Shannon's Fine Art Auctioneers

Lot 107

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Description: WORTHINGTON WHITTREDGE
American, (1820-1910)
"A Primitive Forest Brook"
oil on canvas
signed and dated lower right "W. Whittredge 1900"

  • Notes: A copy of a letter from Anthony F. Janson from the Cameron Museum of Arts, discussing the authenticity accompanies the lot.
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    Worthington Whittredge was born in Ohio in 1820. He started his artistic career as a house painter, sign painter and later portrait painter in Cincinnati. In 1839 Local patrons, including the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, enabled him to travel to Europe and study painting abroad. In Rome, he famously posed for Emanuel Leutze as the model for George Washington in the famed painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware (Metropolitan Museum of Art). In 1856 in Switzerland, he sketched with Albert Bierstadt. He also spent five years in Dusseldorf where he studied with Thomas Cole, travelled in Belgium, Paris, and the village of Barbizon. In 1857 together with Haseltine, Bierstadt, and Gifford, Whittredge settled in Rome.

    After a decade abroad he returned to the United States in 1859 and settled in New York City renting a space in the famed Tenth Street Studio. By 1860 he was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design and full member just two years later. In 1866 he traveled with John Frederick Kensett and Sanford R. Gifford on a 2,000-mile government inspection tour of the Rocky Mountains.

    Despite the grand vistas he undoubtedly saw, Whittredge is best known for his poetic forest scenes, such as the present example. These close studies of feathery ferns and mossy rocks are brought to life with light that filters down through the trees. In the late 1870s his style changed to a more distinctive Hudson River School idiom.

    Of the present lot, Whittredge expert Anthony F. Janson's wrote: "The size and quality of the landscape are unusual for Whittredge at this time. This is a quite ambitious work by him for the period. He rarely worked on such a large scale after about 1895. The artist really put a lot of effort into this canvas. The texture and layering of the paint are surprisingly complex. Only Whittredge's best paintings from his later years have this quality. Indeed, in comparison with other works by him from around this time, I would judge [this] picture to be one of the three or four finest ones known.

    The composition is a variant one Whittredge had used in slightly different form at least twice before beginning around 1885 (both in private collections), with antecedents stretching back about ten years. However, the composition is not simply a variant of a standard type. Although I have not been able to locate a drawing for this scene in his known sketchbooks, he continued to record a variety of forest interiors throughout his lifetime, and I still suspect that [this] canvas is based on such a drawing done around 1900 or a little earlier."

    Whittredge painted until he was 83 years old, experimenting with various styles and keeping up with painting trends. In 1904 an exhibition featuring 125 of his paintings was displayed at the Century Association in New York. In 1905, he completed his autobiography, a valuable document of the 19th century American art scene.
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    Framed dimensions: 41 x 53 3/4 x 6 inches

    Tags: landscape, Hudson River School, oil painting, listed artist
  • Provenance: Private Collection, New York.
  • Dimensions: 25 x 38 inches
  • Artist Name: WORTHINGTON WHITTREDGE
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Condition: unlined canvas; very minor scattered areas of restoration; in an exquisite period frame

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Milford, CT, US

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