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    Description

    CATHARINE CARTER CRITCHER (1868-1964)
    Mother and Daughters, 1936
    Oil on canvas
    37-1/2 x 32 inches (95.3 x 81.3 cm)
    Signed and dated upper right: Critcher / 36
    Titled on label verso: Mother and Daughters

    PROVENANCE:
    Private collection, Charlestown, West Virginia;
    By descent to the present owner.

    EXHIBITED:
    Southern States Art League, Charleston South Carolina, "18th Circuit Exhibition," 1940-41.

    Long before her move to Taos in 1924 at the age of fifty-eight where she became the only woman unanimously elected into the all-male Taos Society of Artists, Catharine C. Critcher had established an impressive career as a portraitist and art educator. Critcher's father, a wealthy Virginia judge and U.S. Congressman, adored his fiercely independent daughter, and fully supported her desire to study painting, first at the Cooper Union School of Design in New York in 1890, and subsequently at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. She won medals at both institutions. For the next decade, she worked as a formal portraitist in Virginia and D.C., receiving commissions from elite military and political families such as the rebel Confederate soldier John Singleton Mosby, and later, President Woodrow Wilson and Senator Harry F. Byrd. Like many artists of this period, Critcher was enticed by the artistic developments in Paris, and after a year of training at the Academié Julian, in 1905 she founded the first of several art schools, the Cours Critcher, designed for non French-speaking students. Her successful role as an art school administrator compelled her to teach at the Corcoran School of Art from 1911-17, upon her return to D.C., and in 1924 to open nearby The Critcher School of Painting and Applied Arts.

    By the time Critcher made her first trip to Taos in 1920, the Taos Society of Artists had been active for five years. With the financial backing of the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad, founding TSA members Oscar Berninghaus, Ernest Blumenschein, E. Irving Couse, W. Herbert Dunton, Bert Phillips, and Joseph Henry Sharp had headed to New Mexico to record the exotic land and lifestyle of the Pueblo Indians for tourist publications. For Critcher, the lure of Taos was less the financial gain associated with lucrative illustration assignments than it was the prospect of experiencing a new culture and finding new portrait subjects. Unmarried, she set out on an adventure: "Taos is unlike any place God ever made I believe & therein is charm & no place could be more conducive to work -- there are models galore & no phones -- The artists all live in these attractive funny little adobe houses away from the world, food, foes, and friends" (Van Vechten-Lineberry Taos Art Museum Newsletter, vol. I, no. II, Spring 1996, p. 4). Critcher rendered her "models galore" -- whether women at work, mothers with children, or Indian chiefs -- with especial sensitivity to facial expressions and colorful native clothing.

    In Mother and Daughters, Critcher emphasizes both the spirituality and fertility of women by borrowing the formal vocabulary of early Renaissance Maestà (majesty) paintings that she was likely exposed to in Europe. In works such as Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna, Mary sits on a frontally-positioned throne with Jesus in her lap and angels at her side, while the top of the panel is shaped into a pediment recalling the "canopy of heaven." In Critcher's version of the Maestà composition, the traditional wide-lapped, blue-mantled mother (Madonna) sits with a basket in her lap and her girls at her side, while above her the distinctive triangular top of the tent, through which appears the bustling market beyond, serves as the heavenly canopy.


    Condition Report*: Original canvas (unlined); difficult to read under UV light due to an old uneven varnish; a 1" vertical surface scratch in the red shirt of the young woman; a dime sized surface abrasion in lower left corner; heavy surface dirt (will brighten up with a cleaning); painting appears to be in  its original state with the original frame and no apparent restoration.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    2nd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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