Springfield Museums, Exhibit: Two Lives, One Passion
August 15 - September 9
A Story of Love at the Springfield Museums First Comprehensive Display of the Artists’ Work Ever! On view through September 9.
Who were the Kaulas? Why have many of us never heard of them? And why is the Springfield Museums hosting a spectacular collection of their work and the first comprehensive display of the artists’ work ever?
Emerging from the Boston School of the Fenway Studios at the turn of the century and traveling throughout New England to paint beneath billowing cumulus clouds, the Kaulas resisted commercial pressures in order to pursue art purely for the love of art—and of each other. The vast collection of William Jurian Kaula and Lee Lufkin Kaula’s work speaks to the power of a passionate focus to produce art that continues to compel and capture from century to century.
“The Kaulas offer a wonderful story,” said Heather Haskell, director of the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, one of five museums situated on the downtown Springfield quadrangle. “They met while painting in Europe and fell in love. And they pursued art for the love of art, not for commercial gain. Two love stories in one.” The Kaulas allow the Springfield Museums to discuss the American Impressionists, the Boston School, and the Fenway Studios, and what made these movements distinct within the art history of New England. “Also we can explore why the Kaulas—both very talented artists—resisted imposed trends and kept out of the limelight.”
The Kaulas met each other in the late 1800s while painting in the countryside of Crecy, France, and they married in 1902. They were among the first occupants at the Fenway Studio Building on Ipswich Street in Boston. They shared a studio working side-by-side until William’s death in 1953.
William, who pursued landscape drawing and painting, sought accuracy in capturing clouds, particularly cumulus clouds. One might initially see his dozens upon dozens of landscapes as similar until one looks with the lens of scientific accuracy. Then the ideas of botany, atmospheric conditions, and the chemistry of the landscape blossom and billow in a way that makes his landscapes something far more than pigment on canvas.
Lee’s work is immediately arresting for its emotional impact and aesthetic beauty—she concentrated on portraits of women and children, and included scenes of children at play. The women are dressed in sumptuously colorful and textured clothing, in domestic, interior settings. Contemporaneous reviewers mention the subtlety of gesture that adds a layer of joy and mystery to each portrait, drawing the viewer closer to the personality of the woman depicted. The only portraits she painted of men are of her father and her husband, both of which are wonderfully warm and emotive.