DescriptionSYDNEY M. LAURENCE (American, 1865-1940)
Oil on canvas mounted on masonite
12 x 16 inches (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Signed lower left: Sydney Laurence
Arthur B. Spicer, Anchorage, 1937, purchased from the artist;
Reta Spicer Harper;
By descent to Bruce Harper, Plymouth, California.
On Christmas Eve 1937, Anchorage resident Arthur Spicer drove approximately forty miles from the city out to Laurence's cabin, perhaps the one depicted in Northern Lights, in order to buy this painting as a Christmas present for his wife, Reta. Having been passed down through Reta's family, the painting maintains is original period frame as well as the 1937 Bank of Alaska purchase check, endorsed on the verso by Sydney Laurence.
Laurence was interested in Alaska's unique and sublime natural beauty, and he frequently imaged the area's noted light phenomenon, the aurora borealis. In Northern Lights, an exceptional tonalist work, Laurence contrasts the dynamism of the sky, with its snaking, electric light, and the utter stillness of the darker woods below, broken only by a tiny cabin light. Carefully scumbled brushwork simulates the striated "curtain effect" produced by the light rays streaking through the sky. With its emphasis on color fields, where a pink-orange horizon line bifurcates the composition into an iridescent green sky and a cobalt blue ground, Northern Lights is one of the more modernist interpretations of this favorite Laurence subject.
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000.
The following condition report was prepared by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting on canvas is mounted onto Masonite. Whether this mounting was arranged or conducted by Laurence himself is unknown, yet removing the canvas from the board is not necessarily recommended. The landscape in the lower third of the picture is in very healthy state. In the sky, the glaze on the left half of the sky is slightly broken and it is tempting to think that one could clean the painting throughout to reveal a paler blue beneath. This may be possible but it is by no means a surety and so if there is an issue with the condition, it is here in the glazing in the sky. .
*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. 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.
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