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DENNIS MALONE CARTER
"Coney Island Bathers"
oil on canvas, signed and dated lower left "D.M. Carter '78"
27 1/2 x 37 3/4 inches
Provenance: Billie Burke (Wizard of Oz actress) and Florenz Ziegfeld, New York, New York; Private Collection, Maine.
Born in Ireland, Dennis Malone Carter immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1839 and lived nearly all his life in New York, other than a brief stretch in New Orleans from 1845-1846. Trained at the National Academy of Design in New York, he is best known for his figurative and historical works. Examples include important historical moments in the Revolutionary War like George Washington's inauguration and 'Molly Pitcher' at the Battle of Monmouth, as well as other military events like the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 and Lincoln's April 4, 1865 visit to Richmond at the Civil War's end.
Carter might have looked at Coney Island as 'history-in-the-making' and an example of 'progress' as American Capitalism transformed that area of Long Island. In the second half of the 19th century when Carter painted the work, it was under extensive commercial development with new hotels, attractions, and restaurants going up continuously. Its history is long and storied, and as a New Yorker, Carter would have been deeply familiar with its shore, resorts, amusements, and visitors.
Coney Island Bathers provides a glimpse of the Victorian-era obsession with propriety as a crowd of summer strollers and bathers take to the shore in various states of not-so-undressed. While the men mostly wore bathing suits like what we would view today as 'long-johns,' buttoned up to the neck and with full sleeves (see man gripping the back of the boat, right foreground), women's fate was even more burdensome as they were required to wear complete outfits covering every inch of their bodies (note the woman far right center of the painting wading in a black dress and a bonnet).
Once in the collection of Billie Burke and Florenz Ziegfeld, Carter's Coney Island Bathers likely provided a point of amusement to Burke and Ziegfeld, whose Jazz-age role in publicly revealing more of women's bodies is one of the many memorable aspects of the famed, and infamous, Ziegfeld Follies. Coney Island's destination status for New York City dwellers of all classes meant that Burke and Ziegfeld certainly had their own fond memories of its transformation through the years. To modern audiences Burke is best known for her role as Glinda the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz.
Carter was a member of the National Academy of Design, and an original member of the Artist's Fund Society, founded in 1859. Throughout his career, his paintings were exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the American Art Union, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Boston Athenaeum, the Washington Art Association, and the Brooklyn Art Association. His works are held at the Smithsonian, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the National Museum of the United States Navy to name a few.
Tags: Genre, New York City, Coastal, Beach scene, oil painting, 19th century
Condition: Canvas: Strip Lined
Condition: Very Good
Restoration: Very Minor
There is a 1" triangular patch upper right with corresponding inpaint.
Framed dimensions - 34 x 44 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches
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