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Luther Emerson Van Gorder
(American, 1861–1931)
Japanese Lanterns
oil on canvas, 28 1/4" x 22 1/2"

This charming evocation of childhood wonder and delight has long been one of the most popular American paintings at the Tweed Museum of Art. Luther Emerson Van Gorder was known primarily as a painter of moody seascapes and sentimental genre scenes. Of the six works by the artist in the Tweed collection, Japanese Lanterns stands out a fine example of the modified impressionism favored by many American painters. The realistic treatment of his subject is combined with impressionistic daubs of bright color, warm glowing light, and a thick and active paint surface, where visible brushstrokes imply swirling movement — all of which support the theme of childhood innocence, delight and wonder. In both subject and style, Japanese Lanterns was clearly modeled after John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, which was painted in London in 1885. Van Gorder studied with C.Y. Turner and William Merrit Chase in New York in the late 1880s, and also at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris with the academic painter Carolus-Duran. He may also have studied briefly in London, where it is likely that he was influenced by James McNeil Whistler and came into contact with John Singer Sargent. Van Gorder lived the latter part of his life in Toledo, Ohio, where he supported himself as a magazine illustrator.

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