Martha’s Vineyard artists featured at Women’s History Month exhibit in Manhattan

Diane McManus Jensen in front of work by Marie Louis Rouff at the Union League Club in NYC. —Gwyn McAllister

In honor of National Women’s History Month, Diane McManus Jensen of Brookline and Aquinnah was asked to curate an art exhibit for New York City’s historic Union League Club. The private social club in midtown Manhattan is currently hosting a show called “100 Years of Women Artists,” a selection of work by 10 female artists, both current and deceased.

Ms. Jensen, director of Jensen Fine Arts, was a perfect fit for the job. A former gallery owner (of Jensen Fine Arts in New York and Edgartown), Ms. Jensen has been an advisor to individual and corporate collectors for decades. In 2010, she published a book called “The Art of Collecting: An Intimate Tour Inside Private Art Collections with Advice on Starting Your Own.” More by luck than design, most of the artists whom she represents are women.

The “100 Years of Women Artists” collection, featuring 90 works of art which will hang through the end of March, includes paintings by two Island women: Meg Mercier and Marie-Louise Rouff. Ms. Jensen has represented both artists for many years.

The Union League Club exhibit is anchored by the work of the late Anna Walinska (1906-1997), another artist whose work Ms. Jensen represents. One entire wall of the ground floor gallery is devoted to a selection of the artist’s work which covers eight decades.

Ms. Walinska founded the Guild Art Gallery on West 57th Street in 1935, where she gave Arshile Gorky his first New York one-man show. Major exhibitions of her work included solo shows at the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Religious Art, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the Ghetto Museum, Theresienstadt, Czech Republic. Her work has been shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA, and is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of American Art, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution, among others.

The retrospective of Ms. Walinska’s work is a fascinating look at an artist with a wide range of styles who worked in many media — from ink drawings, charcoal, and pastels to oil paintings, watercolors, and collages. Her subjects range from simple daily life sketches and New York City scenes to portraits to abstracts. Her work spans a century of American modernism, paralleling the history of the New York School and the American Jewish experience.

Ms. Walinska’s niece, Rosina Rubin, who provided the exhibit’s selection, said, “This whole exploratory approach in her nature was a result of her being an artist at a time when there were only a handful of women artists. I think more and more of the women artists of that era will be receiving their due attention.”

The scope of Ms. Walinska’s work is reflected in the rest of the collection, which includes work by 10 other artists, including Margery Ryerson (1886-1989), whose paintings and etchings are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The exhibit includes works in oil, acrylics, graphite, and pastel and covers genres from  

abstraction to representational work. The Vineyard artists represent both ends of the style spectrum.

Ms. Mercier works in oil, creating lovely landscapes and still lifes. Her paintings, inspired by the American Impressionists, feature rich pastel colors and an expert eye for light. Among the selection in the exhibit are New York City scenes created especially for the exhibit, as well as a number of Vineyard landscapes. Standouts include an engaging image of the Edgartown Harbor, captured from Ms. Mercier’s studio at the top of the Old Sculpin Gallery, and a stunning painting called Vytlacil’s View. The latter was painted on-site at the former home of the famed modernist painter Vaclav Vytlacil in Chilmark.

Ms. Mercier shows her work at the North Water Gallery in Edgartown and at the Old Sculpin Gallery, home of the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association, of which she is a longtime member.

Ms. Jensen has known Ms. Mercier for many years. After showing her work at Ms. Jensen’s Edgartown art gallery, Ms. Mercier decided to stay on the Island, and has since established herself as one of the preeminent Vineyard landscape painters.

Ms. Rouff, on the other hand, is a purely abstract artist. The five works of hers on display at the Union League feature bold color, and a lot of texture for an acrylic artist. The work of the two women artists, hanging across from each other, provides a nice contrast at the entrance of the gallery.

Besides the aforementioned artists, the work of the remaining six women included in the exhibit was provided by another art advisor, Elizabeth Barker of EB Harrington & Co. Ms. Barker, a member of the private Union League Club, was the one who invited Ms. Jensen to curate the show.

The Union League Club was established after the end of Reconstruction by four prominent professionals and intellectuals, including landscape artist Frederick Law Olmsted. The club was founded to help preserve the Union and its members helped establish the forerunner of the American Red Cross, founded the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and assisted in building the Statue of Liberty and Grant’s Tomb. Today the club boasts an extensive art collection, hosts a number of cultural events, and promotes the arts, culture, and American history through four major awards.


“100 Years of Women Artists” will be on display through March 31, by appointment only, at the Union League Club, 38 East 37th Street, NYC.

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