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    Jervis McEntee (American, 1828-1891)
    And the Year Smiles as It Draws near Its Death, 1877
    Oil on canvas
    36 x 30 inches (91.4 x 76.2 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: JMEntee / 1877
    Titled and inscribed on a label affixed to the backing board: The year smiles as it draws near its death / Bryant

    Property from the Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, Sold to Benefit the Management and Care of the Museum Collections.

    The collection of Noah L. Butkin, Shaker Heights, Ohio;
    Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, gift from the above, 1975.

    National Academy of Design, New York, "Fifty-Second Annual Exhibition," Spring 1877, no. 359.

    National Academy of Design, Illustrated Catalogue of the Fifty-Second Annual Exhibition, New York, 1877, p. 36, no. 359.

    Jervis McEntee, a landscape painter of the Hudson River School active in the mid-nineteenth century, is known for his intensely poetic and sensitive imagery. Although he was a national academician who had apprenticed with Frederic Edwin Church-the celebrated painter with whom he enjoyed a warm lifelong friendship-McEntee possessed an artistic sensibility that was very different from that of Church as well as many of his compatriots who favored a more dramatic and hyperbolic approach to nature. Jervis McEntee preferred what he described as the "quiet, pensive, restful side of nature," which can be felt in the present scene of a woodland brook winding its way over rocks and between trees that are beginning to shed their leaves under a crisp blue autumn sky. A gifted poet in paint, McEntee makes sure the viewer feels the warmth of the sun together with a chill in the air-a reminder that the season is nearing its end. The contrast injects a note of melancholy into the visual experience, elevating something merely pleasant to something with greater poignancy. This quality became a hallmark of McEntee's best works.

    In addition to his sketches and paintings, Jervis McEntee also left an enduring legacy with his incredibly detailed journal entries and letters (preserved at the Archives of American Art, Washington, DC). Through the archives of his handwritten pages, historians have been able to create a vibrant and accurate understanding of what the life of a New York City painter was like during the socially boisterous Gilded Era. While McEntee and his lively wife Gertrude made their home in an idyllic cottage on the McEntee family property overlooking the town of Rondout, New York (now Kingston) on the Hudson River, where he spent the summers and autumns sketching in the nearby Catskill mountains, the artist spent his winters in New York City. There he relied upon his summer and autumn studies to create paintings in his studio. He lived at Richard Morris Hunt's celebrated Tenth Street Studio Building, home to so many notable artists of the day. Entee was, in fact, one of the charter members of the studio complex and also one of the most social, owing in large part to his charismatic wife Gertrude who chose to spend part of each winter there with her husband. Since many of the building's other occupants were bachelors or commuters, McEntee and Gertrude (his well-loved, sympathetic hostess) became the center of a spontaneous salon frequented by some of the best-known artists, writers, and actors of the era.

    Jervis McEntee's journals are incredibly valuable documents that chronicle the nascence and progress of specific paintings he produced. The artist frequently moaned and groaned in them complaining about compositions he was struggling with. He also identified where he hoped to exhibit certain works, and sometimes even mentioned names of collectors who bought them. Happily, the present painting was one of the works he discussed. Interestingly, unlike most of his efforts, the present work seems to have been a wholly pleasant and fluid undertaking for the notoriously self-critical McEntee. He first mentioned it on February 22, 1877, as a work-to-be: "Just now I am waiting for a canvas 30 x 36 on which I am going to paint a picture based on one of my Kaatskill Creek studies." On March 2 he noted: "I am painting an Indian Summer picture based on a Kaatskill brook study. Size 30 x 36 which I hope will be interesting. I have been at work on it four days and have advanced it considerably."

    On March 8, McEntee revealed that he intended to send the present work to the 1877 National Academy of Design annual exhibition, and gave the origin of the painting's title: "Had a call from two ladies who wanted to see my pictures. They did not make themselves known but seemed to enjoy my pictures, particularly the late Autumn phases...I have now got all three of my pictures ready for the Academy and feel the relief I usually do when that is off my mind...[Friend painter Sanford] Gifford came in to see me yesterday and I showed him my Academy pictures with which he seemed pleased...Every body seems to like my last picture and I hope to sell it out of the Academy. Taylor proposed a line from Bryant for its title "And the year smiles as it draws to its close."

    Taylor was McEntee's good friend, the famous traveler, lecturer and poet Bayard Taylor, who suggested the paraphrased line from William Cullen Bryant's poem October (written 1826, published 1840). The sonnet was a very good fit, in fact, for the mood McEntee sought to create.

    October. A Sonnet
    Ay, thou art welcome, heaven's delicious breath,
    When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf,
    And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief,
    And the year smiles as it draws near its death.
    Wind of the sunny south! oh still delay
    In the gay woods and in the golden air,
    Like to a good old age released from care,
    Journeying, in long serenity, away.
    In such a bright, late quiet, would that I
    Might wear out life like thee, mid bowers and brooks,
    And, dearer yet, the sunshine of kind looks,
    And music of kind voices ever nigh;
    And when my last sand twinkled in the glass,
    Pass silently from men, as thou dost pass.

    In 1975, nearly 100 years after it was exhibited at the 1877 National Academy, Jervis McEntee's And the year smiles as it draws near its death was gifted to the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio by Noah L. Butkin (1918-1980), an internationally recognized chemical engineer. No record survives about where and when Butkin acquired it, though he and wife Muriel traveled widely and were astute collectors of French realist painting during a period the genre was out of favor. Perhaps something about a Jervis McEntee resonated with Butkin much as a Corot would, where the glimpse of sudden gust of wind rustling through the trees on an October day was curiously stirring.

    Condition Report*: Unlined canvas with a wooden backing not attached to the canvas. Under UV exam, A thick varnish layer fluoresce green but there does not appear to be inpaint. Extremely minor frame abrasion along the extreme edges. Yellowed varnish.
    Framed Dimensions 45.5 X 40 Inches
    *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. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2021
    5th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 9
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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