Howard Gardiner Cushing: The Beautiful Things of Life

June 15, 2019 - October 6, 2019

The Newport Art Museum is proudly the home of the largest collection of works of art by American Impressionist Howard Gardiner Cushing (1869–1916). After Cushing’s untimely death, his dear friend, sculptor and collector Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, commissioned the Museum’s Cushing Building to honor his memory. Today the Cushing Memorial Gallery (of the Cushing Building) is permanently installed with paintings by Howard Gardiner Cushing. In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the original Cushing Building, this exhibition offers the rare opportunity to see some of Cushing’s finest work: paintings from the mural he created in 1911-1912 for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s Westbury Sculpture Studio in New York and several of his exceptional portraits. Recently conserved and removed from Whitney’s Studio, Cushing’s mural has never been shown before to the public.

Cushing’s mural for Whitney’s Old Westbury studio is a tour de force of American painting. His largest commission, it spanned 73 feet long and 20 feet in the stairwell. It was inspired by the symbolist splendors of pre-war Ballets Russes set design, which Cushing knew from France, as well as Japanese prints. This exhibition includes mural panels depicting Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in a tunic Leon Bakst and Cushing’s wife and muse, Ethel Cochrane with “fleurs du mal.” In addition, the display includes some of the artist’s most memorable portraits of Ethel Cochrane and dancer Ida Rubinstein, in which the painter pays homage to the art of James McNeill Whistler and Aubrey Beardsley. Collectively, these works of art demonstrate  Cushing’s mastery of painting during the  “art for art’s sake” movement and also his unrivaled ability to combine eclectic influences—from Japanese art to American Impressionism, from Symbolism and Art Nouveau to Art Deco and the Ballets Russes—to create original and enduring works of art.

Howard Gardiner Cushing, Ethel Cushing with Standing Attendants and Fleurs du Mal, Whitney Studio Mural Panel, 1911-1912, Oil on canvas, Private collection

This exhibition is made possible by your contributions to the Annual Fund.