En Plein Air: The Salmagundi Centennial

A Lumpy Sea
by James Gale Tyler, 1909, oil.

by Allison Malafronte

The Salmagundi Club, in New York City, has a long history of being one of the most important art organizations in the country and has held exhibitions over the years that have featured some of the greatest living artists. This year marks a special centennial celebration of one of the Salmagundi Club’s longest-running and most popular shows, the “Thumb-Box Exhibition and Sale,” which began in 1908 as an opportunity for artists to exhibit on-site sketches and other small works in a formal gallery space while introducing collectors to the growing popularity of the plein air movement.

by Michael Budden, 2007, oil.

An article that ran in the The New York Times immediately following that first exhibition in 1908 heralded the event as a success in both attendance and sales, commenting that, “These minute memoranda of landscape and other fine subjects have a concentration of interest and vitality not found in finished compositions.” Robert Mueller, the current chairman of the club’s curatorial committee, comments on the exhibition's enduring popularity. “The ‘Thumb-Box Exhibition and Sale’—whose title originates from the small traveling hand-held paint box/easel used for plein air sketching—is consistently one of our best and most popular shows among both artists and collectors. The appeal of this exhibition has not gone unnoticed either historically or presently.”

by John F. Carlson, 1912, oil.

The exhibition is open to Salmagundi Club members only and will be juried by the club’s art committee before the final selections are made. More than 100 artists will participate in this year’s show and more than 300 small-scale works in oil, watercolor, photography, mixed media, and sculpture will be on display in the club’s Upper Gallery. One of the most prestigious and historical awards given to artists who participate in the annual show is the Charles Vezin Prize, which was first instituted in 1911 for best sketch and has since been bestowed to such artists as John F. Carlson, Carl Rungius, and Hobart Nichols. Several of the Vezin-award-winning paintings from years past have been acquired for the club’s permanent collection, including James Gale Tyler’s 1909 A Lumpy Sea and Michael Budden’s 2007 Flatiron. The "Thumb-Box Exhibition and Sale” will be on view from December 8, 2008, through January 2, 2009, at the Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue, in New York City. If you are in the New York area this holiday season, a visit to the Salmagundi Club is a must. Not only will you get to see this important exhibition in its 100th year of existence, but you will also get a chance to walk the hallowed halls of one of the most historic art clubs in New York.

For more information, visit www.salmagundi.org.

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Plein Air Painting Blog
Allison Malafronte

About Allison Malafronte

Allison Malafronte is the senior editor of American Artist magazines, and the project editor of  Plein Air Painting and Workshop With the Masters magazines. She is also the creative manager of the Weekend With the Masters Workshop & Conference (www.aamastersweekend.com) which was launched in 2009 and is now in its third year. She is author of the Art for Thought column in American Artist magazine (also on the Artist Daily site under The Artist's Life blog) and the 2008-2010 Plein Air blogs on Artist Daily. 

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