DescriptionThomas Worthington Whittredge (American, 1820-1910)
Flood on the Delaware, 1880
Oil on canvas
35-1/4 x 26-3/4 inches (89.5 x 67.9 cm)
Signed lower right: WWhittredge
Inscribed on the reverse prior to lining: "Flood on the Delaware / Painted by / W. Whittredge / 1880
PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR, ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA
Freeman's Auction, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 20, 1996, lot 1218;
George Bentley, Marietta, Georgia;
[With]Johnson Hall Fine Art, Roswell, Georgia;
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, "Before 1948: American Paintings from Georgia Collections," January 15-March 14, 1999.
D. Keyes and H. Domescik, Before 1948: American Paintings in Georgia Collections, exhibition catalogue, Athens, Georgia, 1999, pp. 122-23, no. 50.
Paying heed to the "primitive woods with their solemn silence reigning everywhere" (A. Janson, Worthington Whittredge, New York, 1989, p. 100), Worthington Whittredge began sketching forest interiors circa 1860 following his return from over a decade of study in Europe. Upon Whittredge's return to New York City in August 1859 after studying abroad, he took a space at the Tenth Street Studio building along with artists Frederic Church, John Casilear and Jervis McEntee. Whittredge formed a close relationship with these artists as well as with Asher B. Durand and Sanford Robinson Gifford, who were his greatest influences and became lifelong friends. Whittredge preferred quiet scenes, such as the forest in Flood on the Delaware, to the majestic vistas of his contemporaries. He wrote in his autobiography, "There is no denying the fact that the early landscape painters of America were too strongly affected by the prevailing idea that we had the greatest country in the world for scenery. Everybody talked of our wonderful mountains, rivers, lakes and forests, and the artists thought the only way to get along was to paint scenery. This led to much wandering of our artists. Simplicity was not in demand. It must be some display on a big canvas to suit the taste of the times. Great railroads were opened through the most magnificent scenery the world ever saw, and the brush of the landscape painter was needed immediately. Bierstadt and Church answered the need. For more homely scenery, this need was answered by a group of artists known as the Hudson River School--all of whom I knew and one of whom I was" (as quoted in Quiet Places: The American Landscape of Worthington Whittredge, Washington, D.C., 1982, p. 21).
In 1862, having become accustomed to the American landscape as well as the Hudson River School ideology, the artist attempted his first forest interior, The Glen (Private Collection, 1862). By 1880, Whittredge had developed a clear and distinct artistic style in his woodland scenes, gleaning inspiration from his close friends Durand and Gifford. While his fellow contemporary artists often preferred majestic vistas, Whittredge's woodland interiors offered an opportunity for the artist to explore the various effects of light and color in a thoughtful and completive manner.
Whittredge's interest in and reverence of nature as a subject are evidenced by his move to Summit, New Jersey, in 1880, where he built a house in the woods. As he wrote in his autobiography of 1905: "In 1880 I bought a small piece of land, at that time quite out of the village, and built a house upon it in which we have lived up to this time; not always observing the Sabbath in the strict manner of my forefathers, but, after church in the mornings and while my children were small, devoting my Sunday afternoons to walks with them, spring, summer and autumn, walks on which we picked many chrysalis and brought it home and hung it up, and watched for the butterfly to escape as the warm days of spring gave it life" (E.H. Dwight, "Introduction," Worthington Whittredge, Utica, New York, p. 20).
Painted the year he moved to Summit, Flood on the Delaware demonstrates how Whittredge successfully blended his Hudson River School style with new Barbizon influences. According to Heidi Domescik and Donald D. Keyes: "Flood on the Delaware depicts a farmer harvesting pumpkins after a rainstorm has flooded his field. Characteristic of Whittredge's forest interiors, this painting represents the nostalgic charm of an Arcadian rural scene. Although his later style vacillated between the Hudson River school and the newly popular Barbizon school style, an adept handling of light, impressive use of detail, and thematic harmony of man and nature continued to typify his oeuvre late into his career...Whittredge turned landscape painting into an intimate, personal expression of light and atmosphere. In 1880, S.G.W. Benjamin acknowledged Whittredge's success in his publication Art in America: '[Whittredge's] landscapes are thoroughly individual and American...As a faithful delineator of the various phases of American wood interiors, Mr. Whittredge has deservedly won a permanent place in the popular favor.'...The subdued, clear, balanced composition, and flow of light-dark patterns from foreground to background are further indications of how far American landscape painters such as Whittredge had moved from the sublime visions of earlier American artists" (Before 1948: American Paintings in Georgia Collections, Athens., Georgia, 1999, pp. 122-23).
A copy of a letter from Anthony F. Janson discussing the present work and dated November 4, 1999 accompanies this lot. He points out that Whittredge's After the Rain, mid-1880s, illustrated in his monograph Worthington Whittredge (Cambridge, 1989, p. 193, fig. 153), is a sketch for the present work.
Framed Dimensions 49.5 X 41 X 5 Inches
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