DescriptionERNEST LAWSON (American, 1873-1939)
Tibbetts Creek in Winter, circa 1914-15
Oil on canvas laid on masonite
19-7/8 x 23-7/8 inches (50.5 x 60.6 cm)
Signed lower left: E. Lawson
PROPERTY FROM THE KING COLLECTION, TEXAS
Daniel Gallery, New York;
Gerald Melberg, Charlotte, North Carolina;
Private collection, Washington D.C.;
Pensler Gallery Washington D.C.;
Robert Weimann III, Clinton, Connecticut, 1986;
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1986.
Ernest Lawson developed a distinctive style that bridged Realism and Impressionism. While he frequently captured New York's docks, bridges, and squatters' huts, his primary interest was the play of light and color on the landscape. This quality distinguishes his work from the social realism of his colleagues in the Eight, and it is also what led him to participate in the Armory Show of 1913. Tibbetts Creek in Winter, painted circa 1914-15, exemplifies Lawson's keen observation of light and color, alongside his unmatched "crushed jewel" impasto.
Lawson had a predilection for painting the landscapes of New York City, his home, particularly the quieter areas facing the Palisades and the bridges and rivers surround the northern tip of Manhattan. The scene in the present work--Tibbetts Creek in Kingsbridge, New York--was a favorite site for Lawson to paint during his Harlem River period. It is located in the corner of the Bronx where the Hudson River meets the Harlem River. Tibbetts Creek originally fed into the Spuyten Duyvil Creek, which is now the Harlem ship canal.
Tibbetts Creek in Winter depicts a partially frozen landscape, as the winter snow begins to melt away. While the buildings on the far shore are dwarfed by and integrated into the backdrop of low hills, they help define the spatial openness of the middle ground and foreground, while drawing the viewer into the scene. A consummate landscape painter, Lawson conveys the temporal quality of the scene through his careful rendering of the ice floating motionless on the water.
Tibbetts Creek in Winter lends much of its poetic charm to Lawson's close association with his teacher, J. Alden Weir, and his friend and mentor John Henry Twachtman. Twachtman's nearly monochromatic compositions of the Connecticut countryside provided Lawson an artistic foundation for expressing his own love for the environment of New York City. The soft brushwork in Tibbetts Creek in Winter, as well as the painting's overall tonality, recalls Twachtman's own approach to landscape painting. In adapting these characteristics, Lawson created an entirely new and highly personal vision of New York.
Underscoring the visual impact of Tibbetts Creek in Winter is Lawson's unique handling of pigment, color and light that have become hallmarks of his finest works. Henry and Sidney Berry-Hill note, "Lawson's concern was with color and texture, not with 'isms.' His layer upon layer of glistening oil paint does not disguise any precise compositional devices; he painted landscape for landscape's sake, as though every canvas was a spontaneous study of color-in-landscape and texture-in-landscape. His color, moulded into a rich mass on his palette, is vivid, applied with knife, brush and even thumb. It was as though he was virtually sculpting his painting with color on color, over and over again. His method of scraping and manipulating his paint is personal, adapted to accord with his theme. Some summer surfaces actually sing with color and glow with luminous iridescence, comparable with that of brilliant enamel" (Ernest Lawson, American Impressionist, Leigh-on-Sea, England, 1968, p. 31). Incorporating suffused light with jewel-like blues, greens, lavenders and whites coupled with a deliberate and heavy-handed application of paint, Lawson's Tibbetts Creek creates an atmosphere that is at once tranquil and agitated. His canvas poignantly reflects the rapid transformation of a landscape at the crossroads of urban development.
In December of 1915, New York's Daniel Gallery held a one-man exhibition for Lawson consisting of eighteen works. At that time, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased their first Lawson, Winter-Tibbetts Creek, Kingsbridge, a larger rendering of the present work, which presently hangs on permanent display.
Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000.
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