Rosanne Vita Nahass Performance and Rescheduled Mary Cassatt Documentary on November 18

November 5, 2012

Rosanne Vita Nahass Performance and Rescheduled Mary Cassatt Documentary

at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

New Brunswick, NJ – The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers spotlights the exhibition “Mary Cassatt Prints: In the Company of Women” on Sunday, November 18. A screening of “Mary Cassatt: A Brush with Independence” begins at 1:30 p.m. The film is free with museum admission. At 3 p.m., pianist Rosanne Vita Nahass performs “American Impressions,” a unique musical journey that illuminates the relationship between music and the visual arts. Tickets are available the day of the concert beginning at 12:30 p.m. Prices are $5 for Rutgers faculty, staff, and students (with valid ID); $10 for museum members; and $15 for nonmembers (does not include museum admission).

The hour-long documentary “Mary Cassatt: A Brush with Independence” explores the artist’s life and career. Cassatt was a pioneer in American art and among women in the late 19th century. Born in 1844, she entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at just 15 and, determined to pursue art as a career, moved to Paris in 1866 to continue her studies. Because the leading French art academies did not admit women, she independently studied with affiliated instructors and established artists, including Edgar Degas. Cassatt ultimately settled in France – becoming the only American invited to join the French Impressionists – where she remained until she died in 1926. This authoritative film explores Cassatt’s diverse influences, drawing upon excerpts of letters and diaries from the artist, her family, fellow painters, and friends. Actress Anne Archer narrates.

A Zimmerli favorite, Rosanne Vita Nahass returns to the museum to present her popular and engaging lecture-recital format, discussing not only the composers and their works, but also other cultural trends of the eras. “American Impressions” explores the works of American composers Amy Beach and Charles Tomlinson Griffes, contemporaries of Mary Cassatt. Like the painter, who was a pioneer in American art and among women, they were influenced by their interactions with European culture and challenged late 19th-century social conventions in pursuit of their art. The program includes several of Beach’s compositions and Griffes’s rarely heard “Piano Sonata.” In addition, Nahass performs a masterpiece of French Impressionism, “Miroirs” (“Reflections”). Maurice Ravel composed this suite for solo piano to pay tribute to his fellow artists in Les Apaches (“hooligans”), a group of young French artists, poets, critics, and musicians that formed around 1900.

Amy (or, Mrs. H. H. A.) Beach (1867–1944) is considered the first professional female composer of the United States. Although this child prodigy made her professional debut as a pianist at 16 (and soon became a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra), she turned her focus to composing just two years later upon the request of her new husband, as the life of a performer was not considered appropriate for a woman of her social standing during the Victorian era. Beach continued to enjoy success and regard, becoming one of the nation’s leading composers. Following her husband’s death in 1910, she resumed her performance career, beginning with a three-year tour of Europe. Beach continued to perform and compose for the next 30 years, ultimately creating more than 150 numbered works, most of which were published and many performed by the leading artists and ensembles of her time.

Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884–1920) also had an early interest in the arts and began piano lessons as a child in western New York. In 1903, he traveled to Berlin, where he studied composition for four years; in addition to learning from the German masters, he was influenced by the French Impressionists and contemporary Russian composers. Unfortunately, his creative freedom in Europe came to an end when Griffes was obligated to return to America in 1907 to care for his widowed mother and family. He accepted a post as a music instructor and schoolmaster, which prevented him from devoting much time to creating original work. He also was forced to conceal his homosexuality, conducting his personal life in secret, and his international friendships suffered as anti-German sentiment developed prior to World War I. While some of his early works were published, his newer compositions were considered less conventional and his professional recognition waned. However, beginning in 1914, Griffes began to regain popularity, working with prominent musicians and receiving critical acclaim, as well as composing his most important works. But, again, misfortune struck when he lost a battle to influenza in 1920. Despite his short life, Griffes is now considered the most famous American representative of musical Impressionism, composing some of the most innovative works during the early 20th century, including one of the earliest compositions by an American composer that demonstrates Japanese inspiration. In addition, much of his music is still performed today.

Rosanne Vita Nahass helps non-musicians cultivate a better understanding and appreciation for classical music with her innovative style. The Paterson, New Jersey, native earned the Fellowship Diploma from Trinity College London and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers University. She continued at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and practiced internal medicine for 18 years. After her hiatus from performing, she returned to music to pursue her passion full time. On the surface, music and medicine seem disparate, but the musician fervently believes music is a healing art, essential to our humanity. Nahass has appeared on stage with the New Jersey Symphony, North Jersey Philharmonic, and other local orchestras. In 2011, she also took on the role as independent music producer and released “Bartok and Ives,” her first CD.


The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in 19th-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.


The Zimmerli Art Museum is supported by Rutgers University as well as the income from the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment Fund, and the Voorhees Family Endowment Fund, among others.  Additional support comes from the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Contributions from other corporations, foundations, and individuals, as well as earned income, also provide vital annual support for the Zimmerli’s operations and programs. 


The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street at George Street on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.

Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and the first Wednesday of each month (except August), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays, major holidays, and the month of August.

Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for 65 and over; and free for museum members, children under 18, and Rutgers students, faculty, and staff (with ID). Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 732.932.7237 or visit the museum’s website


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