DescriptionCHARLES BITTINGER (American, 1870-1970)
Night at Cadiz
Oil on canvasboard
12 x 16 inches (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Signed lower right: C. Bittinger
Titled in pencil on artist's label verso
THE JEAN AND GRAHAM DEVOE WILLIFORD CHARITABLE TRUST
Skinner Auctioneers, Marlborough, Massachusetts, September 9, 1994, lot 316.
This handsome nocturne by Charles Bittinger depicts Cadiz's Plaza San Antonio, considered during the 19th century to be the city's main square. The plaza and Bittinger's painting are both dominated by San Antonio church, originally built in 1669. Bittinger's paintings were grounded in concerns that went beyond aesthetics because he was trained as a scientist and was intensely interested in perception. Born and raised in Washington, D.C. he enrolled at MIT in 1898, intending initially to become a scientist. After two years of study, his interest in art won out. He dropped out of school and moved to Paris, where he studied at the Sorbonne, the École des Beaux Arts, and the Académie Julian. While in Paris, he met and became married to a concert singer named Edith Gay. Together, they moved back to the U.S. in 1907, and settled in New York, where he studied at the Art Students League, and became an active participant in prominent artists' associations and exhibitions, including the National Academy of Design. During World War I, he played a prominent role in the development of naval camouflage. He served with the U.S. Naval Camouflage Section in the research subsection at the Eastman Kodak Laboratories in Rochester, New York. There, he worked with physicist Loyd A. Jones and others on assessing the effectiveness of ship camouflage proposals. He experimented with the camouflage-related use of colored filters, and with using colored lights to conceal aspects of a scene. According to an article in a popular magazine in 1921, he "painted an airplane wing with the German cross upon it, which when viewed by our [U.S.] army through binoculars equipped with a red filter, discloses itself to be not the German cross, but the red, white and blue of the Allies. Thus an airplane could fly unscathed over the German lines and return home again without being fired upon."
Paint film in fully stable condition. Under UV examination varnish appears to be older and uneven. There are perhaps five or six tiny dots of pinpoint inpaint, and the signature is on top of the varnish, probably signed by the artist a long time after he painted it. Framed Dimensions 19 X 23.5 Inches
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