Friday, April 1, 2011

Mildred Nix Huie: Reflecting upon Fauvist Influences

Mildred Nix Huie (1906-2000) was an impressionist painter whose passion of history and regional ardor emit from her work. Influenced by the scenic landmarks of Saint Simons Island, Georgia, Huie successfully preserved the history of the coastal community through her art. Collections produced by Huie during the 1960s and 1970s and exhibited en permanence at the Mildred Huie Plantation Museum at Mediterranean House on Saint Simons Island include Landmark Scenes of the region and colonial Plantations of Coastal Georgia. However, earlier in her career as an artist, Huie drew heavily upon Fauvism for inspiration.

The Fauvist movement, led by Henri Matisse and André Derain, lasted only four years (from 1904-1908) but continued to impact the style of artists beyond its early twentieth century beginnings. The style is seen as developing from a combination of Post-Impressionism and Seurat's pointillism along with other Neo-Impressionist artists. The use of color and brushstrokes of the Fauvist painters were different from those of Impressionist painters. While Impressionist paintings comprised of flowing, almost ethereal strokes, the Fauvists favored a more permanent technique of seemingly haphazard brush work. The color palette of the Fauvists was crucial to the movement. Strident and powerful colors were often used to lend to the painting's sense of permanency, a component not evident in many Impressionist works.

Didier, Bord de Saone/Bateaux, ca. 1920. Oil on paper, 7"x9". Bequest of Robert G. Wilcox. Mildred Huie Plantation Museum at Mediterranean House, Saint Simons Island, Georgia.
 Bord de Saone/Bateaux (ca. 1920) by Didier, a member of the Ziniars School of Lyon, France, institutes many of these Fauvist elements. The artist, who Huie held in high esteem, chose a bold color palette which allows the viewer to envision a vibrant, hustling narrative, despite the lack of people in the scene. A bright summer day looks down upon a docked boat which is ready to depart on its voyage. Although the scene is a fleeting one, the use of color lends to the subject's permanence in reality and its substantial quality. The strong lines, almost without interruption create a eye-directing mosaic in which the lines of masts, ropes, and sails are continued into the scenery of the background. This linear aspect of the painting also suggests the subject's belonging to a place and time within the scene.

Huie's Fauvist studies were completed mostly in the 1920s (while she studied at Shorter College in Rome, GA and Florida State College for Women majoring in Latin and minoring in Greek) through the 1940's (while living in Albany, GA and managing WALB radio and TV). Although, Huie continued to return to Fauvist influences in later works.

Mildred Nix Huie, Fauvist Vase Study, 1921. Watercolor on canvas, 22"x29". Bequest of Lillian Clarke. Mildred Huie Plantation Musuem at Mediterranean House, Saint Simons Island, Georgia.
 Fauvist Vase Study (1921) contains a more limited palette than those of the founding Fauvists. Huie used muted yellows, greens, blues, and some pink in this abstract watercolor. The strong brushstrokes create geometric shapes from which a vase emerges to the left of the center of the painting. Although the palette is not as vibrant and consistent with traditional Fauvist works, Fauvist Vase Study evokes a sense of strength and permanence via its brushwork.

Mildred Nix Huie, Fauve Floral, 1970. Oil on canvas, 9"x12". Bequest of John McIndoe. Mildred Huie Plantation Museum at Mediterranean House, Saint Simons Island, Georgia.
 Fauve Floral (1970) consists of more bold colors than her earlier painting. Yellows, reds, and oranges draw the eye to the center of the painting as the petals of three black-eyed susans. Two other flowers lay to the right of the upright bunch, slowly wilting and losing color. A sea-foam green behind the flower petals works to contrast the flowers from their surroundings, offering a sense strength despite the flowers' ephemeral quality evidenced by the wilting few.

Although Huie switched to more flowing brushwork and a pastel color palette (inspired by that of Monet's) after the 1950's, her love of Fauvist techniques remained. She would often return to the elements indicative of Fauvism discussed above in her later works, as is evident by Fauve Floral.

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