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Arts & Entertainment

Exhibit of oil paintings highlights best of two worlds

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007

When Sewickley art dealer Melanie Werner opened her first gallery in her Sewickley Village town home in 2002, she did so as an extension of her passion for European paintings.

She collected them from various locales all over Europe, but primarily in Paris, where she and her husband, Eric, have maintained an apartment for several years.

That gallery has now grown to two, with the first in her family's newly built manse on Sewickley's Beaver Street, and the second on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside, which opened in the spring.

Although such growth signifies success, the real success of Galerie Werner has resulted from partaking in art fairs. Oftentimes, internationally promoted events, high art and antiques fairs draw a well-traveled, monied clientele. So, naturally, it's a draw for many galleries to get involved in the process.

Pittsburgh's own version of such an event was the Carnegie Museum of Art's Annual Antiques Show. Now defunct, this well-attended exhibition and sale brought together nearly 50 well-heeled art and antiques dealers from around the country every year.

Galerie Werner exhibited at the last, which was nearly two years ago. That's where Melanie Werner met the staff of Spanierman Gallery of New York City, and decided both galleries should collaborate on a show.

"Both of our galleries did well at that show, and both of our galleries lost an opportunity to present" our works because of the antiques show closing down, Werner says. "So that's why I came up with the idea of doing a collaborative show."

The exhibit, "European & American Paintings: 19th to 20th Century Fine Art," features more than 100 oil paintings that span a century, from 1840 to 1940.

Overall, they present a wide selection of styles and motifs popular in Europe and the United States during that time, ranging from Romantic realism to post-impressionism, even a few modern works thrown in for good measure.

Divided between both of Galerie Werner's locations, the exhibit breaks down as follows: Late 19th-century to mid 20th-century works are on display at the Ellsworth Avenue location, and the earlier works, primarily 19th-century, are at the Sewickley location.

Fans of Pittsburgh painting will be thrilled to find several works by legendary steel mill painter Aaron Harry Gorson (1872-1933) at both locations. Spanierman Gallery is the sole representative of the artist's estate.

They range from smaller, detailed works like "The Burn Off" to much larger, expressive works as "Mills at Night on the Monongahela, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," a magnificent work that displays the artist's signature splendor.

Much of what Spanierman Gallery has on display are works of the American impressionist and Hudson River School variety, including paintings by widely recognized artists such as Gifford Beal (1879-1956), Kenyon Cox (1856-1919), Winslow Homer (1836-1910), George Luks (1867-1933) and Hayley Lever (1876-1958).

One painting by Lever is of particular note because it depicts the Allegheny River around 1924, the year that it is believed the artist visited Pittsburgh to paint its bustling steel mills. The painting is a view from the vantage point of what is now Point State Park, depicting several of the city's bridges shrouded in smoke, with a tugboat steamer barreling up the river as the central focal point.

Full of rich color, thick brush strokes loaded with texture and an overwhelming sense of atmosphere, it seems the perfect depiction of what our city must have been like back then.

Galerie Werner exhibits mostly European works, which is the gallery's mainstay, with an emphasis on French impressionist and post-impressionist paintings and early modernism works on paper.

Many are by some of Europe's more notable artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Jules Dupre (1811-89), Gregaire Michonze (1902-82), Maurice Blond (1899-1974) and Jules Rene Herve (1887-1981).

But there also are a few pieces by American artists that are in the gallery's collection, including a signature work by Daniel Ridgeway Knight (1839-1924) titled "Sur La Terrasse" and a landscape by Western Pennsylvania's own George Hetzel (1826-1906).

There are a few unattributed works, such as a floral still life that includes an incredibly detailed parrot and urn. Equally significant, paintings such as this hold their own in this most impressive exhibition, especially in light of where they are displayed.

That painting, for instance, is displayed in Werner's dining room.

"What's really special about doing a show like this is that I use parts of the home to showcase the works in such a way that people can really see how they work in a home setting," Eric Werner says.

"This painting looks entirely different in this dining room than it does in the gallery. It's a very intimate piece, and it needs to be shown in a home setting. It just works better."

But regardless of which venue one happens to venture into, one will find that all of these works come together well in a seamless exhibition that displays each of their inherent qualities well. Additional Information:

'European & American Paintings: 19th to 20th Century Fine Art'

What: A collaborative exhibit presented by Galerie Werner and Spanierman Gallery of New York that includes more than 100 fine oil paintings from 1840-1940

When: Through Nov. 25. Hours: Galerie Werner Shadyside open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; Galerie Werner Sewickley open by appointment

Where: Galerie Werner , 5829 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside; and 44 Beaver St., Sewickley

Details: 412-363-1390

Related events

What: Cocktail receptions

When: 6-9 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Shadyside location; 6-9 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Sewickley location

Details: Reservations recommended, 412-363-1390

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