Explore the Art: Beasts at Dawn

Welcome to our new monthly blog series, Explore the Art!

A Gallery Designed for Children

The collection represents the first such collection of fine art at any children’s museum in the country. On display in the Loos Art Gallery, the works of art in the collection are hung at four foot centers off the ground so children can look directly at the varied collection without having to look upwards like they do when visiting a regular art museum or gallery.

All of the paintings, drawings, and graphics are protected with Optium plexiglass which is great way to present and protect these works of art. It protects all media from human touches and it is scratch proof as well. It is anti-static so it can be used on pastels and charcoal drawings. It is UV protected and anti-reflective so it appears as if no glazing is covering the work of art at all. This expensive product has been donated by the Gregory Frame Shop in Naples since the inception of the collection.

The collection at C’mon is exclusively American art featuring only subjects depicting animals and/or children.

“The Family”, by Darrel Austin

The first work we will discuss is an oil on canvas by the American master Darrel Austin (1907-94). “The Family” was painted in 1972, and like all of the artist’s other oils starting in 1935 until he stopped painting in 1982, was painted exclusively with a palette knife. It is simply amazing that the artist could achieve such detail with just the edge of the artist’s tool and not a fine brush.

Darrel Austin first created what he called his “beasts” in 1940 at the time of his third solo exhibition which was held in New York City. He was born in southwest Washington State and grew up in Portland, Oregon, where he had his first show and sold his first works of art via the WPA. He was “discovered” by a famous gallery in Los Angeles and had a show there in 1938 before moving to New York City.

Austin also painted strange looking nymphs in pools of water and moonlit night forest scenes as if from a magical world, but it was his “beasts” which captured the attention of art admirers and collectors from coast to coast. Just like humans, his big-eyed cats each had an expression or a persona which made them unique. He was featured in a major article in LIFE magazine in 1945 and his paintings and pastels were collected by almost every art museum in the country by 1955.

Whether or not people liked his work, once viewing them it was impossible to ever forget his style of painting. This painting was donated by a collector from New York City.

Submitted By: Bill Meek, Harmon-Meek Gallery