ON THE BOARDWALK, ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY
oil on canvas, 20 x 35 3⁄4 inches,
signed and dated lower right "W.H. Wilcox 1874"
A Florida estate.
There are few published records about William Wilcox, an artist who lived nearly a century. He is mentioned in Groce and Wallace’s 1954 publication as “Landscape painter born in New York State about 1831. In 1849, when he was living in Long Island, he exhibited two pencil drawings at the American Institute and sold two landscapes to the American Art-Union. By 1850 he had moved with his parents to Philadelphia and he was active there at least until 1868, during which time he exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy views in New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania.”
To this record, the PAFA records indicate that he also exhibited there from 1880-1913 and he exhibited at the National Academy of Design from 1867-1869. It is known that Wilcox was a close friend of William Trost Richards and the two corresponded and worked together. Wilcox’s best paintings are reminiscent of works by Richards. Both artists were able to brilliantly capture the atmospheric effects of the sun and clouds on the water.
The present lot, On the Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey, was painted in 1874—four years after the first boardwalk was first constructed. The first boardwalk was constructed in ten-by-twelve-feet sections that came apart each winter. In the painting, the raised boardwalk is visible in the left middle-ground. Just to the right of it, the iconic Absecon Lighthouse (now blue) readily identifies the scene.
Although there are only a few biographical details about Wilcox, it is clear that he was a well-trained artist whose exhibition history indicates a successful career. The present lot is a unique painting, as fewer than a dozen have passed through auction and rarely are they available in the market. The large-format of this work and the expensive panel-backing indicate that the artist intended this work for exhibition.