Mystic Museum of Art Presents 'Robert Brackman: Thinking in Color'

MMoA’s Robert Brackman: Thinking in Color Highlights Noted Portraitist’s Legacy and Range
Mystic, CT – After painting aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne, at the couple’s height of international celebrity, Robert Brackman could have settled into the comfortable and lucrative role of society painter. Instead, he took on only a small number of annual commissions to be free to challenge himself with still lifes, figural scenes, and an aesthetic devoted to the value of color.

Brackman’s restless creativity goes on display June 16, when Mystic Museum of Art (MMoA) presents the only showing of Robert Brackman: Thinking in Color, an exhibition of 19 works from both the permanent collection and loans from private collections and other museums. With works ranging in date from 1916 to 1978, the exhibition demonstrates the full scope of Brackman’s artistry. 

Crucial to Thinking in Color are the pendant portraits of the Lindberghs, here generously loaned by Mead Art Museum, Amherst College. Brackman painted the Lindberghs in 1938, at the pinnacle of a notoriety achieved after Charles’ transatlantic flight and then the tragedy of the globally publicized kidnapping of their baby. After returning to the US from Europe, where they sought refuge from media attention, the Lindberghs fell out of public favor and forever tarnished their reputations when Charles made anti-Semitic comments and public statements extolling German industry under Nazi control.

“The (Lindbergh portraits) are doubly significant. First, because of the historical figures they represent,” says Erika Neenan, MMoA’s Curatorial Assistant to the Director, who curated the exhibition. “But also because these are the paintings that sparked Brackman’s early success.”  

Born in Odessa, Brackman came to the United States as a child. He eventually settled in New York, where he studied with Robert Henri and George Bellows. From them, he inherited the brilliancy and possibilities of color.  As a teacher, Brackman advised his students to “think in color.”  His use of color was consistent throughout subject matter, as he believed it to be the basis of beauty in art.

In his career, Brackman painted numerous prominent Americans, from Rockefellers to Ivy League presidents, but he took great joy and craft in other pursuits. Thinking in Color offers the breadth of this, demonstrating his early preference for earth tones and his belief a viewer should complete a work with their imagination. In Portrait of Winslow Ames, for example, the image of the art historian and first director of the Lyman Allyn Museum is created in soft detail so it emerges out of the medium.

Brackman ultimately left New York City to settle in Noank, CT, where he went on to teach generations at his home studio, Lyme Academy of Fine Art, and Madison Art School. He committed profoundly to MMoA, in his life Mystic Art Association, exhibiting and serving as Association President.

“In addition to his art historical significance, Brackman is important to the Mystic-Noank area,” says Neenan. “We’re so glad to host this exhibition in a place where it means so much.”

Thinking in Color will run through Sept. 23. In tandem with the exhibition, MMoA will at 5:30pm on July 13 host an author’s talk and book launch with Lois H. Constantine, a former student of Brackman’s and author of Robert Brackman Remembered. The event is free and open to the public.

MMoA is open seven days a week 11am-5pm. Admission is free.