Melchers Masterpiece Comes to Belmont

Fredericksburg, Va. – The Sermon, considered the most critically acclaimed painting by American artist Gari Melchers (1860-1932), has been placed on extended loan to Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont. The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., has agreed to lend the painting to Belmont for up to two years, where it will join other major Melchers’ works on exhibit in his stone studio.

Visitors can view The Sermon in the Pavilion gallery, along with studies in the Belmont collection, in a special “spotlight” exhibition beginning June 1. 

Melchers intended The Sermon for the most important exhibition venue of his day, the Paris Salon. Because of the then current rage in Paris for peasant painting, the young artist hoped to find both high praise and a ready market for his picture. Submitted in time for the 1886 Salon, it earned him an honorable mention, a sizable feat for the young American artist.

The public loved The Sermon for its honest, yet nostalgic pictorialization of a disappearing way of life, and critics predicted a promising future for the American painter. Melchers’ ‘snap shot’ of working class life established him as the leading American practitioner of the movement commonly referred to as rustic naturalism

n conjunction with the exhibit, Curator Joanna Catron will present a background discussion on “The Sermon: Icon of American Expatriate Painting” on Sunday, September 9, at 2 p.m. in the Studio Pavilion. Catron’s talk is included in the price of admission.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont is a 26-acre estate and former residence of the American figure painter Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. The property, which is part of the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Va., a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge. For more information, call the museum at (540) 654-1015 or visit www.GariMelchers.org.