Northwest Impressionism On View at Tacoma Art Museum

Coast to Cascades: C. C. McKim's Impressionist Vision is on display until March 26

Impressionism calls to mind classic paintings like Monet’s Water Lilies. But the Northwest is home to its own brand of impressionism, one that’s celebrated in a new exhibit at Tacoma Art Museum.

Coast to Cascades: C. C. McKim’s Impressionist Vision opened Nov. 12 at Tacoma Art Museum. It will be on display until March 26. The retrospective gallery is the latest exhibit in the museum’s Northwest Perspectives series, which highlights Northwest artists. It also contributes research to the area’s rich art history.

Charles C. McKim became an artist midway through his life, starting out in Portland, Maine, and moving to that other Portland in Oregon around 1910. By the 1920s he had mastered his technique of using light colors to capture Oregon’s spectacular vistas.

In the 43-painting retrospective, the museum takes visitors through McKim’s early work in Maine up to his mastery of Oregon subjects in the 1920s.

The subjects of many of the paintings will be familiar to visitors. Northwest views like the Cascade mountains and the Oregon coast. Cannon Beach’s iconic haystack rock is captured in three separate paintings, each in a different weather climate.

McKim’s name might not be familiar to visitors. But that’s part of the importance for Margaret Bullock, curator of collections and special exhibitions at the museum.

“We like looking at artists who are lesser known, but should be better known,” said Bullock.

The McKim exhibit is a collaboration between Bullock and Mark Humpal, an art scholar and gallerist from Portland, Oregon. It’s housed in the Haub wing, which also houses the museum’s vast Western art collection. The decision to place McKim’s work in there was because he is an artist that came West, said Bullock.

Humpal and Bullock wanted to look more closely at impressionism in the region, and McKim is a good place to start. He greatly impacted the art scene in Oregon in the 1920s.

In addition to the exhibition, Bullock and Humpal created a catalog featuring colorful images of the works and scholarship on McKim. It is available for purchase in the museum store.

Bullock and Humpal will present a curator talk on McKim at 2 p.m. Dec. 11. The cost is $10 or $5 with a student ID.

Pictured: Charles C. McKim, Untitled (Columbia Gorge with Yeon Mountain, St. Peter’s Dome, and Horsetail Falls), circa 1920. Oil on canvas. Collection of Dinah Adkins and Tom Towslee, T 2016‑17‑25

 Photo by Karen Miller

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