Jean MacKay Henrich (1909-2002), High Seas, 1985; watercolor on paper, 31 5/8 x 43 3/8 inches; Gift of Thomas and Penny Flickinger

Jean MacKay Henrich (1909-2002), High Seas, 1985; watercolor on paper, 31 5/8 x 43 3/8 inches; Gift of Thomas and Penny Flickinger

High Seas (1985) by Jean MacKay Henrich, a recent acquisition

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jean MacKay Henrich was a sculptor, painter, printmaker and teacher. She taught printmaking for the Buffalo Print Club in the 1930s. At the Art Institute of Buffalo, she was head of the Sculpture Department from 1938-1942, returning from 1944-52. Many people remember her association with the Buffalo Seminary, where she taught night classes in sculpture beginning in 1944, quickly became head of the Art Department in 1946, and loyally served until 1979.

In my opinion, Henrich’s most unique contribution is the series of paintings she called Fugues. She described them as starting “with an effort to lend more interest to the horizontals of sand, sky, and water of a Florida beach. Blocking out areas to make an abstract arrangement of rectangles and to focus attention, I developed my own version of the fractured image. Later I used a block-out in the form of parallelograms.” Using this device, Jean inserted a lyrical quality to her landscapes. You had a sense of different times of day, the shift in light, shadows from a passing cloud, or other infinite subtleties within the parameters—and perimeter—of a single, focused field of vision. It is like a cross between Cubism and Impressionism, in that different perceptions are attained within a single picture plane, but without a shift in three-dimensional perspective. Her Fugues also resonate with the compositional structure of paintings by Hans Hofmann, whom Jean had met. I believe Henrich was able to achieve this desired, floating effect because she brought a sculptor’s perception of space to the flat world of painting.

Nancy Weekly
Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator

Email Nancy at weeklyns@buffalostate.edu

 

Nancy Weekly is the Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator for the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the world’s only museum dedicated to American watercolor master Charles E. Burchfield and artists of the Buffalo Niagara region. She also serves as an adjunct lecturer in Museum Studies for the Department of History and Social Studies Education at Buffalo State College

 

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