DescriptionThe Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection
SAMUEL S. CARR (American, 1837-1908)
On the Beach at Coney Island
Oil on canvas laid on laminated cardboard
10 x 16 inches (25.4 x 40.6 cm)
Signed lower left: S. S. CARR
Gangel Family, Nebraska City, Nebraska;
Purchased from Jeffrey R. Brown Fine Arts, Amherst, Massachusetts, October 25, 1982 (label verso).
The English-born artist S. S. Carr made his living in the United States for almost 40 years painting cheerful green pastoral landscapes staffed with sheep and the figures who attended them. Such examples of his work have a strong kinship with those of Clinton Loveridge with whom he shared a studio from 1870 to 1907 in Brooklyn, New York.
Less common within Carr's oeuvre, but much more highly prized today, are his wide views of the beaches of Coney Island and other spots along the south shore of Long Island, which he populated with well-dressed, middle-class vacationers. The present scene is an excellent example of Carr's sensitivity to the subtle interactions between and among the beach strollers, and to his skill as a painter of clouds and the atmospheric effects that collect along the shore. Almost without fail, Carr composed his many figures along a diagonal strand which recedes sharply into the distance to one side of the image. It seemed important to him that the beach possess a deep sense of space so that it might become an endless stretch of paradise, or at least good-sized respite for those able to escape the pace and cares of the city for awhile.
On the opposite side of the Atlantic from Carr during roughly the same period, France's best-known painter of beaches, Eugene Boudin, was painting a very similar subject at Trouville and Deauville on the Normandy coast. Like the beaches at Coney Island, the beaches at Normandy had become seaside resorts, for bourgeois Parisians to get out into nature to swim, have picnics, watch boats sail by, and, of course, indulge in the popular pastime of every class - people-watching. But there is a significant distinction between the work of the Frenchman and the American: Boudin's figures are subsidiary to the painter's overarching focus on the coast's silvery light, the wind, and other concerns of landscape painting produced on-the-spot, outside. His figures are quite literally within the landscape, and are painted in the same windswept, pre-Impressionistic manner as the water and clouds. By contrast, Carr's figures are the primary features of their settings. Their forms are insistently and crisply drawn and modeled, and in a real Victorian sense, are quite unambiguously comported. The prosperity which affords them the license to enjoy leisure activity is plainly on view in Carr's details of their attire and their formal body language.
Unlike anything else in late nineteenth-century American art, Carr's rare beach scenes offer a fascinating glimpse into one of the ways Americans enjoyed their new-found prosperity.
Very well-preserved paint surface with very faint craquelure. Painting was relined on multiple laminated cardboard, quite likely around the time of its acquisition from Jeffrey R. Brown Fine Arts. Under UV examination there appear a few areas of pinpoint inpaint along top margin where painting was slightly abraided through contact with the frame. There is a half-inch restoration in the sand below the woman in blue standing just right of center. There are three small restorations in the sky in the upper-right quadrant, one near the horizon.
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