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    Description

    JESSIE WILLCOX SMITH (American, 1863-1935)
    The Dark
    Mixed media on board
    24 x 15 inches (61.0 x 38.1 cm)
    Signed lower left: Jessie Willcox Smith

    EXHIBITED:
    American Pavilion, International Exhibition of Art, Rome, Italy, 1911;
    The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and The Philadelphia Water Color Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "Eleventh Annual Exhibition," 1913.

    LITERATURE:
    "A Child's World: A Series of Pictures by Jessie Willcox Smith (A Series of Six Drawings in Color)," McClures' Magazine, December 1909, illustrated, n.p.;
    H. Morris, "America at Rome," Art and Progress, Vol. 2, No. 12, October 1911, p. 367.

    1911 marked a highpoint in Jessie Willcox Smith's career as America's beloved illustrator of children's books: she won the prestigious Beck Prize from the Philadelphia Water Color Club for A Child's Grace, and she exhibited three watercolors at the International Art Exposition in Rome, The Fairy Pool, Sweet and Low, and the present lot, The Dark. The Dowager Queen of Italy singled out The Dark as one of her favorites, impressed not only by Smith's watercolor technique, but by her winsome subject, a wide-eyed, rosy-cheeked lad reluctant to ascend a dark staircase:

    "And so it was with the Queen Mother, Margharita. She came alone with a small suite and spent the afternoon rambling through our [American] galleries. When she had examined everything minutely and praised all, with the intelligence of a practiced artist -- for she paints skillfully in water-color -- she sighed for more -- there was not enough. She was attracted by our novelties of technique, our color, and our subjects, . . . and with 'Autumn Glory' by Will Robinson, and 'The Dark' by Jessie Willcox Smith, she expressed special delight" (H. Morris, "America at Rome," Art and Progress, Vol. 2, No. 12 (Oct. 1911) p. 367).

    The Dark originally appeared in "A Child's World: A Series of Six Drawings in Color" in the December 1909 edition of McClure's Magazine. For this project, Smith examined the psychological realms of the child, whether intellectual (two girls reading in Indoors), imaginative (a girl communing with fairies in The Fairy Pool), curious (a boy stalking a creature in The Mystic Wood), adventurous (a girl standing on top of a globe), peaceful (a girl holding a shell on a sun-drenched beach), or fearful (the boy climbing the stairs in The Dark). Among these, Smith was clearly taken with The Dark, which she also exhibited in 1913 with the Philadelphia Water Color Club. The painting's dramatic black background -- a novel effect for Smith -- both underscores the boy's state of mind and offsets his guarded figure, illuminated by slivers of moonlight streaming through the windowpanes.


    Condition Report*: Professional varnish layer makes painting surface difficult to read under UV exam, but there appears to be inpainting along the top extreme edge, spots in the upper left and lower right corners, flecks in the center left quadrant, and several spots around the window light. Framed Dimensions 32 X 23 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. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    2nd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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