NorcrossVivaldi




The Fitchburg Art Museum is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary. For the first time in this museum’s history, there is a gallery reflecting it’s founder’s passions. The art that is now on exhibit is that of Eleanor Norcross. These pieces are from Norcross’s own collection and long term loans from museums and private collections. This is one of the exhibits that launches a look at pioneering American artists of the 19th century. Norcross’s exhibit is titled, “ Norcross: Character is Everything.” Other permanent exhibits at the Fitchburg Art Museum are that of; Egyptian art and artifacts, European and American paintings and graphics, decorative art, and contemporary American and regional artists.
The selections of paintings shown at the Fitchburg exhibit are only a small portion of her entire collection. After her father died in 1898, she had always wished of establishing an art museum in Fitchburg. She began exhibiting her work in the spring of 1886, when she showed a portrait of her father in the National Academy of design in New York, as well as in a Paris salon. She continued to show fairly regularly after that. She displayed her work mostly in French exhibitions. Until 1905 she painted mainly portraits and views of the interior of her studio.
While she was living in Washington, she began attending classes at the Art Student League in New York, in either the fall of 1878 or spring of 1879. She spent the winters with her father in Washington and her summers in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. She continued living like this for five years, as she was traveling frequently between Washington, Fitchburg, and New York.
In June of 1883, Norcross made the decision to reside in Paris. In the late fall of 1883, she entered the Paris studio of Alfred Stevens. Stevens was a prominent Belgian-born painter who taught a class for women. She remained a student of Alfred Stevens for two years. As a student of Stevens, she studies with two women with whom she developed lasting friendships with, Geraldine Reed and Barrone Alix d’ Anethan. During her early years in Paris, Norcross kept a journal in which she wrote about Steven’s classroom comments and discussions, as well as her impressions. In this journal, she wrote, “character is everything,” the words that title her exhibit in Fitchburg. The journal also shows that Norcross visited Holland, England, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. Some of the time she was accompanied by her father, who joined her in June of 1884.
Looking at Norcross’s painting, “Two Children,” in the Fitchburg Art Museum, its style jumps out at the audience. It appears as though it is a cross between both realism and romanticism. The incredible detail in the figures, along with the precision or color and shading, are what suggests its realistic qualities. During the late 19th century realism was very popular with American artists, such as Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer. At the same time, there was also a strong influence of the new style of romanticism in America. It is evident in Norcross’s painting, “Two Children,” she was influenced by romanticism as well. Although her figures are detailed, the lines are blurred and not as well defined as most realistic paintings. Her use of color helps to blend the lines for a smooth transition of one shape to another, rather than sharp edges.
Eleanor Norcross used oil on canvas to create most of her artwork. Her painting, “Two Children,” uses oil on canvas as well. The painting depicts two children, one of which appears to be older than the other, maybe by one or two years. The older child is a little girl dressed in a light pink dress with a matching hat. The younger child appears to be a little boy, about the age of a toddler. This child is dressed in a light blue outfit. Both children appear to be dressed well, suggesting that maybe they come from a proper or well to do background.
There is both open and closed forms in this painting. The little girl is that of a closed form. Her arms are slightly held outward, but her hands are almost together, closing off the form. The little boy is an open form. His hands are slightly raised, as though he is