The Past is Ever Present

The Past is Ever Present at the Jessie Edwards Gallery

The beginning of a new year is often a time when we look back at what has been. Our latest exhibit, both on-line and in person, at the Jessie Edwards Gallery on Block Island, does just that: we look to past artists to remind us what it is that holds us in the present as we reminisce and remember.

This new exhibition features four artists, who can be described as anything from  impressionist to expressionist, who made their mark in the 20th century. Enjoy this retrospective of these timeless works by Willian Skardon (1923-1983), William Sommerfeld (1905-1998), Bernard Lamotte (1903-1983) and Agnes Millen Richmond (1870-1964) as you browse the images on line at or in person (most weekends and by appointment in January and February) second floor of the iconic Post Office Building overlooking Old Harbor.

William Skardon is described by those who knew him as an artists artist, a person who painted or sketched almost every day of his life and for whom the aesthetic act of painting was of primary importance. He loved Block Island and would paint late into the day and evenings on his visits. In his work we see the expressionistic emotional intensity of bold colors and dramatic lines. This style is apparent in his ‘Untitled Cityscape VII’, a watercolor on paper work, which brings us into the scene, allows us to pause and take a breath as we scan the skyline of New York City.

We also see this in his watercolor, ‘Seated Nude’. The minimal palette works to soften the image, bringing it forward in a way while also being part of the background, making the whole piece intimate and beckoning.

William Sommerfeld worked primarily in oil, in a style that moves from impressionism to abstraction. Sommerfelds landscapes are remarkable for both what is present in them and what is absent. The contours and colors of the land emerge in their spare simplicity. When he died, he left a collection of nearly 1500 landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, nudes and still lifes in his estate.

‘Standing Nude I’ and ‘Standing Nude II’, oil on canvas board, are just two of those many works we are privileged to share with you here. As with his landscapes, it’s not only what he puts into the image but also what is left out. We are able to fill in the detail, bringing our own experience in to help complete the picture.

Sommerfeld’s still life ‘Green Bowl’ is an oil on board painting which makes food the center subject, something to behold in and of itself. It’s a comfort knowing there is something beautiful and practical to having our food held in an earthenware container, itself a thing of beauty.

His ‘Winter Harbor’, an oil on canvas board, takes us down to the water where we feel the turbulence of the weather. It is an every day scene in seaside communities and it captures the raw beauty of the sometimes fierce environment for those that live by the ocean can experience.

Bernard Lamotte was born and educated in France but spent much of his life in the United States. In ‘Parisian Suburb’, an oil on board work, we are treated to one of the styles he is known for: painting that which was in front of him. He beautifully captures an every day moment in a village not far from the capital but far enough to lend a rural feel.

The deep and muted tones of Lamotte’s ‘Untitled Still Life’, an oil on canvas or board, brings us back to our grandmother’s kitchen and a time many of us remember with some nostalgia. It feels inviting to have this bowl of fruit, in and of itself a work of art, ready for us to enjoy.

In ‘Figure On The Beach’, an oil on prepared panel, we get a feel for his impressionist work and are immediately drawn into the scene on the beach. It feels like a perfect place to  watch the day go by at the shore.


Agnes Millen Richmond was an American impressionist painter based primarily in New York City and the only one of our current exhibition painters born in the 1800s. Her balanced palette of intense hues and subdued earth tones makes her relevant regardless of the decade.

In her ‘Marina’, an oil on linen work, the use of light and shadow renders this almost abstract scene something we want to be part of. It has an air of the expectant: we are either waiting for a boat to arrive or we have just farewelled one and are left looking at the beauty left behind.

Her work ‘Woodstock NY’, an oil on linen painting, is warm and filled with summer light. The colors are vibrant and lively, and we feel like anything is possible in this beautiful day. It warms our soul to be among this landscape.

Come see for yourself how the Past informs the Present and how relevant these works still are. Share our journey of artwork in the comfort of your own home or with us here in the Gallery on Block Island. For more information call us on 401.466.5314.