Artist Reception and Talk by Curator, Megan Hinton. Saturday, July 6, 7-9pm. Talk begins at 7:00pm with reception to allow.
Rose in Rose, oil on canvas.
The late Wellfleet artist James Lechay (1907-2001) was an abstract impressionist who painted with a combination of bravado and subtlety. Loose bold contours defining an image on a flat ground is typical of his work. Lechay was also incredibly versatile and inventive. Works in oils, gouache, casein, and lithography show his mastery of various materials and techniques.
His oeuvre encompasses the traditional genres in representational painting—portrait, landscape, and still life—but often made in unusual ways. Portraits sometimes appear within landscapes, melding genres. His landscapes include cityscape some abstracted to their essence in a series of pieces simply and powerfully titled “Walls,” “Buildings,” “Cathedrals,” and “Variations.” Still lifes are flattened and separated, upending the tradition of rendering objects on a tabletop with depth and a sense of space.
James Lechay’s life as a painter began in earnest in 1929 when he dropped out of psychology graduate school at the University of Illinois and headed to New York City to study painting with his older brother Myron Lechay (1898-1972). At the time, Hans Hoffman was exposing New York artists to European Modernism. Analytical, synthetic, and mechanical Cubism coupled with Surrealism and Naïve/Primitive Painting were heady influences, and in their midst the New York School of Painting was born. Lechay was immersed in and affected for the rest of his life by the surface-oriented painting that emerged in that era. But he was never a slave to credos or trends.
Lechay was a long-time professor of painting at the University of Iowa. He and his wife Rose spent summers in Wellfleet where they lived in a mid-century Modern house designed by architect Hayden Walling. Lechay was a regular exhibitor at the late Sally Nerber’s Cherry Stone Gallery in town. This exhibition at Wellfleet Preservation Hall preserves his legacy and demonstrates the painter as one of Wellfleet’s most important Modern artists.
-Megan Hinton, 2019