May 22—There was something about the mountains and breathtaking beauty of Norway that spoke to the soul of Pittsburgh-born artist William H. Singer Jr.
Washington County Museum of Fine Arts’ latest exhibition, “Landscapes and Legends of Norway: William H. Singer & His Contemporaries,” celebrates Singer’s longtime love affair with the Nordic country. The exhibition runs May 27 to Sept. 17.
Before Singer and his wife, Hagerstown native Anna Brugh-Singer, founded the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in 1931, they had already made Norway their home.
Selected from the museum’s permanent collection, “Landscapes and Legends” captures the spirit and magnificence of Norway’s natural beauty. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings and prints of Norwegian landscapes, myths and people by Singer as well as his contemporaries, including Jacob Dooijewaard, Frank Morse-Rummel and Martin Borgord. “Landscapes and Legends” explores how these artists responded to nature and Norwegian culture in myriad ways.
“We’re having fun with this show,” said WCMFA director Sarah Hall. “Singer’s Norwegian landscapes are delightful, and the Norse legends explored in the work of Frank Morse-Rummel are inspiring our upcoming Viking Day, as well as our Little Vikings-themed summer camp.”
This exhibition places the artists in their broad cultural and historical context by displaying archival materials, including catalogues, letters, newspaper articles and photographs. Visitors will have the opportunity to view some of William Singer’s delicately rendered and seldom-seen pastels.
WHO WAS WILLIAM SINGER?
Born in 1868 to a prominent Pittsburgh steel family, Singer had an early interest in art and dreamt of becoming a painter. His father was a “Sunday painter,” and his grandfather George Singer was a painter and gilder of chairs in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Although William Singer Sr. wanted his son to follow him into the steel industry, his mother, Hester Harton Singer, encouraged his artistic pursuits.
William Jr. eventually worked in the family business for 11 years. When he met Norwegian artist Martin Borgord, who was living in Pittsburgh, it reawakened his love of painting. Singer split his time between work and studying with Borgord. It was under Borgord’s tutelage that Singer began painting landscapes. In 1895, Singer married Anna Brough, and five years later, he left the family business to focus on his art.
SINGER AND NORWAY
After spending a year painting in Maine, he and his new bride sailed to Europe, where he studied for several months at the Academie Julian in Paris. They moved to Laren, Holland, not far from Amsterdam, where a regional school of artists flourished. It was Borgord who suggested they move to Norway.
During World War I, the couple began spending summers on the west coast of Norway and settled near the village of Olden on the Nordfjord, north of Bergen. While living in Olden, Singer captured the spirit and magnificence of this land’s natural beauty in various seasons and moods in his Impressionist canvases, beautifully rendered in his Pointillist technique (characterized by dotted brushstrokes and stippled coloration).
Norway spoke to Singer like no other place. He captured the soaring mountains, the tall and stately Norwegian pines, the babbling brooks and the peaceful Norwegian winters.
William and Anna enjoyed the Nordic lifestyle and built a stately mansion in Olden. The Singers shared their wealth with the people of the fishing village. They remained there through World War II, and when the Nazis invaded Olden, its townspeople protected the Singers. Unfortunately, William Singer did not live to see a Nazi-free Norway. He died of a heart attack in 1943, two years before Norway was liberated by the Allied forces.
To register for any event, contact Donna Rastelli at 301-739-5727 or email@example.com. For more information on any event, go to wcmfa.org.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 10 — Viking Day. Community celebration featuring drop-in art activities for kids, live music and axe throwing. Free.
10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 17 — Draw Your Pet workshop. Artist Nicole Troup shows students how to draw their pets using charcoal and pan pastels. $190, register in advance.
6 to 8 p.m. June 22 — Get a first look at “Treasures of State: Maryland’s Art Collection” and take a stroll through “Landscapes and Legends of Norway.” $25, RSVP required.
6 p.m. June 29 (online) — Let’s Talk Art: Sarah Hall and curator Daniel Fulco are joined by special guest Heather Semple, owner of ECI Art & Travel, to discuss “Landscapes and Legends.” Semple is related to William Henry Singer and will discuss the Singer family history and his artistic legacy. Free, register in advance for web link.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 15 — Bringing Beasts to Life. Students ages 13-19 will illustrate mythological creatures comic book-style inspired by “Landscapes and Legends.” $65, register in advance.
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. July 17 to 21 — Little Vikings: Explore Legends and Magic summer camp. Campers will be inspired by Norse gods, legends and folk tales. Open to ages 8 to 12. Register in advance.
4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 9 — Hiroya Tsukamoto Concert. Acoustic guitarist and composer will perform a selection of works inspired by “Landscapes and Landscapes.” $30, register in advance.
Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is located at 401 Museum Drive, Hagerstown.