ART REVIEW: "Bernard Chaet: Seascapes"-List Gallery of Swarthmore College

Author's note:  I recently began college at Swarthmore College and many of my future reviews will be based on the campus or in the area.  This review is adapted from my piece in the September 6 edition of the College's newspaper, the Phoenix.  With this humble column begins the saga of “I On the Arts: The College Years”.  Enjoy!

(An interview with List Gallery Director Andrea Packard about this show can be found here.)

A view of the gallery.  Photograph by the author.

When I informed several of my fellow first-years that I had been commissioned to review the art exhibit at the List Gallery of Swarthmore College, located eleven miles from Philadelphia, many of their first reactions amounted to “the what now?” and “where?”  Undaunted, I began excitedly relaying to them my first Phoenix writing assignment.

Tucked away in the Lang Performing Arts Center on the beautiful, lush campus of Swarthmore College, the List Gallery is a little gem of a space that has been serving the Swarthmore College community for around two decades.  The small spaces puts on several shows per year of both well-known and more obscure artists as well as exhibiting senior art exhibitions.

Some background on the current show: Bernard Chaet, born in 1924, is a native of the Boston area.  He received degrees from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, to name but a few, and has held teaching positions at institutions such as Yale University.  

The seashores of New England have captivated many artists, and Chaet is no exception.  Many of the works on display in the List Gallery were painted en plein air, or on-site, at various locations in Massachusetts and Maine.  Others were reworked many times in the artist’s studio until he found the perfect combination of color, atmosphere and form.

And what forms they are!  The List Gallery starts the year off right with this collection of vibrant oil paintings and watercolors. List Gallery Director Andrea Packard ‘85 has meticulously and thoughtfully curated the exhibit, which opens September 6.  It is a survey of sorts, a collection of Bernard Chaet’s seascapes from 30 years ago to, more recently, 2008-2009.  

Taking visual cues from the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Expressionist movements, the works in the gallery display luminous color and tangible texture. The oil works in the gallery’s first room are somewhat literal recreations of the sea and of the shore, while the watercolors occupying the second room are looser and more abstract. 

The most striking aspect of Chaet’s works is his glorious use of color.  Recalling painters such as Cezanne and Matisse, the paintings glow with sometimes surprising colors. The palettes of the works range from hazy pastels to murky ochres to arrestingly bright hues. The exhibit is organized and hung so that the works complement both the gallery space and one another in a lovely array of visual harmony. 

The highlights of the exhibit are several of the oils in the first room as well as one work in the second room.  Chaet paints vigorously, with gusto and with a sure hand.  The love for his chosen subject matter is present in the joy with which he applies oil to canvas and watercolor to paper. The paintings titled “Soft Morning” (#1), “May” (#2) and “Bass Rocks 1” (#15) are standouts, as well as the watercolors “Morning Message” (#6) and “Rain” (7).

“Bass Rocks 1”.  Photograph by the author.

I urge my fellow students as well as any local art lovers to take the trip from Philly to Swarthmore and take a walk over to LPAC to see this exhibit!  

This has been “I On the Arts: The College Years”, signing off.  Until next time!


  1. So happy to welcome the reviewer back from a summer hiatus! What a wonderful review of what appears to be a beautiful show! You have made these paintings come alive! Hoping to catch this exhibit at the end of next month.

  2. "The College Years"... love it.

    Hopefully your followers will grow in the Swatland. Great review! If the exhibit is still there in late October, I will even check it out with artlovermom.

    Go Phoenix! Garnet!

  3. I liked the show too; it was sized and hung appropriately for the wonderful List Gallery. Amidst the tumultous large oils in the front room, don't overlook the small gem "Ocean Light" (#18 on your scorecard) which confers a sense of conclusion as you leave the gallery.


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