'Coast to Cascades' opens at TAM

Impressionism is one of the most beloved painting styles among museum-goers, and Northwesterners can get their fill at Tacoma Art Museum beginning Saturday, Nov. 12. The remarkable survey “Coast to Cascades: C. C. McKim’s Impressionist Vision” is the collaborative product of Margaret Bullock, Curator of Collections and Special Exhibitions at TAM, and Mark Humpal, an art scholar and gallerist from Portland.

C. C. McKim The Rocks, Ore. Coast, 1920. Credit: Grabenhorst Collection; photo: Dale Peterson
C. C. McKim The Rocks, Ore. Coast, 1920. Credit: Grabenhorst Collection; photo: Dale Peterson

McKim (1862-1939) was a notable and essential figure in Northwestern art history. Along with the exhibition, the curators co-authored a beautiful catalogue featuring color images of all of the works in the exhibition and furthering the scholarship of this important Northwest painter.

“Coast to Cascades” is the latest installment in the museum’s Northwest Perspective Series. It continues TAM’s tradition of highlighting the careers of significant Northwest artists and contributing original research on the region’s art history.

“Mark and I are excited to bring more attention to this very talented Northwest painter and to look further at impressionism in this region. We all know impressionist scenes from Europe and our East Coast, but McKim’s works bring the style to our beautiful Northwest landscape,” said Bullock.

Charles “C. C.” McKim’s early 20th century depictions of Oregon’s mountains, coastline, valleys and sloughs are filled with both lively and subtle hues. The 43 luminous paintings on view at TAM trace the development of his painting style. Through this survey, the curators track McKim’s evolving use of color, composition, and painting techniques that resulted in a range of interpretations of Portland and the surrounding region. The exhibition also explores McKim’s significant impact on the art scene in Oregon during the early 20th century and his key role in popularizing impressionism in the Northwest.

McKim crossed the continent from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon in 1910 just as his impressionist style began to evolve. His artworks immediately achieved popularity and were sought after. During the 1910s, he worked toward mastering color and varying the ways in which he applied paint. By the early 1920s, McKim had tightly honed his skills to create complex compositions. He used varied amounts of paint for emphasis. In the 1930s, he favored broad vistas with detailed foregrounds beyond which detail dissolved into a soft haze of muted light and cool colors. McKim’s evocative images of the Oregon landscape capture its unique beauty and character, and he played a key role in defining a particular regional “look” to Northwest impressionism.

“McKim’s sudden stature as Oregon’s leading impressionist landscape painter seems improbable given his background and formative experiences,” explained Humpal. “He was an artistic late-bloomer whose training did not include the great art institutions of Europe or America. He took Portland by storm a mere seven years after first hanging out his shingle as a professional artist in Portland, Maine.”

– Tacoma Art Museum

Tacoma Art Museum

1701 Pacific Ave.



 Museum hours – Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day

Free third Thursdays – Nov. 17, Dec. 15, 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

Admission — Members, free; Adults, $15; Students/military/seniors, $13; 5-under, free.