financial support, especially his assistance in helping Blaine purchase a share of the Kennebec Journal, which provided Blaine with an influential pulpit.
Frank Bicknell, the youngest son of a prosperous and established family, enjoyed the freedom to pursue an inherent interest in art. His second cousin, the artist Albion H. Bicknell (1837-1915) was a resident of Malden, Massachusetts and when Frank Bicknell’s family relocated to present-day Brockton in 1870, Frank found himself with a mentor who would direct and encourage the first phase of his artistic career. Albion Bicknell associated with William Morris Hunt (1824-1879), Elihu Vedder (1835-1923), Joseph Cole (1837-1892), and John La Farge (1835-1910). When James Bicknell died in 1881, Albion offered Frank a home, studio space, and access to a coterie of men who had all achieved fame with the brush.
"Getting this many of Bicknell's paintings together for an exhibition is a rare treat for us. His works are always among my personal favorites with their patient brushwork and seemingly infinite layers of carefully applied color. What comes across is a very dignified expression of emotion that is comfortable as well as compelling," says Jeff Cooley, owner of The Cooley Gallery. "Any time we bring paintings by someone from the historic art colony of Old Lyme together we are reminded of what these artists meant to each other and what their role was in the history of American art."
Between 1910 and 1920, Bicknell fully occupied his role as a leading member of the American art community. He was named an associate of the National Academy and was an influential member of the Salmagundi, Lotos, and National Arts clubs. While in New York, Bicknell regularly entertained other artists, including Carleton Wiggins, Gifford Beal, and Leonard Ochtmann, and his exhibition schedule greatly increased. At the height of his power, Bicknell was among the most significant and widely-known landscape painters in the country.
A World of Delight runs through June 15th. This exhibition will also be shown online at www.cooleygallery.com.
25 Lyme Street
Old Lyme, Connecticut
About The Cooley Gallery
Founded in 1981 and located in the heart of historic Old Lyme, the Cooley Gallery specializes in fine American paintings from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, including the Hudson River School, American Impressionism, and select contemporary artists. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10am to 5pm.