In 1916, Gari Melchers, an internationally famous painter, purchased the Belmont estate in Falmouth, Virginia. With the exception of some European travel in the 1920s, he made this his permanent home during the last decades of his life. Area residents and visitors are privileged to be able to visit this gem of a museum which combines a glimpse of the artist's home life as well as a tour of his studio.
Melchers' works appear in many of the finest museums in the United States. He was a native of Detroit, but his style derived much from his studies abroad. His talent was recognized by his father, a sculptor, who encouraged him to receive instruction at the Royal Prussian Academy of Art in Dusseldorf, Germany. It was there that he became influenced by the French Naturalist painter, Jules Bastien-Lepage, who employed open-air light and intense brushwork in his paintings, full of bright colors and expressive features. The 1880s saw Melchers and another American artist, George Hitchcock, at Egmond-aan-Zee, Holland where the two founded an artists colony where they painted the ordinary people going about their daily lives. When his painting, The Letter, featuring peasant women, was accepted into the Paris Salon of 1882, Melchers knew his first professional success.
The artist became well-known for his religious works such as The Communion and The Choirmaster. In the 1890s, he went on to paint portraits of famous men such as Vanderbilt, Mellon, and Roosevelt. After his marriage to art student Corinne Mackall in 1903, women and children often became the subjects of his paintings, and these were done with a remarkable brightness of light, color, and expression. Many of these years were spent in New York.
From 1909 to 1915 Melchers held a teaching position at the Ducal Academy of Fine Arts in Weimar, Germany, and returned to America when the outbreak of World War I all but closed the school. Upon their return, the Melchers purchased Belmont estate while maintaining a studio in New York. He continued to associate with American Impressionists and frequently painted people and places in the Falmouth and Fredericksburg area. The Belmont Museum in Falmouth includes a gallery of his works, many dating to that time and offering a glimpse of local lifestyles in the early part of the twentieth century. Gari Melchers died at Belmont in 1932. His paintings fell out of fashion for several decades but have since seen a resurgence of interest and can be viewed in many of the finest museums in the country.
Melchers was not only a gifted painter. He also gave his time to the development of the National Gallery of Art. In recognition of his services to the larger art community, the Gari Melchers Memorial Medal was named in his honor.
Below is an approximately 15-minute introduction to Gari Melchers' life and work from Gari Melchers' Home and Studio at Belmont:
[Images of artwork courtesy of The Gari Melchers Home and Studio.]
Further Reading on Melchers
On the Web
Gari Melchers' Home and Studio
"Belmont, The Gari Melchers Home and Studio, in Stafford County near Fredericksburg, Virginia, is the former residence of the American figure painter Gari Melchers (1860-1932). The museum consists of the artist's home, studio and gardens. The stone studio and galleries house the largest collection of Melchers' works anywhere."
Gari Melchers on the Internet
Melchers' work can be viewed online from a number of galleries and auction houses.
"A Man in Two Worlds." Virginia Living. November 5, 2015.
Materials in Central Rappahannock Regional Library's Collection
Gari Melchers: A Retrospective Exhibition edited by Diane Lesko
Gari Melchers, His Works in the Belmont Collection by Joseph G. Dreiss
Gari Melchers, Painter by Gari Melchers (A collection of his works)
Gari Melchers: True and Clear. (DVD) - The same introduction embedded in this blog post