DescriptionPAUL CORNOYER (American, 1864-1923)
Set of Paintings from Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" (4), circa 1896
Oil on board
10-3/4 x 20-3/4 inches (27.3 x 52.7 cm)
Each signed lower right: Paul Cornoyer
The Southern Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri;
Mr. and Mrs. George Kilgen, St. Louis, Missouri;
By descent to the present owner, Roseville, California.
Best known for his poetic, Tonalist evocations of New York City, contemporary with the Ash Can School, Paul Cornoyer mastered a sense of place in his landscapes and cityscapes, wherever he was living. He honed his artistic talent during the 1890s in his native St. Louis, at the School of Fine Arts, and in Paris, at the Académie Julian, studying with Jules Lefebvre, Benjamin Constant, and Louis Blanc. His early streetscapes captured the hustle and bustle of a burgeoning St. Louis, most notably a mural cycle depicting the birth of the city, which he designed for the local Planters Hotel. Presaging his move to New York in 1899, this whimsical group of four paintings illustrating scenes from New Yorker Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle was believed to have hung at another important St. Louis hotel, The Southern. With his trademark loose brushwork and moody palette, Cornoyer here sequentially interprets the famous story of the New York colonist Rip Van Winkle, who, seeking solace from his hen-pecking wife, wanders into the Kaatskill Mountains, drinks from the keg of some curious Dutchmen playing nine-pins, and awakens decades later, to return to a post-Revolution village no longer under British rule.
For a long while [Rip] used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village, that held its sessions on a bench before a small inn. . . . Here they used to sit in the shade, of a long lazy summer's day, talk listlessly over village gossip, or tell endless sleepy stories about nothing. . . . The opinions of this junto were completely controlled by Nicholas Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landloard of the inn, at the door of which he took his seat from morning till night, just moving sufficiently to avoid the sun, and keep in the shade of a large tree. . . . It is true, he was rarely heard to speak, but smoked his pipe incessantly.1
Rip's sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as much henpecked as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in idleness. . . . Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative to escape from the labour of the farm and the clamour of his wife, was to take gun in hand, and stroll away into the woods. 2
In a long ramble of the kind on a fine autumnal day, Rip had unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill mountains. He was after his favorite sport of squirrel shooting. . . . As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance hallooing, "Rip Van Winkle!" . . . and he perceived a strange figure slowly toiling up the rocks. . . . He bore on his shoulder a stout keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and assist him with the load. . . . On entering the ampitheatre, new objects of wonder presented themselves. On a level spot in the centre was a company of odd-looking personages playing at nine-pins. They were dressed in a quaint, outlandish fashion: some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and most had enormous breeches. . . The whole group reminded Rip of the figures in an old Flemish painting . . . . [and] nothing interrupted the stillness of the scene, but the noise of the balls, which whenever they were rolled, echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder.3
The appearance of Rip, with his long grizzled beard, his rusty fowling piece, his uncouth dress, and the army of women and children that had gathered at his heels, soon attracted the attention of the tavern politicians. They crowded around him, eyeing him from head to foot, with great curiosity. . . . A knowing, self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the crowd . . . [and] demanded in an austere tone, "what brought him to the election with a gun on his shoulder, and a mob at his heels, and whether he meant to breed a riot in the village?" "Alas! Gentlemen," cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, "I am a poor quiet man, a native of the place, and loyal subject of the King, God bless him!"4
1W. Irving, "Rip Van Winkle: A Posthumous Writing of Diedrich Knickerbocker," in N. Baym, et al., The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Second Edition, Volume I, New York, p. 718.
2Ibid., p. 717-19.
3Ibid., p. 719-21.
4Ibid., p. 724.
Estimate: $15,000 - $25,000.
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