DescriptionThe Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection
GEORGE HITCHCOCK (American, 1850-1913)
Woman in a Field of Hyacinths
Oil on canvas
22-1/4 x 17-1/4 inches (56.5 x 43.8 cm)
Signed lower left G. Hitchcock
(per old inscription on paper label verso): Property of Douglas Francboy Hickok, Sr. as result of drawing made November 23, 1947 between William Orville Hickok VI and the above. Drawing instigated by their mother, Mrs. Neil MacDonald Wilder at Goshen, N.Y. 268 Main Street. "Burhaven";
Purchased from Spanierman Gallery, New York, May 3, 1982 (label verso).
"Down Garden Paths" December 13 - February 12, 1984, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois: Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey, October 1 - November 30, 1983 (labels verso).
W. Gerdts, Down Garden Paths: The Floral Environment in American Art, Cranbury, New Jersey, 1983, ill. p. 59.
Within the first five or six years that he had begun collecting American painting, Judge Buchanan acquired two of the best examples of American Impressionism in his collection. One of these is a 1913 interior from William Paxton's finest period, and the other is this vivid view of a Dutch peasant woman standing knee-deep in a magnificent sea of hyacinths by George Hitchcock. Like Paxton, Hitchcock was, at his core, a figure painter primarily, but one who evolved beyond tight academicism to become a painter of considerable individuality. Influenced by the high-keyed palette and unmixed colors of the Impressionists, Hitchcock discarded the muted academic palette and finicky brushwork to achieve a greater of atmosphere, movement, and, above all, sunlight in his paintings. Indeed, in a work like this, it is easy to understand why numerous writers referred to him as "The Painter of Sunlight." Not only did he allow light to dissolve form in sunstruck areas of the scene, but he allowed it to do the same thing in the shadowy zones as well - even if these zones were located dead-center within his images. In this bold painting, Hitchcock places the figure, the focal point in his composition, against the brightest part of the design - the sky and the sunlit flowers. The woman consequently falls into silhouette, so that her facial features become far less legible than the blanket of blossoms surrounding her.
George Hitchcock was an expatriate painter who decided to settle in Holland rather than in France - which had become the spot where most American artists chose to paint abroad. He had first become acquainted with Holland, and its tulip fields, in 1886. When, in 1887, he won instant renown for his painting of Tulip Culture at the Paris Salon, Hitchcock began to make the subject of Dutch tulip and hyacinth fields a specialty. This work in the Buchanan collection is a prime example of Hitchcock's "Dutch flower culture" painting, and was almost certainly painted near his home at Egmond.
Interestingly, it took a foreign artist to paint the Dutch flower culture with such focus upon chromatic electricity. While the Dutch had painted the subject before Hitchcock, they did so, as William Gerdts has noted, in the silvery gray tones associated with the Barbizon aesthetic. According to the contemporary painter and writer, Guy Pene du Bois, who appreciated Hitchcock's achievement: "He gave to the world a picture of Holland unknown to it. A picture of a superfluity of flower gardens, of a culture or a commerce that catered to the fancy of the continent and not to its necessity" ("George Hitchcock, Painter of Holland," Arts and Decoration, vol. 3, October 1913, pp. 403-404, as quoted in Gerdts, 1983, pp. 98-99).
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