American Art Selections from Driscoll Babcock
AMERICAN ART SELECTIONS
Established 1852 New York, New York 10011
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) MRS. JOHN SCOLLAY (MERCY GREENLEAF), 1763 Oil on canvas, 35 Âź x 28 inches Signed and dated lower left: J.S. Copley. Pinx. 1763
This Pre-Revolution American portrait of the prominent Boston matriarch, Mrs. John Scollay (Mercy Greenleaf), was commissioned from Copley, by her husband, John Scollay, a prominent businessman, a chairman of the Boston Selectmen, a member of the Sons of Liberty, and a friend of Samuel Adams and John Warren, the Revolutionary War hero killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Mercy was a daughter of a minister, Reverend Daniel Greenleaf and his wife, Elizabeth Gookin. Scollay Square in Boston would be named for this family. This is a classic Copley American portrayal in which Mrs. Scollay is presented as an intelligent and forceful woman of the Age of Enlightenment. Her refined dress and thoughtful pose suggest a woman very much in tune with the changing world and perhaps secure in the knowledge of revolutionary struggles about to be unleashed across Europe and the American continent. The painting retains what appears to be its original hand carved frame. A related pastel portrait of Mrs. Scollay is in the collection of Harvard Art Museums and a pastel of Mr. Scollay, perhaps prepatory for an unlocated oil painting, is in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy. This painting descended for 220 years through the Scollay family and is well considered in the John Singleton Copley literature by such major scholars as Barbara Neville Parker, Anne Bolling Wheeler, Jules Prown, Carrie Rebora Barratt, Paul Staiti, Erica Hirshler, Theodore Stebbins Jr., and Carol Troyen.
Benjamin West (1738-1820) BELISARIUS AND THE BOY, 1804 Oil on canvas, 22 x 16 inches Signed lower left: B. West 1804
BELISARIUS AND THE BOY is one of four recorded variants on this subject by West: one is in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, one is in a private collection and a third is unlocated. Dating from 1804, this work reveals West’s extraordinary technical skill and the conceptual ability that lifted him to the top echelon of painters in London at the end of the 18th century. The allegorical narrative of this subject was of some popularity in “The Age of Enlightenment” as it addressed the oppression and injustices of authorities, of rulers, and was related to the revolutions that swept the North American Continent, France and other countries in the latter years of the 18 century, and the first half of the 19th century. Helmut von Effra and Allen Staley (who illustrate this painting in their 1986 The Paintings of Benjamin West, Yale University Press, No. 43, PP., 184-185) have noted that this 1804 version of BELISARIUS AND THE BOY “must be ‘the small picture of Belisarius and the Boy-different from that in the possession of Sir Francis Baring’ listed among the works in West’s Painting-room in Public Characters of 1805, which appeared in October 1804.”
Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880) LAKE GEORGE FROM NEAR SABBATH DAY POINT, c. 1849-50 Oil on canvas laid on paperboard, 10 ⅝ x 14 ¾ inches Inscription on verso: “Sanford R. Gifford (Hudsonian School) / Present from Mrs. Robert Wilkinson (neé Cornelia Maurice) Poughkeepsie, N.Y.”
This brilliantly painted oil painting has an unbroken provenance in the Gifford family, going back to the artist when he gifted the work to his sister. It is accompanied by a scholarly letter discussing the site specific subject and the authenticity of the painting by Kevin J. Avery. The subject of this painting, Lake George, is one of the most iconic in all of Hudson River School painting. This painting, accomplished while Gifford was still in his twenties, demonstrates his formidable technical and stylistic abilities in rendering both the details of the scene as well as the characteristics of light, of time of day. With a beautifully organized palette of colors and crisp, articulate brushwork Gifford demonstrates his credentials as a natural born painter and anticipates the great luminist works that he would create over the next thirty years: qualities that would establish him among the great painters of his era. Kevin J. Avery notes that a Gifford sketchbook at the Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, contains a drawing inscribed “SabbathDay Point, Aug. 22, 1848” (Marbletown, Catskills, & Lake George Sketch Book) which is closely related to the view portrayed in this painting, and suggests a probable date around which this painting was completed.
John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872) KILLARNEY LAKES, 1856 Oil on board, 8 Âž x 13 Âž inches Signed and dated lower left: JFK./56 This painting depicts a bay on Lough Leane, known as Castlelough Bay in Ireland, and was done from the front lawn of Lake House, which occupied the same ground as the current hotel on the site, Lake Hotel. The outcrop of rocks on the middle left of the composition is Castlelough, named for the remains of an old castle that occupied the site. The site seems to have considerable historical significance as it was where the final surrender document, terminating the Cromwellian Wars for both Ireland and England, was signed. The boats at left are from the hotel and provided for use by the guests.
Several drawings by Kensett exist, documenting his trip to Ireland and to Killarney Lakes, including three notable ones in the collection of the Dia Art Foundation, New York.
Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902) OUR FUTURE AMERICANS, c. 1865 Oil on canvas, 62 x 52 inches Inscribed on stretcher: “L.M. Spencer”
Lilly Martin Spencer, one of the most important American genre painters of the nineteenth century, specialized in anecdotal portrayals of domestic life and activities. Children at play, often with metaphorical themes attached, as in OUR FUTURE AMERICANS, are among her favorite subjects. In this instance, believed to have been painted during the Civil War, we have one of Spencer’s grander compositions. The subjects have been identified as two of eight children of Catherine and Francis Ward, prominent New Jersey patrons of Spencer. They are pictured with the accoutrements of childhood and nationhood. The parrot appears in another Spencer painting portraying four of the Ward children (Newark Museum) and suggests a link to the children’s identity. Mr. Ward was a strong Unionist and the presence of the Stars and Stripes, along with the drum and drum sticks, signal patriotic if not marshall themes, while the title suggests knowledge that the war will soon end and a new era for the re-United States is about to begin. OUR FUTURE AMERICANS is one of Spencer’s largest and most accomplished extant works. It is painted in her mature style and reflects her ambition for a grand and celebratory work. Her handling of paint, with soft modulated colors and sure brushwork reveal her technical fluency and secure her position as one of the premier genre painters in the history of American art.
Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) STUDY FOR BUCKS COUNTY BARN, 1918 Watercolor and conte crayon on paper, 20 x 25 ½ inches Signed and dated lower right: Charles Sheeler 1918
Among Charles Sheeler’s most iconic images are the early series of Bucks County Barn images, paintings and photographs, most of which are in major public collections. This particular example, Sheeler retained until the early 1930’s when he made it a gift to his new dealer at that time, Edith Halpert of the Downtown Gallery. Halpert kept this painting until her own death and in 1973 it was sold in her estate sale realizing the then impressive price of $8,500.00 from a private collector, who owned it until 2008. The fact that Sheeler made a gift of this painting to Halpert must be seen as a measure of the significance he attached to it. He was not one to trifle with his work and he made very few gifts of his work. The fact that it was a gift to Halpert and that she retained it throughout her life manifests the significance it held for both of them. This is the only known work by Sheeler to have both the rigid structural and spacial arrangement of the barn structure floating in space – Yankee Cubism as some have referred to it – and the lyrical wavy line that functions almost as a psychological or musical counterpoint (a theme that occurs in other instances in his work) to that structure. It is an element of whimsy in the very serious context of modern art’s point/counterpoint imagery. This painting is related to one in the Ferdinand Howald Collection at the Columbus Museum of Art, another example in the Arensberg Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a later variant at the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.
Edwin Dickinson (1891-1978) FORT NIAGARA, 1935 Pastel on paper, 11 ½ x 17 ¼ inches Signed, dated upper left: “E W Dickinson / 1935”
Only five pastel on paper works by Dickinson are known to exist: one in the possession of the Heirs of Edwin Dickinson (1935), one at the Montclair Art Museum (1935), one of which is unlocated (1957), and two which remain two in private ownership (1935 and 1942). FORT NIAGARA, 1935 is one of the two privately owned Dickinson pastels. It, like his other works on paper and on canvas, is carefully sighted, visually arresting yet pervaded with a sense of calm observation, composed of the most careful and delicate tonal modulations of color, all inoculated with his instinctual and invariably notably edgy compositional design. The pastels are among Dickinson’s greatest rarities and always demonstrate his casual yet highly disciplined and fluent image construction. FORT NIAGARA is a masterwork within the body of Dickinson’s notable works.
John Wilde (1919-2006) SUMMER APPLES, 1964 Oil on panel, 10 x 12 inches Signed and dated on verso
John Wilde is an American original, an artist who went deep into a surreal world of imaginative images carefully crafted to be both visually realistic and psychologically abstract. He will forever remain an outlier in the era of abstract expressionism, and yet his work embraces the eye and draws one in as by an irresistible magnet of compelling and enigmatic imagery. In SUMMER APPLES one gets a full blast of Wildeâ€™s realist tendancies in which each element is represented in form by the utmost care. The still life elements are juxtaposed with a far away diminutive landscape. Wildeâ€™s hyper enigmatic realism reaches from the dark side essays of Albert Pinkham Ryder and Ralph Blakelock, through the early surrealist extravaganzas of Salvador Dali through to the alternately witty and inscrutable works of Paul Delveaux and Rene Magritte. In this sense, Wilde really is an American original whose lustrous star is yet to shine in the eyes of most collectors.
Additional works available by: John Vanderlyn William Tolman Carlton William Harnett Charles Herbert Moore Robert S. Duncanson Winslow Homer William Merritt Chase Charles Webster Hawthorne Arthur B. Davies Everett Shinn Edward Middleton Manigault E. Ambrose Webster Marsden Hartley
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