Sale 0517 Lot 63

BIRGE HARRISON

American (1854-1929)

"BRYANT PARK AT EVENING, NEW YORK"

Lovell Birge Harrison trained with some of the best artists of the day and became an influential teacher and co-founder of the Art Students League Summer School in Woodstock, New York. As a painter, he is best known for his tonalist landscapes and cityscapes of Quebec and New York City. Art historian David Adams Cleveland noted of Harrison, “Perhaps no painter of his generation was able to combine such finesse of design, acuity of execution, and depth of emotion…”

 

The present canvas is a masterwork by the artist, synthesizing his understanding of Tonalism and Impressionism. In Bryant Park at Evening, New York Harrison captures a rare moment of quiet in the city. The cool serene scene is brought to life with the warm glow from the lights of the El and in the apartment windows. Harisson captures the period architecture of New York City drawing the viewer into the painting as if one were walking on the sidewalk. The beautifully painted sky above, with flashes of orange, hints at the coming sun after the storm.

 

Harrison was born in Philadelphia in 1854. His father was a wealthy and cultured man who appreciated the arts but wanted his children to pursue more lucrative careers. Despite this, Harrison enrolled at the Philadelphia Sketch Club under the tutelage of Thomas Eakins and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

 

At the PAFA, in 1876, he met John Singer Sargeant who advised Harrison to pursue studies under Carolus-Duran in Parris. Harrison left for Paris that year and studied with Carolus-Duran, Jules Bastien-Lepage and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The  French government recognized Harrison by purchasing one of his paintings from the Salon in 1881. The painting, November, was among the first American paintings purchased by France.

 

While abroad, Harrison travelled extensively in France and in Europe and to India, Australia, Asia and Africa. He did illustrations for Scribner’s, Century and Harper’s magazines. When he retured to the United States, he moved first to California. After the death of his first wife, Eleanor Ritchie, he moved back to the east coast. In 1904 he met Ralph Whitehead and worked as an instructor at Byrdcliffe. He soon moved to nearby Woodstock and eventually became the head of the Woodstock Art Colony. Harrison taught his students what he valued in his own paintings, soft lighting, muted colors, and emotion.

 

Harrison’s paintings are in numerous public and private collections including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Academy Museum, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Musee d’Orsay.

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