Important American Art from a Distinguished Private Collection
Menconi + Schoelkopf
January 19 â€“ February 5, 2016
Important American Art from a Distinguished Private Collection
Menconi + Schoelkopf
Important American Art from a Distinguished Private Collection
We are delighted to present these extraordinary works of art, all of which come to us from a private collection. The tie that binds them is the quality of their execution, their beautiful compositions, and their very fine condition. In each case the works are unique and superior examples of each artist’s oeuvre. We do not take lightly assessing these works as “masterworks” and feel quite confident in so doing. The works trace the evolution of American art from the 1850s through the 1930s with deep emphasis on the beauty of the American landscape in the mid-nineteenth century. The painted views portray the entire length of this nation’s terrain, from Francis A. Silva’s depiction of the serene waters of Boston Harbor in 1873 to Albert Bierstadt’s pristine view of an unspoiled Yosemite Valley shortly after the creation of this country’s national parks. Contrast these peaceful and contemplative views with the bustling activity along Broadway on the streets and in the theatres of lower Manhattan as depicted by Everett Shinn and Thornton Oakley who deftly sums up the “Golden Age of Illustration” with his signature style. The artworks also express the best and most essential components of each artist. The George Henry Durrie, for example, embodies perfectly Durrie’s magical combination of genre elements and his favored winter landscapes around New Haven, Connecticut, at the peak of his talents in the late 1850s; Jasper Francis Cropsey’s Indian Summer on the Susquehanna is a quintessential example of the autumnal landscape in America captured in Cropsey’s signature crystalline light of the early 1860s; and the Silva, Calm at Sunset, is quite clearly the finest work of the artist’s career, when he gathered up the confidence and energy to paint a picture of such scale, beauty, and quietude that it simply surpasses any of his previous efforts. The Homer watercolor captures the greatness of one of
America’s finest watercolorists at a moment of extraordinary virtuosity during the height of the American watercolor movement. This catalogue is presented with several aims in mind. First and foremost, we wanted to share the very special quality and beauty of the works of art. We also wanted to provide written content to share our perspective on each painting and the Shinn pastel and the Homer watercolor. Lastly, the catalogue should also serve as an invitation. We hope you will call, write, and visit the gallery to see the artworks first-hand. Creating this catalogue in a very short period of time was a joy but also particularly challenging. Praise is offered to Jonathan Spies, our excellent Gallery Director who researched and wrote much of the text. We are also deeply appreciative for the advice and assistance of Kathleen Burnside of the Childe Hassam Catalogue Raisonné; Phyllis Braff and Stephen L. Good of the Thomas Moran Catalogue Raisonné Project; Francis Silva scholar Mark D. Mitchell; Melissa Webster Speidel of the Bierstadt Project; Ryan P. Semmes of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library; Renee Harvey of the University of Tulsa; and particularly Martha Hutson-Saxton who offered the excellent essay on George Durrie’s At the Mill, Winter. Martha did so in near record time, and with record grace and we are so very appreciative of her efforts on our behalf. The gallery will be adorned with these works from January 19th through February 5th. Please come see us and these extraordinary works of art. We look forward to your visit. Andrew Schoelkopf Susan Menconi Jonathan Spies Kathryn Fredericks
Frederic Edwin Church
Mount Newport on Mount Desert Island, c. 1851–53 Oil on canvas 17¼ x 25 inches Signed at lower center: F. Church
provenance [Sale: Christie’s, New York, June 3, 1983, lot no. 56]; to [Alexander Gallery, New York]; to Private collection, New Jersey; to [Sale: Christie’s, New York, May 25, 2000, lot no. 49]; to Private collection, until the present
In 1850, Frederic Edwin Church was uniquely positioned to bear the mantle of American landscape painting. Church was the star student of Thomas Cole, the preceding generation’s leading light. He had earned Cole’s blessing through abundant talents and diligent study. Church would ultimately surpass Cole in the clarity and atmospheric realism of his technique, and he was also his own painter in theme, leaving aside the heavy allegory of Cole’s The Course of Empire (New-York Historical Society, New York) in favor of a naturalist’s passion for observation. When Cole died in 1848, Church was seen as Cole’s successor, but the younger painter came triply armed, using the critical theories of John Ruskin while having a model in the form of the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt launched a passion for scientific exploration that stretched from a young Charles Darwin (whose legacy would eventually eclipse entirely the former’s) to a generation of American painters and explorers. Indeed, while Cole’s outdoorsmanship was conf ined largely to the Hudson River Valley, Humboldt modeled the “artist-adventurer” that would immediately impact Martin Johnson Heade and Church, in whose footsteps Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran would shortly follow. The third major inf luence came in the 1843 publication of Modern Painters by John Ruskin. Ruskin admonished a generation of English and American painters to bring “truth to nature.” The trio of critic, artist, and naturalist primed Church’s formidable native talents for the very highest achievements in American art in the nineteenth century. In the first years after Cole’s death, Church traveled to Mount Desert, a picturesque island off the coast of Maine. In Church’s first year of study under Cole, 1844, the master had sketched and painted there, and the contact had made a lasting impact on the younger painter. Moreover, Church’s choice of scenery would extend well beyond Cole’s inland mountains and rivers, embracing views of the open sea as well as exotic locales to the far north and south. Maine was a sort of half-measure in this regard. Remote from
New England society and marked by peculiar geological features, Mount Desert was an abrupt collision of mountain and sea. Inland Maine, too, exerted an attraction on Church, who was drawn to visit Mount Katahdin after Henry David Thoreau’s account of the place was published in 1848. A favored site of an adoptive father, a stepping stone to true wilderness exploration, and a font of unique visual effects, Mount Desert would continue to fascinate Church for years. Maine’s scenery even contributed to one of his (and American painting’s) undisputed masterpieces, Twilight in the Wilderness (1860, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio) [ John Wilmerding, The Artist’s Mount Desert: American Painters on the Maine Coast (1994), p. 103]. The crucible of Transcendentalism, Humboldtian naturalism, and Ruskinian aesthetics would lure a generation of painters to the region, including Sanford Robinson Gifford and Fitz Henry Lane, who visited Mount Desert a half dozen times, and may have crossed paths with Church. The present work is from one of Church’s early visits, likely between 1851 or 1852 (he visited almost every year between 1850 and 1856). He sketched a view of the same mountain that is the centerpiece of the present work on September 12, 1850, inscribing “New Port Mountain, Mt Desert Island” in his sketchbook. Church’s extensive sketching included studies of rocky outcroppings and broad views of the horizon line. As was his habit throughout his career, he was an assiduous observer of nature, but his f inal canvases were not always precisely literal views. He added and rearranged elements from other sketches in order to best serve the composition. Mount Newport on Mount Desert Island is likely no exception. While the figure in the foreground contradicts some of his sketchbook observations, the general scene is likely drawn directly from his carefully delineated notebooks. Like Twilight in the Wilderness, the present work may be a mild departure from a literal view of the mountain, but it builds a masterful picture as a composite of his many views over at least a summer of sketching on a wellloved stretch of island.
Martin Johnson Heade Coast of Brazil,
Oil on panel 6H x 10 inches Signed and dated at lower left: MJ Heade 64
provenance George F. McMurray, California; Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut; [Alexander Gallery, New York]; to Private collection, until the present
exhibited Pasadena Art Museum, California, 1960, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: The George F. McMurray Collection, no. 42, illus.
recorded Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade (1975), no. 86 // Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Martin Johnson Heade (1999), no. 3, p. 52 // Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné (1975/2000), pp. 233–35, no. 127
Martin Johnson Heade’s long and varied career began around 1837 under the instruction of Edward Hicks. Despite a few early successes—portraiture commissions in Washington, D.C., and other minor accolades —Heade wouldn’t emerge into his full mature style until nearly two decades later. Shaking off the Peaceable Kingdom painter’s folk stamp, Heade began in 1858 several series of canvases, where he studiously observed nature and remade himself as an artist. It could not have hurt his development that at the same time he moved his studio into the Tenth Street Studio building in New York, where his neighbor Frederic Edwin Church must have influenced his rapid progress. In addition to gaining a stunning clarity and boldness for atmospheric effects, Heade visited South America in the 1860s, prompted by Church’s success as an “artist-adventurer.” Between 1863 and 1870, Heade made three treks to the tropics, but unlike his Hudson River School peers, he skipped the volcanic mountains of Ecuador in favor of the hummingbirds of Rio de Janeiro. The immediate years of work before the visit suggest Heade’s difference in temperament. As a painter of landscapes, Heade often elided identifying landmarks, turning away from natural splendors that captured the imaginations of the Hudson River School. On a painting expedition in Vermont in 1860, Heade reported that he had “seen nothing that I cared to sketch” [as quoted in Stebbins (2000), p. 6]. His preference, if the number of canvases in his oeuvre is any indication, was for the comparatively anonymous New England salt marsh, of which he painted more than one hundred twenty.
When Church’s Heart of the Andes was unveiled in 1859, Heade must have shared in the widespread enthusiasm, but the vast picture-window panorama would rarely surface in his own work. Instead, as the Boston Transcript reported in 1863, It is his intention in Brazil to depict the richest and most brilliant of the hummingbird family,— about which he is so great an enthusiast—to prepare in London or Paris a large and elegant Album on these wonderful little creatures, got up in the highest style of art. He is only fulfilling the dream of his boyhood in doing so [ibid., p. 71]. Before he got to fulfill that dream he brought his formidable skills as a landscape painter to bear on the Brazilian coastline. Three major canvases resulted from a number of on-site sketching trips, the grandest of these being Sunset Harbor at Rio, 1864 (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia). While there is some uncertainty about which was begun f irst, Heade was evidently at work on one of these canvases when Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil suggested a better view, which the painter embraced. Coast of Brazil is one of the handful of plein air sketches which may have contributed to these larger works. Heade had unquestionably transformed himself from the stiffness of his folk beginnings to being a master of light and atmosphere. The tropical air and the glassy surface of the water testify to this mastery. The boldness with which he has treated the dark waves at foreground is the hallmark of the painter of Approaching Thunder Storm (1859, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)—a painter unafraid to blacken the waters.
Martin Johnson Heade Two Hummingbirds at Nest,
Oil on canvas 9H x 12¼ inches Signed and dated on verso: M. J. Heade 1863
provenance George P. Guerry, New York; to [Robert Brovaco Gallery, Montclair, New Jersey, by 1956]; [Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, May 25, 1994, lot 28]; to Private collection, until the present
recorded Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade (1975), p. 225, no. 69, illus. // Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné (2000), p. 284, no. 331, illus.
In 1863, Martin Johnson Heade turned to his passion: hummingbirds. A group of twenty canvases was brought to London for chromolithographs, but the large and elegant album never saw completion. The group for reproduction was titled Gems of Brazil, and the canvases themselves brought Heade huge sums, while the Emperor of Brazil knighted him into the Order of the Rose. Janet Comey describes the Gems of Brazil group: “Vertical compositions, approximately 12 by 10 inches, depicting both male and female of the species, often near a nest, against landscape backgrounds” [as quoted in Stebbins (2000), p. 73]. Two Hummingbirds at Nest displays all of these qualities, sparing only the vertical format. The birds depicted are “two ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) are pictured at their nest” [ibid., p. 331]. The uniform orientation and scale of many of the first batch of hummingbird pictures likely aimed to accommodate the hoped-for album, but there are several well-documented examples of horizontal pictures. These, including two unusual painted-oval formats,
come from early in Heade’s Brazilian trip, a vestige perhaps of his earlier conventional still life practice. (In keeping with European still life tradition, these formats embrace their subjects: horizontal orientations to suit table-tops and verticals to suit vases, etc.) While Stebbins, author of the Heade catalogue raisonné, notes that Heade went on to paint many copies and alternative arrangements to suit the demand for his work, he places the present work early in Heade’s initial compositions. While strictly speaking it would not have been included in the Gems of Brazil album, it is nonetheless the same shape and properly grouped with that initial body of work. The careful observation, a synthesis of Ruskinian aesthetics and Humboldtian naturalism, affirms their lasting significance in American art. The combination of foreground hummingbirds and background landscape is an unmatched innovation, of which the present work is a powerful example. Stebbins remarked, “One seeks in vain for direct precedents for these astonishing works within either American or European art” [ibid., p. 8].
Albert Bierstadt Yosemite Valley,
Oil on canvas 19H x 27 inches Signed at lower right: ABierstadt [with conjoined initials]
provenance (Possibly) Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., Washington, D.C.; [Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, May 28, 1987, lot 129, illus. in color on cover]; to Private collection, until the present
Albert Bierstadt made three trips to Yosemite—the f irst in 1863, the last a decade later. An apparently erroneous report that Bierstadt “caught the spray of Bridal Veil” placed him again at Yosemite in 1882, but it appears he was in fact exploring Yellowstone for the f irst time [as quoted by Gordon Hendricks in Albert Bierstadt: Painter of the American West (1974), p. 275]. The present work was likely painted during the last of these Yosemite trips, perhaps expressly for the family of one of the fathers of the National Park, President Ulysses S. Grant. Bierstadt’s first trip to the American West was in 1859, and its fruit—namely, the ten-foot canvas Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak (1863, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)—elevated the Germanborn painter’s name from relative-unknown to a rival of Frederic Church. His second trip, in 1863, was just as important. Accompanied by Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Bierstadt headed for the Yosemite Valley of California. Throughout the following decade, the paintings based on sketches from the valley would dominate Bierstadt’s output while indelibly associating the painter with the splendor-filled valley. The following year, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, the first time land was delineated for preservation. This set the mold for the creation of Yellowstone National Park eight years later, changing both policy and public opinion on environmental preservation forever. In 1867, the photographer Eadweard Muybridge made a similar expedition, accompanied by his own naturalist, John S. Hittell. The photographs—signed with the pseudonym “Helios”—made Muybridge’s name as a photographer, while the book that Hittell authored, with illustrations from Muybridge is arguably the first Yosemite guidebook. In 1872, Bierstadt traveled again to Yosemite, this time with Clarence King, “explorer and geologist” [ibid., p. 272]. He gave further attention to other peaks of the Sierra Nevadas, and was documented by Muybridge’s photographs of “Bierstadt’s studio.” Bierstadt’s f inal trip to Yosemite came in June of 1873. Writing on June 12th of that year, Bierstadt invited Josiah Dwight Whitney, who had published a guide to the valley in 1869. “Prof. Whitney,” as Bierstadt addressed him, was unable to join the party, and Bierstadt was joined by his wife on this trip.
Contemporary critics had already begun to turn from the painter’s recent work, Among the Sierra Nevada, California (1869, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.) reporting that “his later pictures show less study than his earlier ones” [as quoted by Nancy K. Anderson and Linda S. Ferber in Albert Bierstatdt: Art & Enterprise (1991), p. 227]. The criticism would increase in the following decade, when Bierstadt’s work would become increasingly idealized and romantic, but in the mid1870s, he determinedly returned to the site that had helped make his name with the intent of spending a month at what he did best—direct observation. By July 26th, he was back in San Francisco, “laden with sketches from a spot which as yet is almost untrodden soil” [ibid.]. Some of these sketches were nonetheless from ground that at least a few had previously trodden —if not by Bierstadt himself then likely by Muybridge and a few other early visitors. The sketches Bierstadt produced in 1863 to 1873 inspired a series of vast meditations on the varieties of light through the valley. The view northwest through the valley became for Bierstadt a view not unlike Monet’s haystacks or Rouen cathedral: he treated the view in an exhaustive variety of light conditions, exploiting his source material through exacting observation for radically varied drama. While the vast natural splendor of Yosemite was certainly Bierstadt’s subject, at the same time he used that splendor as a stage on which to let the drama of light unfold. The present work presents a view of the landmarks of the Yosemite Valley common to several other works by Bierstadt. On the left, the craggy cliff of El Capitan is easily identified, an element Bierstadt favored in his Yosemite pictures. The Half Dome lurks in the distance, while, to the right, the Cathedral Rocks rise above the spilling Bridalveil Fall. The first plate in Muybridge’s book bears a close resemblance to the view depicted in the present work. Bierstadt either had a nearer vantage point, or he selectively omitted some of the stand of pines in the foreground to maximize the scenic drama. The angles of the view as well as their elevations are very close, if not exactly the same. The plate is captioned “General View of the Yosemite Valley looking East from Komah, (Moon Rock) on the Mariposa Trail, 1,500 feet above the Valley.” Hittell described the view accordingly:
The great attraction of Yosemite is the crowding of a multitude of romantic, peculiar and grand scenes within a very small space. One of these waterfalls, one of these vertical cliffs, half a mile high, one of these dome or egg-shaped mountains, or the chasm itself, as a geological curiosity, would be worthy of world-wide fame; but at Yosemite there are eight cataracts, five domes, a dozen cliffs, several lakes and caverns, and numberless minor wonders, besides the big-tree groves near by, and a score of mountains that reach an elevation varying from 13,000 to 15,000 feet, including the highest peak of the United States, within sight [Yosemite: Its Wonders and Its Beauties (1868), pl. I]. All of these natural spectacles were treated in other monumentally-scaled works by Bierstadt. It is an unusual treasure to have them grouped together and treated with equal compositional emphasis in a single canvas. Perhaps unique in Bierstadt’s Yosemite paintings, however, is the elevation of the viewpoint. The present work approaches the valley from above, looking down on the valley from its south rim. The vantage point is likely near what is today marked as “Artist’s Point” on the Pohono Trail, not far from Wawona Road. Adding to the drama of the elevated viewpoint is the artist painting on an outcropping of rock at lower right. The figure sits beneath a parasol in a folding chair of just the sort that Bierstadt used on his painting exhibitions. The artist included himself into the landscape, a vignette that is confirmed by Eadweard Muybr idge’s photographs of the artist at work [Eadweard Muybridge, Albert Bierstadt’s Studio, 1872, as reproduced in Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise, p. 226]. Bierstadt’s large-scale panoramas of the valley hew to a view from the valley floor, a device that dramatizes the rising peaks above. Bierstadt used panel-back stretchers for much of his career, and the present work retains just this sort of stretcher. Quite distinct from traditional stretcher bars, the panel-back variety presents a sheet of wood across the back of the panel. The canvas is not laid down on the panel, but suspended through tension at a distance from the panel, just like a conventional
canvas. The result is a support that is somewhat heavier and far more durable than the stretcher-bar canvas. Certain major works, including several Yosemite pictures for the 1860s (for example, Yosemite Valley, 1866, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio), were executed on these durable stretchers. Lance Mayer and Gay Myers observe, that, “Panel stretchers (also called blind stretchers) appeared in America by the 1830s, if not earlier . . . Albert Bierstadt bought panel stretcher in New York in the 1860s” [in American Painters on Technique: 1860–1945 (2013), p. 22]. When the arctic painter William Bradford moved into the Tenth Street Studio Building in 1860, Bierstadt impressed upon him the value of the panel-back stretcher for uses in extreme conditions. Bradford took up the device and used it almost exclusively for his arctic expeditions. The ability to travel anywhere and everywhere must have appealed to Bierstadt as well. For his part, he also saw in the panel-back stretcher the advantage of longevity, writing, that, stretcher frames covered with calico or thin cloth and then covered with shellac and glue . . . keeps out all moisture and dust and perseveres the canvas. The panel back does the same and I generally have both sides covered with shellac before the canvas is put on. This prevents the wood from absorbing moisture in any way and I think it very rare that even in dry times the canvas remains tight whereas in the ordinary stretcher the canvas is tight or loose according to the weather [as quoted by Dare Myers Hartwell in “Bierstadt’s Late Paintings: Methods, Materials, and Madness,” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 38, no. 1 (1999), p. 39]. While Bierstadt had used panel-back stretchers since at least the 1860s, the present work was executed on an innovation in the form. Patented in 1875, the spring-loaded panel back, by Wright and Gardner, provided an improvement in Canvas Stretchers . . . superior to any frame now in existence, because of its novel construction, whereby provision is made
for its automatic expansion and contraction in consequence of variations in the weather, also on account of its strength, durability, cheapness, etc. [Wright & Gardner’s label on verso of stretcher]. The original frame is labeled with the stamp of Grenner & Co., a frame and fine art gallery located at 719 6th Avenue in New York. According to contemporary reports, Grenner & Co. continued business till 1882, when the . . . firm of Grady & McKeever assumed the management. The premises occupied consist of a handsome store and picture gallery, and also a separate department for manufacturing picture frames [New York’s Leading Industries: Exchange and Commercial Review, Embracing Also Historical and Descriptive Sketch of the City, Its Leading Merchants and Manufacturers (1884), p. 273]. Because the panel-back stretcher in use in the present work was unavailable before 1875, and its framer under new management by 1882, we date the present work in that span of years. In 1877, Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia departed on a grand world tour. They were seen off from Philadelphia by a group of friends and relatives, including U. S. Grant, Jr., who went by the nickname “Buck,” and a notable painter of the West: So many people escorted the Grants to their ship that two cutters were needed to carry them. Buck Grant [U. S. Grant, Jr.] and Colonel Fred Grant were there, but Horace Porter was the only one of the old army staff present to say farewell to the general. On Julia’s boat was a man with an eye for grandeur, the artist Albert Bierstadt [William McFeely, Grant: A Biography, p. 454]. On January 6, 1881, Bierstadt had dinner with the president at Delmonico’s. It is believed that the president’s family acquired the painting in the late 1870s or early 1880s, evidenced in part by the stamp on the original frame reading “GRANT / Washington / D.C.” It is fitting that a Bierstadt of Yosemite Valley, which set the standard for land preservation, should join the family of the president who signed into law the first national park.
Sanford Robinson Giﬀord Indian Summer,
Oil on canvas 9H x 15H inches Signed at lower left: S. R. Gifford
provenance W. P. Avery Alice Frazer, Lowell, Massachusetts; [Taggart, Jorgensen & Putnam, Washington, D.C., until 1987]; to Private collection, until the present
recorded The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Handbook No. 6: Loan Collection of Paintings in the West and East Galleries (1880), no. 436 // Ila Weiss, Poetic Landscape: The Art and Experience of Sanford R. Gifford (1987), p. 222
Lake Millinocket, 1879 Oil on board 4H x 8H inches Signed at lower left: S R Gifford Signed, dated and inscribed with title on verso: from Lake Millinoket [sic.], Spt. 1879, SR Gifford
provenance [Alexander Gallery, New York]; to Private collection, in 1996, until the present
exhibited (Possibly) Brooklyn Art Association, 1880, no. 121, as Mount Katahdin, Me., no. 121 // The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2004, Hudson River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford, no. 68
recorded Isla Weiss, Sanford R. Gifford (1986), no. 44 // Ila Weiss, Poetic Landscape: The Art and Experience of Sanford R. Gifford (1987), p. 9 // Kevin J. Avery and Franklin Kelly, Hudson River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford (2003), p. 233–35, no. 68
In 1860 and early 1861, Gifford executed a group of “Wilderness” paintings. In contrast to the identifiable European locales which he was exhibiting at the National Academy and Century Association around the same time, these views were entitled without reference to their specific sites but often drawn closely from Gifford’s sketches in the previous years [Weiss, Poetic Landscape (1987), p. 88]. From July to August of 1859, Gifford explored the White Mountains and the Androscoggin River of New Hampshire. A decade later, a critic and admirer wrote of this period of the artist’s work: Some years ago Mr. Gifford used to be known as a painter of Indian-summer landscapes; and almost all the commissions he received were commissions to paint such pictures . . . He saw other things in Nature as beautiful as an Indian-summer landscape. He resolved to show that he could produce them also [as quoted in Weiss (1987), pp. 90–91]. Indians on the Lookout, New Hampshire, is one such work. Weiss identifies it as, a smaller, undated study, with the prominent, spiked dead tree trunks of 1861 paintings and a Chocorua-like focal peak, measuring 9½ x 15½ inches, may be one of the catalogued works with the punning title, Indian Summer . . . It was probably related to two Mount Chocorua views sold in 1863 [ibid., p. 223]. While the work is of modest scale, this was Gifford’s preferred size for many f inished compositions, and works such as this were certainly in demand. It was likely executed in his studio, rather than being an example of Gifford’s plein air oil sketching, full of rapid, loose brushwork. Further, the figures in canoes in the near field were likely later additions to a produce a scene that Weiss calls “the Indian fantasy” [ibid, p. 224]. Throughout Gifford’s career, he would
use figures in the midfield to demonstrate the scale of his landscapes. Following the 1855 publication of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, Native Americans became the preferred cast members to include in such wilderness scenes. Gifford certainly encountered Native Americans in bucolic settings on his 1859 trip to Nova Scotia, but we have no certainty that he also encountered them canoeing at the foot of Chocorua. The present work, which he chose not to title with its place-name, may well have been a composite of studies from two or more trips. ————— Frederic Edwin Church bought property along Lake Millinocket, Maine, and in September 1877 he invited landscape painter Jervis McEntee and Gifford to visit. The painters made another visit, accompanied by their wives, two years later. About the first visit, Weiss writes, “the trip was probably made more for pleasure than professional reasons, as very little artwork was produced. They spent much of their time f ishing, canoeing, and walking in the woods. McEntee’s journal suggests that they went trout fishing every day” [Weiss (1986), no. 44]. Lake Millinocket is a product of sketching and possibly painting during the second trip [see Avery, p. 234 for compositional sketches of Mt. Katahdin]. The mild idealization of the mountain’s profile suggests that the oil painting may have been a studio work drawing on sketches from both trips, as well as memory, and compositional improvisation akin to a similar device in A Sudden Storm, Lake George (private collection). The authors of Hudson River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford write: “Delicately crafted in diminutive scale, the painting offers a gem-like recasting of what Gifford’s words suggest was a vacation often dampened by indifferent, even nasty, weather” [Avery and Kelly, op. cit., pp. 233–34].
Jasper Francis Cropsey
Indian Summer on the Susquehanna,
Oil on canvas 24 x 41 inches Signed and dated at lower right: J. F. Cropsey/1861
provenance Dr. Waller Lewis in 1861; to [Galerie de Tours, San Francisco]; to Mrs. E. Willis; to [Sale: Sotheby’s Belgravia, London, in 1973, lot 100]; to [Richard Green Gallery, London]; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1973–79]; to [Alexander Gallery, New York, 1979–80]; to James Torelli, New York; to [Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York]; to Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, Switzerland, by 1982; to [Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, 1984, lot 6]; to Private collection, until the present
exhibited Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska; Old Courthouse, Saint Louis, Missouri; Stuhr Museum, Grand Island, Nebraska; Fine Arts Gallery, Chadron State College, Nebraska; South Dakota Memorial Art Center, Brookings; and Nebraska Western College, Scottsbluff, 1973–74, A Sense of Place: The Artist and the American Land // The Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, 1974–75, Nineteenth Century American Topographic Painters, no. 31 // Wildenstein Art Center, Houston, 1978, American Paintings form the Late Eighteenth through Early Twentieth Century, no. 9 // Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, and Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, Nebraska 1982–83, no. 16, as Indian Summer
recorded Anthony M. Speiser and Kenneth W. Maddox, Jasper F. Cropsey: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I (2013), 1842–1863, pp. 356–57, no. 664
Born in Staten Island in 1823, Jasper Francis Cropsey inherited the mantle of Thomas Cole as a painter of the sublime in the American landscape by mid-century. In the heart of his career, between 1850 and 1875, his paintings were held in esteem on a level with Cole and Asher Durand. He was trained as an architect, and rapidly excelled at draftsmanship before setting out as an architect. He drank deeply of Cole, and of John Ruskin upon the publication of Ruskin’s Modern Painters in 1847. His own students included David Johnson, who carried on Cropsey’s reverence for nature, as well as George Inness, whose own inward spirituality was manifested in his paintings of a somewhat different character, if no lesser in critical esteem. In 1856, Cropsey sold a group of paintings in his studio, raising some $8,000—a princely sum in his day. The sale financed his decision to move his studio and family to England. The move was critical for Cropsey, and his new home of London welcomed him and his depictions of American landscapes. The English were enthusiastic patrons of Cropsey’s visions of autumn. While Anglo-American tastes for winter scenes ran to northern European painters, fall foliage of the Hudson River Valley and New England were fast becoming the voice of the season. The golden glow of Cropsey’s palette may have been the quintessence of American autumn. His 1860 Autumn—On the Hudson River (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) was a masterpiece of the idiom. His transplant to England also put him in touch with Ruskin. Mixed
with his own religious ideas, the Ruskinian model infused his landscapes with rich metaphor, the fall foliage dappled with the light of the setting sun. Ruskin had not taken up any explicitly religious subjects in years, but his work was nonetheless suffused with a spirituality of the day. To quell the incredulity of his British patrons, Cropsey actually scattered around the bottom of the painting fallen American leaves which he had imported for the express purpose. “I am confident you will be able to convince your English friends that your rendering of the American Autumn forest is true,” wrote F. A. Otis, Cropsey’s American friend [as quoted by Anthony Speiser in Jasper Cropsey: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, p. xxv]. Evidently the English were convinced, and Autumn—On the Hudson would sell for greatest price Cropsey had then yet received for a single painting—$2,000 [ibid.]. Cropsey first painted the Susquehanna River in 1856. The earlier work on the theme, An American Autumn Scene on the Susquehanna River (private collection), was actually painted in England. An 1859 version of the painting was sold to the printmaker E. Gambart, who intended to reproduce it in lithograph in a series of American scenery [ibid., p. 227]. Cropsey would return to the Susquehanna thirty or more times, but the present work relates to a contemporary ink sketch of the scene (unlocated, sold at auction on April 29th, 1863). Indian Summer on the Susquehanna was completed in England, feeding the growing British appetite for the American’s autumns.
George Inness Leeds,
Oil on canvas 22⅛ x 30⅛ inches Signed and dated at lower right: Geo Inness 1867
provenance Private collection, Belmont Hills, Massachusetts, by 1932; to [Vose Galleries, Boston, in 1991]; [Roland F. Pineault Fine Arts, Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1991]; to [ Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York, in 1992]; to [Vance Jordan Fine Art, New York]; to Private collection, in 1998, until the present
recorded Michael Quick, George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonné, Volume One, 1841–1879 (2007), pp. 280–81, no. 297, illus.
George Inness was a student of Jasper Francis Cropsey, but a glance at his breathtaking career is enough to see that he went boldly in directions undreamed of by his various progenitors. Those progenitors included Régis François Gignoux and, perhaps most important, an early exposure to Barbizon painting. In 1860, Inness left New York for Medf ield, Massachusetts, where he would spend the heart of his career. While the Dutch, the American, and the Gignoux lineage of French painting made little impact on his mature style, the Barbizon influence would be incorporated into Inness’s increasingly spiritual vision of the landscape from 1855 on. The rich colors and often fuzzy draftsmanship won him certain enemies as he began to depart from the conventions of the Hudson River School. One contemporary critic wrote: It is scarcely credible that an artist who is possessed of undoubted talents, and who has produced fine works, should so prostitute his ability as to paint like this. One of these pictures is a mass of green cheese dotted with sheep, (most people imagine these sheep to be cows) . . . Mr. Inness, pray leave off such freaks, and paint as we know you can paint [as quoted by Nikolai Cikovsky, Jr., in George Inness (1985), p. 19]. By the following decade, however, the faith that the critics held in his innate talent was vindicated as his poetic vision came into maturity. The critical and collecting classes shifted in their attitudes as the painter’s powers strengthened. In 1867, Inness was, “Perhaps more than any of our painters the popular idea of an artist . . . his long black hair, always in disorder, his ardent temperament and sensitive nature, his ignorance of the “savoir-faire” of life—all go to make up the artist” [ibid., p. 20]. Far from the adventuring artist in the mold of Frederic Church, Inness was every bit the modern image of the artist, sensitive and given to idiosyncratic moods and profound inspirations. This presciently modern temperament expressed himself in equally prophetic body of work, prefiguring a variety of art
movements from Tonalism and Impressionism to the expressionistic works of Albert Pinkham Ryder. The present work was executed right at this critical juncture. The site is near Leeds, New York, a small town across the river from where Frederic Church would break ground on Olana two years later. Michael Quick, author of the Inness catalogue raisonné, remarks therein: The profile of the distant mountain range is seen in several other Catskill paintings by Inness—for instance, in Catskill Mountains, 1870 (cat. 369)— but the historian in Leeds was uncertain about the location. The elevated viewpoint, which is somewhat unusual, is seen again with this mountain range in Spring Valley, ca. 1868 (cat. 328), and in the painting recently given the title Overlook Mountain in the Catskills, 1868 (cat. 323), views closer to the mountain range that suggest a vantage point on an opposing hill [Cikovsky, op. cit., p. 281]. Inness’s sometimes outré techn iques are more restrained in this work, but nonetheless Quick takes note of the bold paint handling: “This picture is painted softly and freely, with atmospherically muted color produced by painting opposite colors upon colors, most often a purplish color upon green” [ibid., p. 281]. This bold mixture of cautious observation and sensitive emotional investment is exactly what gave rise to the painter’s passionate defenders during this, his most powerful decade. An anonymous writer summed the case: Mr. Inness is a man of unquestionable genius; he is one of the finest and most poetical interpreters of nature in her quiet moods among our landscape painters. He follows no master, but adopts his own methods of expressing his ideas. Let those who wish to know what he can do drop in at the exhibition gallery of Mr. Nichols, on the corner of Broadway and Eighth street, where may be seen a small canvas recently from the easel of Mr. Inness [“Art Items,” New York Tribune, Sept. 29th, 1860, p. 4].
Francis Augustus Silva Calm at Sunset,
Oil on canvas 29 x 50 inches Signed and dated at lower right: FRANCIS A. SILVA. 1873
provenance [Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, September 23, 1993, lot no. 35]; to Private collection, until the present
recorded Mark D. Mitchell, Francis A. Silva (1835–1886): In His Own Light, (2002), p. 128, fig. 41
Calm at Sunset, painted in 1873, is Francis Augustus Silva’s crowning achievement. The long horizontal canvas of ships lingering at sunset off the New England coastline was created during the high moment of Silva’s career and is his most sophisticated and most elegant painting. Silva devoted his career to achieving perfection in the Luminist mode, a goal he reached in the mature years of his brief career during the years of Reconstruction in America. The art historian John I. H. Baur coined the term “Luminism” in his 1954 essay, “Luminism: A Neglected Aspect of the Realist Movement in Nineteenth-Century America” [Perspectives USA, no. 9, 1954, pp. 90–98]. Twenty-f ive years later, in the spring of 1980, the exhibition American Light at the National Gallery of Art catapulted Luminism into the mainstream as the postBicentennial American art market caught fire. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue significantly advanced an understanding of the different rhythms and modes of American landscape painting of the middle nineteenth centur y and comfortably cemented Luminism into the vernacular of American art. American Light offered a number of essential essays, including Barbara Novak’s “On Def ining Luminism,” which created a checklist of nine variables against which paintings could be considered Luminist. Most notable of the defining characteristics of Luminism for the casual observer are four critical components: light, brushstroke, silence, and scale. Dr. Novak commented upon the light, the touchstone descriptive element of the movement: Luminist light is indeed one of the key factors of the mode. It is, in fact, questionable whether we are dealing with Luminism at all if the light is not present. But luminist light has its own specific properties, just as impressionist light has. Luminist light tends to be cool, not hot, hard not soft, palpable rather than fluid, planar rather than atmospherically diffuse. Luminist light radiates, gleams, and suffuses on a different frequency than atmospherically diffuse [Novak, “On Defining Luminism,” American Light, p. 23]. The manner in which an artist creates the paint surface is also essential. Brushstrokes disappear in
Luminist paintings; the intervention of the artist’s hand on the canvas is shielded from the viewer’s eye. The Luminist painter invites nature, light, and beauty to take center stage. Silence is also an essential factor in attributing works to the category. Fitz Henry Lane’s Lumber Schooners at Evening in Penobscot Bay of 1863 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) and Frederic Church’s Twilight in the Wilderness (The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio) of 1860, for example, are among the most peaceful works in American art—the conveyance of a poignant moment of quietude is essential for Luminist greatness and beauty. Silva was one of the most focused of the movement’s painters, investing the twenty years of his active career to the pursuit of the Luminist ideal. Born in New York in 1835 to a family of French descent, his life was def ined by two chief lines of interest; an early and passionate interest in art and a call to service in the military, both of which were an important part of the family tradition. His artistic career began exceptionally early when, in 1848, at the ripe old age of 13, he presented works in three consecutive annual exhibitions at the American Institute, earning marks of distinction as an amateur presenter. Building on this early reception, he began an apprenticeship to a sign painter where he progressed steadily, earning significant praise as a workman of distinction. He set up a studio of his own as he enlisted in New York’s Seventh Regiment. In addition to its fine place in military history for an important role in Civil War campaigns in Virginia and Maryland in the early 1860s, the Seventh held social cachet in New York circles as the “Blue-Blood” or “Silk Stocking” regiment, which proudly identified it with the high class New Yorkers that filled its ranks. Among the leading members of the regiment were artists Sanford Robinson Gifford and Robert Gould Shaw. Armed with the skills and vision to advance considerably beyond his humble beginnings as a talented sign painter, Silva embarked upon a serious career as an easel painter by the close of the war. He was an active member of the American Watercolor Society and the Artists Fund Society. Surprisingly, he was never accepted as a member of the National Academy of Design. We might speculate that Silva’s outspoken
nature and single-mindedness contributed to his exclusion. He was a resident of the important Tenth Street Studio building and was well-known to many among the Academy’s leadership. Silva painted works in two primary veins: river paintings along the banks of the Hudson River near Tappan Zee; and New England seascapes, particularly near Boston and Gloucester, where the current canvas was likely completed. Silva’s seaside views, painted in the early 1870s, are atmospheric masterworks and elegant studies of light and color. They convey the peaceful and optimistic mood enveloping America in the years of Reconstruction. Silva believed Luminism had an honorable goal that trumped the naturalism of the pre-Raphaelite movement. He argued that Luminism conveyed a moment, meaning and mood that expressed a higher calling than the simple photographic rendering of the myriad detailed elements of the scene. Silva distanced himself from this competing practice: They are not born artists, they have been schooled to apply paint skillfully to canvas, to use the brush, the palette knife and the fingers to perfection; their pictures are full of technique, but without art, for they do not feel that a picture should be a poem, a story, a tragedy or a comedy—that it should awaken in the human breast some interest besides admiration for mere mechanical skill and dexterity [Francis A. Silva, “American vs. ForeignAmerican Art,” The Art Union 1, no. 6/7 ( Jun.– Jul., 1884), pp. 130–31].
Luminism’s position as a bona fide movement has yielded significant discourse among scholars over the past twenty years. J. Gray Sweeney, Alan Wallach, and others have notably argued that attempts to define the movement and specific works as Luminist may overstate the need for a def initive label or movement. Regardless of the recent dialogue and scholarly reconsideration, the f inest Luminist paintings created between 1850 and 1875 remain among the most beautiful, elegant, and decidedly American canvases of the nineteenth century. Calm at Sunset is a particularly noteworthy example that secures Silva’s important role in conveying the finest attributes of the moment, if not the movement, and illustrates the artist at the apex of his considerable powers. The present work has been identified as a view of Boston harbor. Silva sketched the harbor in 1873, identifying the location at the lower edge of the page as “Boston Light. From Hull.” Hull is the peninsular town that approaches the harbor from the south, affording a view of scattered small islands, along with the Boston Light. The lighthouse was the nation’s first, built in 1716. It was rebuilt in 1783, and the structure we see today is very similar to its appearance when Silva was painting, as confirmed in views by Silva’s contemporaries. Depending on where along the Hull’s shore Silva was situated, he would have looked roughly north towards the Boston Light. The carefully-painted lighthouse and islands nestled on the horizon in Calm at Sunset are almost identical to those in the sketchbook, suggesting Silva had just this location in mind, perhaps working directly from this sketch.
William Trost Richards (1833–1905) Off Conanicut, Newport,
Oil on canvas 35 x 60 inches Signed and dated at lower left: Wm. T. Richards. 04.
provenance Wendell Endicott, Massachusetts; to Harrison Keller, Massachusetts, in 1949; to The New England Conservatory of Music, Boston; to [Alexander Gallery, New York]; to Private collection, in 1987, until the present
William Trost Richards brought the “landscape expression” of the Hudson River School to new heights by turning his eye toward the sea [Linda Ferber, Never at Fault: The Drawings of William Trost Richards (1986), p. 10]. Many American painters—from Fitz Henry Lane through Alfred Thompson Bricher—had taken up the sea and the naval portrait, but Richards’ attention to waves and the action of light across the surface of the ocean changed the discourse entirely. The lineage of his work was familiar to painters of his generation: in an early letter, he cites Thomas Cole and J. M . W. Turner as his guiding lights [ibid., p. 10]. Cole’s work focused on inland views, but his influence over Richards was more in spirit and method. Turner’s work certainly hinted at the majesty and power of the waves, more than any American artist had at that point. Richards went further than any predecessor or contemporary. Waves themselves became the sole subject; in many of his mature works, no shoreline is present. His working methods were exacting and myopic: hours spent at the waterline, or past it, are evidenced by voluminous sketchbooks f illed with wave studies. In this he departed from Turner, leaving aside the operatic lighting and dramatic paint application in favor of a sophisticated, polished observation practice in line with Ruskinian ideals. Across the three media of which Richards was a master— drawing, watercolor, and oil—the clarity of line and form is never subjected to romantic elision. Richards’s f idelity to his subject is a staggering achievement. This master of observation also possessed a strikingly modern color sensibility that gave some of his later works an affinity for Impressionism. Richards was born in Philadelphia, but bought a summer home in Newport, Rhode Island in 1875. He would spend winters in a variety of locations—upstate New York, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a few trips to Europe—but much of the 1890s was spent on the Rhode Island coastline. “I believe that I could from Newport scenery make more charming pictures than I have ever dreamed of before,” he wrote in 1874 [as quoted by Linda Ferber in Never at Fault (1986), p. 13].
By 1881, however, his home on Gibbs Avenue in Newport was hemmed in by new homes obscuring “all my country views of fields and orchards,” [ibid., p. 36], and he soon purchased property on Rhode Island’s second largest island, Conanicut. “You can’t realize what a delight it is to have the finest subjects right in one’s ‘front yard,’” he told his friend George Whitney in 1882 [ibid.]. This ideal setting for the painter would hold for another two decades, but in 1899 the federal government acquired the property to build the largest station, Fort Wetherhill, of its Coast Defenses of Narragansett Bay program during the Endicott Period of coastal fortification (1885–1910). The fort was in use from the turn of the century to the end of World War II—today it is a state park. Richards continued to sketch and paint on the island for the rest of his life, his pace of work undeterred by the loss of the house or the death of his wife in 1900. Ferber notes that “during the 1880s . . . he turned increasingly to the use of oil sketches and studies to complement and eventually supplant drawing as his primary study method” [ibid., p. 13]. An oil sketch exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in 1973 [Linda Ferber, William Trost Richards (1973), pp. 98–99, no. 90, illus.] may have contributed elements to the present painting. The low sun and crashing waves of the sketch feature the compositional elements of Off Conanicut, Newport in rough-hewn summary. The rocks in the present work have been modified and more fully articulated; the sky, too, differs slightly in its final version. The painter may have used the smaller work for the initial gesture, while in the studio a few years later he completed the canvas with a calm sky to contrast the surging waves. After Richards’ death in 1905, the present work remained in the collections of music-minded New Englanders for close to a century. Its f irst known owner, Henry Wendell Endicott of Massachusetts, served as president of the Boston Opera. It also belonged to f irst-chair violinist Harrison Keller of Boston. Keller was appointed director of the New England Conservatory of Music in 1946 and its president in 1951.
George Henry Durrie At the Mill, Winter,
Oil on canvas 26 x 36 inches Signed, inscribed, and dated at lower right: G. H. Durrie N. Haven 1858
provenance Charles and Anna Hotchkiss, Bridgeport, Connecticut; to Their daughter, Ella Hotchkiss Edwards, Bridgeport, Connecticut; to Her son, Kenneth Beach Edwards, Palm Springs, California; to His daughter, Mary Jane Edwards Young, Spartanburg, South Carolina; to [Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, Nov. 30, 1989, lot no. 37]; to [Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, in 1990]; to Private collection, until the present
exhibited Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, 1991, A Sense of the Everyday: American Genre Painting, no. 9
The paintings by George Henry Durrie are treasured examples of mid-nineteenth century American art. He is best known for the serene beauty of his winter landscapes and nostalgic recording of New England farm life before the Civil War. Durrie began his career as a portrait painter with little artistic training. By the early 1850s, he had moved to landscape painting and was studying the views around his native town of New Haven, Connecticut. He was mostly self-taught as a landscape artist and learned from looking at the work of the Hudson River School. He appreciated the popularity of the foliaged seasons, but was drawn to the dramatic silence and color purity of the winter scene. In his compositions of the countryside with farm yards, inn yards, and grist mills, he communicated contentment with the everyday pursuits of country life rather than its challenges. One of Durrie’s favorite motifs was the grist mill by a stream and he painted it often with the winter season. Grist mills ground the farmer’s grain and were built on a stream that could be damned in order to control the flow of the water that turned the water wheel. The 1858 painting of At the Mill is a mature example of Durrie’s style with this subject. His description of a visit to the grist mill by the local farmers is placed in a dramatic setting of trees and distant snow-covered f ields and mountains. Durrie has created an elaborate balance of genre and landscape elements that is an idealized interpretation of an ordinary occurrence in his lifetime. The earliest known painting by Durrie with this subject is listed as 1850 in his Record Book. That 1850 work could be Grist Mill on River in Winter [private collection, Martha Young Hutson, George Henry Durrie (1977), fig. 46], which is a small oval composition. There is a horse and sled by the mill, but the scene has a simple format and is without animation. Durrie learned from each painting and his next attempt at this composition was horizontal in format, Winter in New England (1852, New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut). There is the same setting of a mill in winter, but now the frozen lake has water running out
over a dam in the foreground. A horse-drawn sled has been introduced and two figures walking towards the mill. Durrie enlarged the composition again in 1853 with the painting of Old Grist Mill (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut) that included a horse and two oxen pulling a heavily loaded sledge across a bridge and a man walking behind them. The mill has been brought into the foreground, which allowed for a more complex and detailed recession into the background landscape. By this time, Durrie’s paintings were well known in the area around New Haven, and, in 1854, he opened a new studio and advertised a sale in the New Haven Register on May 9th: Having been engaged for a few months past in painting a number of choice Winter Scenes, would offer them at public sale to the admirers of the fine arts and all who would adorn their parlors with pictures that will stand for ages as an evidence of a cultivated and refined taste. It is needless to add that no collection of pictures is complete without one or more Winter Scenes. During the following five years, Durrie continued to develop his artistic style through a richer painterly technique and artistic vision. In addition to the 1858 painting of At the Mill, Durrie produced another 26 inch by 36 inch painting that year which was directly related to it. Red School House (Country Scene) (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) has a similar viewpoint into the composition and added genre elements. Most obvious is the same mid-ground building painted salmon-pink that centers each composition. The school house and the mill differ in function but are remarkably alike in appearance. In At the Mill, the four oxen pulling the sledge with its driver atop the bags add movement into the composition as do the horses pulling the heavily loaded sled in the school house painting. Every element is carefully controlled and calm, even to the children playing in the school yard and the skaters on the frozen pond next to the mill. There is a natural sympathy for the ordinary actions of everyday life, such as the horses
waiting patiently for their sled to be f illed and the placid oxen pulling the sledge with an effortless, steady ease over the snow. The mid-ground fields and overlapping mountain silhouettes are the same compositional elements frequently found in Durrie’s landscapes. The landscape dominates the genre element with a serene beauty that is dramatically enhanced by the twisting trunks and branches of the foreground trees. The color highlights and the touches of snow on these trees draw the eye and give the scene even more visual vibrancy. Durrie continued his interest in the theme of the grist mill and painted it at least two more times in 1861 and 1862. Old Mill in Winter (New-York Historical Society, New York) is a closer study of the mill itself, and Winter in the Country, The Old Grist Mill [private collection, Hutson, Durrie (1977), fig. 188] is nearly the reverse composition of At the Mill from 1858. In the 1862 version, the mill is viewed from the stream side and the horse and oxen have exchanged places. The delicate touches of snow on all the foreground elements and the lavender tones in the shadows on the snow found in At the Mill foreshadow their evolving presence four years later. Durrie was pleased with this composition and basically reworked it into the 1862 version. That painting was probably purchased the same year at the Snedicor auction in New York City by the lithographic f irm of Currier and Ives, who reproduced it in 1864. Currier and Ives had sold lithographs after Durrie paintings previously and continued to do so for several years after his death at forty-three in 1863. There were in total ten reproductions of his paintings; moreover the firm later used details from
these paintings in other prints. The center section from the Currier and Ives lithograph of Durrie’s Winter in the Country, The Old Grist Mill appeared reversed in two later prints, Winter Pasttime, 1870, and Frozen Up, 1872. Currier and Ives prints after Durrie’s work represent a continuing public interest with this subject matter. Themes like the country grist mill in winter were more popular with the public in rural New England than in the Victorian parlors of New York City. Durrie had sent paintings to the National Academy of Design for exhibition in the 1840s, but in 1857 he opened a studio on Broadway in an effort to reach a larger audience. His effort to establish himself in New York City lasted only a year. However, he continued to send work from New Haven for exhibition at the National Academy as well as at the Cosmopolitan Art Association. There were seventy-one paintings in the 1862 exhibition and sale at the Snedicor Gallery in New York City, but it did not meet Durrie’s expectations. He did have the good fortune to live out his life in New Haven, where he was surrounded by devoted family, friends, and those who enjoyed scenes of the surrounding countryside. Even in the 1860s, these views were nostalgic reminders of a country life that was untouched by the problems of a Civil War and its aftermath. Durrie’s artistic reputation was forgotten by the end of the nineteenth century, but then resurrected in the 1920s with the rise of a popular interest in Currier and Ives prints. Today Durrie’s paintings are valued for their artistic importance in nineteenth-century American art as well as beloved for their exquisite images of a rural New England heritage. —Martha Hutson-Saxton, Ph.D.
Floral Still Life with Bird’s Nest,
Oil on canvas 36 x 29 inches Signed at lower right: S. Roesen
provenance [Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, June 6, 1997, lot no. 207]; to Private collection, until the present
Born and trained in Cologne, Germany, Severin Roesen was one of the America’s finest still-life painters at the middle of the nineteenth century. While his arrangements developed in parallel to those of the Peale family, he owed much stylistically to the Dutch tradition of still life painting, to which he was likely exposed through the work of the Düsseldorf painter Johann Preyer. Emigrating to the United States in 1848, he quickly set to work establishing himself as a dedicated still-life artist. His virtuosic renderings of fruit, flowers, and a characteristic pilsner glass filled the growing American appetite for allegories of its growing productivity in the years before the Civil War. After an initial period in New York, the painter left his wife and children there for the mining and lumber towns of central Pennsylvania, where he likely spent the rest of his life. His 24-year American career, from his arrival in 1848 to his final dated canvas in 1872, displays a sophisticated and idealized conception of still life, with every flower, goblet, and leaf arranged and polished to a perfection that was highly valued in the aesthetics of the day. In an essay for the auction catalogue in 1997, Roesen scholar Judith Hansen O’Toole noted:
This composition holds much in common with Still Life with Vase of Flowers and Bird’s Eggs (oil on canvas, 36 x 29½ inches, collection of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, United States Department of State) which is illustrated as figure 20 in my book on the artist (Bucknell University Press, 1992) . . . However, Roesen painted this format at several points in his career, so although it is probably that this canvas dates from circa 1850–56, I cannot state that conclusively [American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture, Sotheby’s, June 6, 1997, p. 210, lot no. 207]. Roesen’s mature period, when this piece was likely created, is marked by a greater complexity and perfection of Roesen’s arrangements. He often used asymmetry in the counter-top to build the composition towards a climactic pink blossom at top. The blue morning glories are scattered along a vine that climbs from the bird’s nest at lower left, drawing the eye around the expertly rendered glass vase and up towards the opening f lowers at top. The delicate translucence of the f lower petals and powerful scale elevate the present work as one of the finest floral still lifes of the period.
William Michael Harnett (1848–1892) Philadelphia Letter, Books, and Writing Plume, 1879 Oil on canvas 11⅛ x 15 inches Signed and dated at lower left: WMH [monogram] ARNETT. / 1879.
provenance Mrs. J. Kaplan; to [Kennedy Galleries, New York, in 1967]; to Richard Manoogian, Grosse Pointe, Michigan; to [ Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York, in 1992]; to Private collection, until the present
recorded Kennedy Quarterly 7, no. 4 (Dec. 1967), fig. 282, as Still Life with Book and Inkwell // Alfred Frankenstein, After the Hunt (1969), pp. 169–70, no. 47A, as The Philosopher’s Table // Jonathan Culler, On Puns: The Foundation of Letters, 1988, illus. on cover // The Metropolitan Museum of Art, William M. Harnett (1992), pp. 270–71, no. 127
Trompe l’oeil refers to a style of still-life painting in which objects are rendered in a highly realistic manner through which the artist intends to literally and figuratively “trick the eye.” Artists employed careful craftsmanship, and the occasional tomfoolery to manufacture images that surprise and delight the viewer with their accuracy and sense of subtle deception. The American movement of the mid-nineteenth century is deeply rooted in the seventeenth-century Dutch still-life tradition. In America in the first half of the nineteenth century, there were a number of early practitioners who painted elegant, formally composed still-life paintings. Most notably Raphaelle Peale created oils of fruit, cakes, vegetables, and household objects that signified wealth and bounty in the new republic. It was not until cultural and artistic circumstances were more welcoming, however, after midcentury, that the trompe l’oeil mode took hold more firmly in the America of the 1870s. In his superb study of the cultural and artistic changes sweeping through America in the nineteenth century, David M. Lubin addressed the social and environmental circumstances that brought about the development of more fertile soil for trompe l’oeil art: With the development by midcentury of a democratized art market that could stand independent of academic accreditation, painting that strived to please the eye by tricking it finally found its audience. Still, it was only after the Civil War that trompe l’oeil still-life painting in America began to flourish. The increased interest in highly detailed, precisionistically rendered, ultrarealistic depictions of everyday objects corresponded to public fascination with scientific inquiry, photograph realism and intricate machinery [David M. Lubin, Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America (1994), p. 276]. In the twentieth centur y, Peto and Harnett became inextricably linked by Edith Halpert’s rediscovery and commercial commitment to Harnett’s work and the well-known questions that the scholar Alfred Frankenstein subsequently raised regarding the authenticity of certain Harnett paintings that were
coming to market in the 1930s and 1940s. When Frankenstein visited Mrs. George Smiley, Peto’s daughter, in Island Heights in the 1940s and saw a number of canvases that remained in Peto’s studio, it was immediately apparent to him that a large number of “Harnett” paintings that had recently come to market were much more likely by a softer hand and thus clearly by Peto and not by Harnett. With the benefit of improved scholarship and a visual encyclopedia of the work of each artist we can make clear distinctions between the works of the two artists. Harnett was born in Clonakilty, Country Cork, Ireland, and emigrated with his young parents to Philadelphia at the age of one. The Harnett family was but one of the many Irish, Italian, and Polish families flooding into America in the hopes of finding work and a comfortable life in the promising land. As with many young families of the day, fate and circumstances dealt a swift blow to these well laid plans when Harnett’s father died prematurely. To support the family, each of the Harnett children who were of working age delved into a new course of employment. Young William, just seventeen, was engaged in the practice of engraving prints on wood and metal plates and eventually was trusted with engraving f ine silverware. Craving a more creative outlet for the remarkable dexterity and skill he was honing, Harnett enrolled in evening classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1867, subsequently moving to New York to continue his studies as a painter at the National Academy of Design and the Cooper Union. By 1875, Harnett felt confident enough in his skills with brush that he relinquished his engravers tools and devoted his time exclusively to easel painting, showing his first signif icant work at the National Academy’s annual exhibition and notching his first sale. Harnett returned to Philadelphia in 1876, presumably to take part in the Centennial planned to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first World’s Fair to be held in the United States, this was an event of monumental importance in the cultural and artistic history of America and surely would have attracted Harnett’s attention along with that of the nearly 10,000,000 visitors descended upon Philadelphia
during the six months of the fair. Harnett opened a studio at 400 Locust Street whereupon he began to paint still-life compositions of fruit, wine glasses, and ordinary household objects. While these initial efforts were naïve and somewhat rudimentary in their degree of polish, over the next three years, Harnett’s skill and confidence would blossom considerably. The present work, k nown a lter natively as Philadelphia Letter, Books, and Writing Plume, or The Philosopher’s Table, belongs to a series of extraordinary canvases that the artist created in Philadelphia between 1877 and 1880 when he departed for his first sojourn in Europe. There was a radical shift in subject matter and the iconography in Harnett’s paintings of the late 1870s, away from simple still lifes of fruit, wine glasses, and other obvious subjects toward compositions adorned with a myriad of sophisticated objects that def ined a more civilized and learned life. Emboldened by his growing technical virtuosity and an intellectual curiosity that invited him to develop new themes, Harnett’s paintings executed in Philadelphia in the late 1870s rank as one of the major advancements in the American still life idiom. In an essay “Notes of Change” for the groundbreaking 1992 exhibition of Harnett’s work that was presented by the Amon Carter Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Wilmerding offered a new way of thinking about Harnett’s important narrative paintings with objects carefully arranged on tabletops. With almost no precedents in American art, The Bankers Table of 1877 is startling in its level of quality and choice of subject matter. Decisively shifting from the imagery of Raphaelle Peale’s fruit compositions, John F. Francis’s dessert tables, and Severin Roesen’s flower bouquets, Harnett,
virtually alone, introduced an imagery for a postDarwinian world, a turbulent America in the strains of Reconstruction, industrial growth, and political and financial corruption. Nature’s bounty was now exchanged for material possessions and wealth. Contemplation of the expansive landscape yielded to concentration on the private corners of the desk and study. Harnett’s taste celebrated not the senses of the palate but the inclination toward leisure and business [Wilmerding, Notes of Change: Harnett’s Paintings of the Late 1870s (1992)]. To delight his patrons and provide a local context for the works, Harnett included newspapers, letters, literature, spectacles, money, and various objects that were the implements and possessions of an educated gentleman to identify the stage of America in its evolution. It is also important to note that the objects in their “haphazard” amalgamation, were anything but. Harnett carefully selected every element in each painting to convey meaning and imply a social and intellectual context. Critics obsessed over Harnett’s superb paint handling and careful execution but it was not until the twentieth century that a nuanced evaluation of the careful selection of the objects was understood to convey so much essential information about the cultural elements of the day. The scholarly work contributed to the important 1992 retrospective exhibition and subsequent analyses have yielded considerable insight into Harnett’s methods and messages indicating that his canvases offer greater insight into American life and culture than a simple observation of their divine delineation suggests. Harnett’s oeuvre represents certain of the most beautifully executed and thoughtfully prepared paintings of the nineteenth century in any mode and stand, an important contribution to the American art cannon.
New York Street Scene (Fifth Avenue), 1900 Oil on canvas 24 x 20 inches Signed and dated at lower right: Childe Hassam 1900
provenance Alexander Morten, until 1916; to [Sale: American Art Association, New York, 1916, no. 116, as Fifth Avenue at Fifty-Sixth Street]; to E. S. King, in 1916; to His daughter, until 1984; to [Hammer Gallery, New York, in 1984]; to [Daniel Liberman, Saint Louis, Missouri, 1984–85]; to [Sandra Werther, New York]; to Private collection, Atherton, California; to [Hollis Taggart Galleries, Washington, D.C., in 1995]; to Private collection, until the present The work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné by Stuart Feld and Kathleen Burnside.
John I. H. Baur, curator of the important 1937 survey Leaders of American Impressionism, grouped Childe Hassam with Mary Cassatt as the “pioneer Impressionists [who had] contributed most to the inauguration and development of Impressionism in America” [as quoted in Barbara Weinberg, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist (2004), p. 19]. Of the handful of painters that brought Impressionism to America, Hassam was the most independent-minded. While his development from a conventional mode to a radical Impressionism followed study in Europe, Hassam spent more time painting from nature than studying the works of European masters, old or new. His work was honed in commercial illustration as well as in French ateliers, but his formal arts education was spotty and sporadic. He admired his countrymen John Singer Sargent and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, but modeled himself only after their highly self-conf ident personalities. Tremendously successful by the turn of the century, Hassam also secured a place of admiration in the eyes of the early American modernists and twentieth century collectors. His “extreme Impressionism” liberated color and form, but his bold and expansive use
of brushstroke made his work influential well after the fashion for American Impressionism had passed. Some of his most celebrated works—the “flag” paintings of the World War I years—came late in his career, and well after the famous Armory Show had heralded modernism’s raucous ascent. Few painters were greeted as enthusiastically in the twentieth century as they were in the nineteenth, but Hassam’s single-minded approach to painting has made him relevant to many generations. Born Frederick Childe Hassam in 1859 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the artist began work as a commercial illustrator, rendering images for magazines like Scribner’s and Harper’s Weekly in 1880. Around the same time, he began going by his more exotic-sounding middle name—a move to set himself apart which would set the tone for the rest of his life. Hassam possessed an overwhelming strength in application of color, but he continued working in black-and-white media, from ink to etching, his entire career. During these early years, Hassam cobbled together a ramshackle education, taking classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, but his father’s troubled finances ruled out the possibility of full-time study. His talents were immediately noticed, and, by 1886, he decided to commit himself to fine art. He later reminisced of the end of his commercial illustration, “I said to myself if you’re going to paint let’s stop. So I stopped” [ibid, p. 53]. It may not have been as abrupt as he later described it, but certainly Hassam committed himself to his own education in trips to Europe: first to England in 1883, where he admired the work of Turner, then for a three-year stint in Paris studying at the Academie Julian, from 1886–1889, and another year-long European trip in 1896–97. He later claimed to have put in serious effort abroad, but he also recorded spending more time studying nature and working outdoors than participating in a traditional curriculum. Whatever his practices were abroad, he returned a both a full-f ledged impressionist. Just as important, his style was decidedly his own. In 1889, he settled in New York where the urban observations of his Boston years melded with the staccato stroke and chromatic impressionist palette. By the turn of the century, Donelson F. Hoopes has noted, Hassam’s work took a brief return toward a
tonalist approach to color [Donelson F. Hoopes, Childe Hassam (1988), p. 54]. A handful of snowy cityscapes from 1900 f ind Hassam’s palette subdued, tending toward muted colors and grays. Hoopes notes that at the same moment of Hassam’s first fully urban views, Alfred Stieglitz was making his best-known photographs of the Flat Iron building, his prints expressing a de facto tonalism. While the present work still features a full complement of Hassam’s high impressionist colors, his use of alla prima technique uses white paint as a medium, dulling and softening his usual high-keyed colors. For Hassam, this was only a moment, but the Ashcan painters, notably George Bellows, would take up this manner as expressly suited for painting the urban scene. In 1916, the present work was sold at a three-day sale at the American Art Association. The catalogue described it as [A] view of Fifth Avenue in early summer, looking south from the westerly corner of Fifty-sixth street, where formerly there was a florist’s shop. Farther down on the west side are the trees in the old St. Luke’s Hospital garden. On the left of the picture the buildings on the east side of the avenue stretch away in perspective with the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral reaching up to the top of the canvas. The scene is enlivened by numerous figures on the sidewalk, a street cleaner in white, and a bus and cabs in the roadway. The morning sun illuminated the upper part of the buildings on the left and the Cathedral spires [As quoted in an unpublished manuscript of the forthcoming Feld and Burnside catalogue raisonné]. The vantage point for the work may be a few blocks lower, but the sense of “uptown style” manifested in the elegant boulevardiers and foreground dog-walker support the location in the general area of St. Patrick’s. The two spires of the cathedral had been completed only a few years before the present work’s execution, and the attraction they had on Hassam would become more evident in his extensive views of Fifth Avenue the following decade. The present work is sophisticated in technique a subject, presaging the works that would constitute the powerful second act of this important painter.
Young Woman with a Parasol,
Watercolor on paper 9H x 13¼ inches Signed and dated at lower right: HOMER 1880 Inscribed on verso: Waverly Oaks
provenance The artist; to His brother, Charles S. Homer; by gift to Allan A. Morrill, Chicago; by descent to Allan D. Morrill, by descent; to [The Old Print Shop, New York, and Childs Gallery, Boston, in 1946]; to H. B. Harris, New York, in 1946; to [Wildenstein and Co., New York]; to Benjamin and Minna Reeves, New York, in 1952; to [Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, May 27, 1992, lot. no. 20]; to Private collection, in 1992, until the present
exhibited Wildenstein and Co., New York, 1947, Loan Exhibition of Winslow Homer for the Benefit of the New York Botanical Garden, no. 51, as Waverly Oaks // Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1946, Winslow Homer and Eastman Johnson, no. 8, as Waverly Oaks
recorded Lloyd Goodrich and Abigail Gerdts, Record of Works by Winslow Homer, vol. III (2008), p. 300, no. 903, illus.
The year 1875 was a good one for the still-young Winslow Homer. Although he had received generous praise for his Prisoners from the Front in the years just after the war (1866, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Homer was nonetheless constrained to continue with commercial illustration for another decade after its debut. Following the tumult of the war and Reconstruction, Homer was scrambling to find his voice, both in terms of subject matter and in medium. His interest in African–American subjects grew in the face of nettled critics who pressured him to find an authentically American subject. At the same time, his attempts at rendering handsome women in natural settings—in a few years a favorite trope of the American Impressionists—were roundly pilloried by the press, who complained of ill-proportioned figures. “We don’t object to her presence because her back is towards us, but because of her height—she is seven feet tall” [as quoted by Margaret C. Conrads in Winslow Homer and the Critics (2001), p. 21]. “There is so much girl here that were it to arise from its sitting position . . . here would be a giant . . . So long are the lower limbs of this peculiarity in black that were she to arise she would go clear out of the frame and pass through the muddy f irmament Mr. Homer has painted above her. And to think there are no less than twenty-three similar caricatures by this artist at the present exhibition!” [ibid., p. 184]. Added to this is the perennial complaint that Homer’s work had an “unf inished” quality, often associated with “Impressionism.” While certainly Homer did not evince a commitment to the palette or paint handling of the growing French Impressionist movement, the term was used as an epithet to suggest a degree of finish inappropriate to public viewing, as well as a vaguely-defined European quality. These were hurdles, not virtues, for Homer. His critics labeled his work thus as a dismissal, while a growing chorus, in the late 1870s, lamented only his wasted potential. Even his major supporters saw success only past the horizon: “Unmistakably, we think, that, when the conditions unite favorably, Mr. Homer will produce a truly great American painting” [ibid., p. 162]. Homer would not now, nor ever, put a polish
to his works that his early critics seemed to require, but it is evident that he took many of these complaints to heart. He, too, sought a balance in subject and execution that would solidify his work as authentically American and timelessly artful. In this crucible of post-bellum politics, imported Impressionism, and a view of what an appropriately American picture might be, Homer found a way forward in part by riding the wave of watercolor as it crested in 1875. In what had been considered solely a sketching medium, Homer found the pictorial manner by which he could embrace the picturesque American views that would come into clarity in the next decade. Homer was of course no stranger to the aqueous medium, but at the country’s centennial, its stature was rising to new prominence. The American Watercolor Society had formed in 1866, and a decade later critics began to accept that the medium had carved out territory alongside oil painting. Homer’s first committed attention to the medium was in 1873 during what was also his first trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts. The watercolors produced that summer comprised both studies for later studio works, as well as rapid works for sale, and they set the model for much of his later work in the medium [Helen A. Cooper, Winslow Homer: Watercolors (1986), p. 20]. The medium’s spontaneity allowed him to deepen his investigations of childhood idylls, and its portability put him happily in the great outdoors. By the year that Homer completed his final commercial illustration for Harpers’s in 1875, the New York Evening Express remarked that “the watercolor [can] no longer be ignored” [as quoted in Conrads (2001), p. 65]. That year, Homer submitted twenty-seven sheets to the American Society of Painters in Water Colors exhibition, including several works from Gloucester. The vigor and freshness were praised, but, again, the critical consensus was that Homer was still wide of the mark. In 1880, Homer returned to Gloucester for the summer. This time, he settled on Ten Pound Island, a place of significantly greater isolation than his mainland retreat of 1873. This cloistered environment allowed him to produce his most somber, and also provocative, work to date. The bold atmospheric
studies of that summer, typify the chromatic extremes to which Homer pursued his solitary vision. Due to the deliberation with which Homer committed to his Gloucester environs, scholarship has assumed that this was the only area in which he painted that summer. Abigail Gerdts, however, has since advanced the theory that he also painted along the Connecticut shore, calling this identif ication into question. She notes that Homer was included in an 1881 exhibition with an 1880 watercolor executed in Greenwich, Connecticut. This presents the alternative thesis that Homer worked along the shore of Long Island Sound in addition to the more rugged North Shore of Massachusetts. Confusion over the location is not helped by the inscription on verso of the work reading “Waverly,” an undoubted reference to the Massachusetts coastal town (now spelled “Waverley,” north of Boston). Charles Homer, the artist’s brother, who probably wrote the inscription, would have remembered the Waverly landscape and thought it natural to identify the location as such. We cannot be certain of the location either way, but Gerdts concludes: “The placid water, sloping lawns and groves seen in the watercolors . . . are surely more appropriate to the terrain of Long Island sound than to the forbidding, rocky coastline of Massachusetts’ North Shore” [op. cit., p. 297]. When Homer exhibited the watercolors of 1880 at the American Watercolor Society, it was f inally clear that both he and the medium of the watercolor had finally landed. Amid the eight-hundred works on view, Homer’s twenty-three were incendiary inclusions. Despite being hung in corridors and ill-lit corners, the critics cited the Turner-esque sunset pictures as a “scene-painter’s frenzy,” [as quoted in Conrads, p. 184] and “either stupid or culpably careless” [ibid., p. 187]. Again, there was the refrain that Homer was deliberately squandering his prodigious talents with his lack of finish: “It is a shame to see good powers wasted like this,” intoned the Telegram [ibid., p. 187]. Along with the success of the sunset pictures, Homer had also achieved a completeness with his figure studies. The motif of the present work is a continuation of the “American shepherdess” he had settled on in 1878. “To Mr. Homer belongs the distinction of
having discovered the American shepherdess and introduced her to the public in studies that are more essentially and distinctively pastoral than anything that any American artist has yet attempted” [ibid., p. 151]. The present work has moved away from the “Little Bopeeps,” as one critic sneered in 1878, towards the more modern women of the following decade. With her petticoats and parasol, the woman is a breath of modernity after the rustic views of women tending sheep. The woman with parasol amid foliage would be taken up by the high-gloss society painters of Boston —to say nothing of the French Impressionists—as well as the painters of urban sophistication in the early twentieth century, such as Maurice Prendergast and Everett Shinn. All of this was around the corner in American painting, but it arrived early for the ceaseless innovator in Winslow Homer. So too fell away the complaints of careless execution. “What the ‘impressionists’ try to do and fail Winslow Homer, and [a few others], try to do and succeed” [ibid., p. 192]. The dash and vigor which had been a vulgarity in 1875 had become proof of his independence from conventionalizing (and European) schools of aesthetics. Mr. Winslow Homer is wholly en rapport with American life. He cares nothing for schools of painting; he is utterly free from foreign influences; and being penetrated through and through with the spirit of the present, with the things and ideas that surround us, his work reflects them exclusively [ibid., p. 162]. While the present work is a simple composition, it represents a major turning point for Homer. His critics of the preceding decade castigated him for being “not American enough” [ibid., p. 141]. The dappled light and misty elision of the background embrace a faint Japanese compositional influence, as f inally def lating the accusation of lack of f inish. Where Homer’s previous work—up to and including his Gloucester sunsets—had been deemed caustic and careless, Young Woman with Parasol is undeniably elegant. The graceful figure also rebuffs an old-fashioned quality that Homer’s contemporaries detected in his work of the 1870s.
Everett Shinn Ballet Dancer,
Pastel on paper 15H x 11 inches Signed and dated at lower left: EVERETT SHINN / 19[indistinct]
provenance [Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, Sept. 21, 1994, lot no. 177, illus. on cover]; to Private collection, until the present
Everett Shinn’s first one-man exhibition, in 1900 at Boussod, Valadon & Co., New York, was a sufficient commercial success to fund an extended trip abroad. During this trip Shinn made extensive sketches in London and Paris. In his 1904 solo exhibition at Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, the majority of the works exhibited was from or based on this trove of sketches. The trip cemented in Shinn his devotion to theater that would preoccupy him all his life. It also exposed him to a number of French influences that shaped his artistic practices for decades. He became familiar with the caricature work of Honoré Daumier, and with the prints and pastels of Edgar Degas. Shinn absorbed both his teacher Robert Henri’s edict to work from life in the streets, as well as the muckraker’s instinct for focusing on the plight of the underclass, twin impulses that crystallized with Daumier. Degas’s influence informed a different set of interests, notably bringing to the fore a fascination with dancers, performers, and the pageantry of the theater. Degas also inspired the younger artist to use pastel as a finished medium, rather than a study device. Shinn returned to the United States in 1901 brimming with visual ideas and smitten with the stage. Later in life, he built a small theater in his home on Waverly Place to stage amateur productions for an audience of fifty. He subsequently designed sets for the still very stagelike motion pictures of the day. Shinn’s attentions spent equal time on both sides of the curtain. Before turning to commercial design in the 1920s, Shinn integrated these two sides into his canvases. A focus on stage performance was not a Shinn innovation, but his interest in the theater as a contact point was novel. Degas’s ballerina pictures excluded the context of the performance, often finding their subjects warming up in cloistered spaces far from the public eye. For Shinn, just the opposite is true. The stage is a meeting place between the two worlds: on one side was the elaborate fantasy of performance, the other, the teeming masses, flocking into theaters from the messy Manhattan streets. The present work exemplif ies this dichotomy. The world of performance is separated from the audi-
ence by the sweeping diagonal of the stage’s edge. As early as 1906, Shinn heightened the drama between these two nearly-touching worlds by insinuating a relationship between a member of the pit orchestra and the performer above. The c. 1906 oil Orchestra Pit, Old Proctor’s Theater, Fifth Avenue (private collection) focuses so closely on the silhouetted pit member that the performer is confined to the upper margin of the picture. A decade later, in Paris Cabaret (MunsonWilliams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, New York), the two parties are more evenly weighted, with the pit conductor granted almost equal space as the singer on stage. While the male gaze is only insinuated in these works—the male pit-member always faces away from us—the title of Footlight Flirtation (oil, 1912, private collection, reproduced in DeShazo , p. 44) makes the relationship explicit. Linking all of these works to the present, Orchestra Pit, an ink drawing in DeShazo’s own collection, may be the original, on-site sketch from which the other works derive. DeShazo tentatively dates this work to 1915 [see DeShazo (1973), p. 41]. Shinn’s vigorous re-working and return to early source material makes definitive ordering of these various works difficult. It is nonetheless likely that the drawing, in pencil and ink on a tiny sheet, was sketched in the theater itself. It was then used, along with other sketches, as the source for several works. The sketch shows the woman on stage in almost the exact pose as found in the present Ballet Dancer, while the same brass bar with curtain rings that drapes the pit in The Orchestra Pit, Old Proctor’s Fifth Avenue Theater is used here to further frame the scene. While this pastel is almost certainly a studio work, the artist likely developed the view from one or more theaters in lower Manhattan, possibly the B. F. Keith’s theater at Union Square or, like The Orchestra Pit, Old Proctor’s, at the “Fifth Avenue Theater” at 31 West 28th Street. Both theaters were built in the late nineteenth century and hosted, in succession, early musical theater, Vaudeville, radio broadcasts, and finally film. Shinn’s work, in a way, changed at pace with the theaters he frequented, and in the 1920s he too was working on designs for film.
News Vendor on Broadway, 1905 Oil on canvas 53¼ x 29 inches Signed and dated at lower right: Thornton Oakley. 1905.
provenance Mrs. George Arden; to [Sale: Christie’s New York, December 4, 1992, lot no. 157]; to Private collection, until the present
exhibited Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 1967, Howard Pyle: The Legacy, lent by the Arden Collection // Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 1983, Thornton Oakley: The Exhibition, no. 23, pp. 7, 28, illus. p. 7
Over the past several decades there has been a resurgent interest in illustration whereby scholars, collectors and museums have been reconsidering America’s “Golden Age of Illustration” which extended from 1880 through the “Roaring Twenties.” In the years immediately following the Civil War when Harper’s Weekly magazine came into prominence, and throughout the Gilded Age that followed, the publication of daily, weekly, and monthly magazines and newspapers in America exploded. In the absence of radio and television, the printed word and accompanying illustrations carried enormous clout and leading writers and illustrators achieved stunning fame. By 1900 in the United States there are more than 5,000 printed publications each month. Of these, the 2,226 daily publications alone would reach a circulation of more than 15,000,000 readers when the United States population was estimated to be a mere 75,000,000. The news, dramatic stories and vivid illustrations were eagerly anticipated each week when they hit the newsstands across the country. The Pittsburgh born Thornton Oakley who painted the present work, News Vendor on Broadway, commented on the extraordinary reach and allure of illustration in the first years of the twentieth century: Never before had there been, and it is doubtful if again there will be, an era with publications as sumptuous. With eagerness the reading public awaited the appearance of the illuminated monthly magazines of that pre-first-war period — Harper’s, Scribner’s, the Century, and too the weekly Collier’s in its early form, carrying, under the management of its founders, its magnificence of covers and of frontispieces [Thornton Oakley, “From Pittsburgh Toward the Unknown,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, September– December 1948, pp, 99–112]. Critical to the explosion of interest in illustration art was the role Howard Pyle played as one of the mode’s favored practitioners and instructors. A talented book illustrator, he began his career at an instructor at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry where he taught from 1894 through 1900.
At the turn of the century, Pyle set out to create his own academy. The Howard Pyle School of Art which operated from 1900 until 1905. Two decades later, Pyle would leave a legacy as the “Father of American Illustration;” founding “The Brandywine School” which became the most active and influential creative nexus for narrative and illustrational art in America and helping to educate students who were among this nation’s most beloved figures of the first half of the twentieth century including Maxf ield Parrish, Newell Convers Wyeth, Violet Oakley, Frank Schoonover, and others. One of Howard Pyle’s most promising and successful students was the young man from Pittsburgh named Thornton Oakley. Oakley was offered a very f ine education, studying f irst at the Shady Side Academy, from whence he graduated in 1897 and subsequently at the University of Pennsylvania, where he achieved a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Engineering and Architecture in 1901 and 1902 respectively. Oakley enrolled at the Howard Pyle School of Art immediately upon graduation from the University and he studied there until 1905—in winters at Wilmington, Delaware and during the summer months at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania where Pyle offered classes in the quaint rural community. In a lecture at the Free Library of Philadelphia in 1951, Oakley discussed his early efforts in Pyle’s classes: There we four—my new cronies—Allen Tupper True, George Harding, Gordon McCouch and I—made our first sketches from a model, and our efforts were frightful to behold! Not one of us had had a palette in our hands ever before: I had not the least idea as to procedure. My attempts were terrifying to behold, and when H.P. came to me to criticize my work he paused for a long, long time before speaking, and I know that he must have been appalled [as quoted in “Biography of Thornton Oakley,” Thornton Oakley Papers (2003), Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum, p. 2]. Oakley’s skills in draftsmanship improved dramatically and he came to better understand Pyle’s
chief concerns—that the artist must embrace the essence of the subject or action he was painting. Pyle was certainly concerned with the core academic principles but his school stressed the ability of artists to capture the essential narrative elements of their subjects. Oakley would enjoy a half-century career of signif icant commercial success, with numerous important book illustrations to his credit and frequent offerings in the publications of Collier’s, Harper’s Monthly Magazine (1905–1918), The Century Magazine (1905–1919) and later in his life the National Geographic Magazine where he worked in the years during and following World War II. One of Oakley’s most important early assignments focused on the publication of a series of works depicting “Scenes in Lower New York” which was illustrated in The Century Magazine in December of 1905. The large, vertical format drawings in black and white relate closely in subject and theme to the present canvas. He also completed a well-regarded series of lithographs during World War I which depict the bustling activit y at the Hog Island Shipyard in Philadelphia. In addition to his traditional illustration work, Oakley was often hired by Philadelphia’s largest corporations to complete mural and advertising projects. Oakley had a lifelong fascination with the railroads and steamships and many of his most famous images depict related industry shortly after the turn of the century. News Vendor on Broadway, created in 1905 shortly after Oakley had completed his studies with Pyle, is one of Oakley’s largest and most important early canvases. The painting is dedicated to a depiction of the hustle and bustle around the steamship and railroad authorities, the slips and docks near the southern tip of Manhattan and the industrial environs around that part of town. The canvases and drawings of this furious period of activity rank as Oakley’s finest accomplishments in illustration viewed through a perfect thematic vehicle for conveying the story of the excitement and energy of industry and immigration in New York in
the new century. In the present canvas Oakley has provided a stunning contrast through the combination of new and old, silhouetting the new bishop’s crook electric light poles along the avenue against the older, traditional gaslamp below; horse drawn wagons making way for trolleys rolling along the tracks and various characters enacting their energetic roles in the commerce of the day. Chief among the activities is a jam-packed newsstand that offers the leading periodicals including the Saturday Evening Post, Scribner’s, and Collier’s. Oakley was also a passionate instructor, advocate and leader in the Philadelphia art community where he worked as Secretary and President of the Philadelphia Water Color Club of which he was a charter member in 1903. Oakley was a devoted acolyte of Howard Pyle and was intimately involved in the community’s honors of Pyle upon his death in 1921 and helping to orchestrate the Howard Pyle Memorial Exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 1923. Oakley was active at the greatest moment and among the greatest participants in the creation of American illustration. His images and articles delighted millions of viewers and readers. He ably summed up illustration and its relation with fine art in an article for the The American Magazine of Art in 1919: Broadly speaking, all pictures may be divided into two classes, those whose purpose is to delight the eye, and those whose purpose is to delight the mind. True illustration lies in the latter group. I have no quarrel with the first class. It has its purpose, but the latter is supremely great. It lives when the other dies; speaks to millions, the other speaks to few. With its dreams and visions it thrills mankind, leads ever on toward the star. The purpose of a great picture is to reveal the spirit, the ideals, of life. This sounds simple, as indeed it is, and it is this that makes any work of art endure [Thornton Oakley, “Illustration,” The American Magazine of Art 10, no. 10 (August, 1919), pp. 369–76].
Staff: Susan Menconi Andrew Schoelkopf Jonathan Spies, Gallery Director Kathryn Fredericks, Registrar
Albert Bierstadt, 10 Frederic Edwin Church, 4 Jasper Francis Cropsey, 16 George Henry Durrie, 26 Sanford Robinson Gifford, 14 William Michael Harnett, 32 Childe Hassam, 36 Martin Johnson Heade, 6, 8 Winslow Homer, 38 George Inness, 18 Thornton Oakley, 44 William Trost Richards, 24 Severin Roesen, 30 Everett Shinn, 42 Francis Augustus Silva, 20
Photography: Joshua Nefsky Design: Russell Hassell Printing: Puritan Capital Copyediting: Jessie Sentivan All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents prohibited Publication copyright ÂŠ 2016 Menconi + Schoelkopf jacket front: Francis Augustus Silva, Calm at Sunset, 1873, detail (p. 20) jacket back: George Henry Durrie, At the Mill, Winter, 1858, detail (p. 26)
Menconi + Schoelkopf 13 e 69 street, suite 2f
ny, ny 10021
t 212 879 8815
f 212 879 8780
info @ msfineart.com
Menconi + Schoelkopf 13 e 69 st,
Published on Jan 6, 2016
Menconi + Schoelkopf presents sixteen works by American painters of the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century. Forty-eight pages richly...