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    Description

    William Sommer (American, 1867-1949)
    Boy with Straw Hat (Portrait of Ray), circa 1911
    Oil on canvas laid on board
    23 x 18 inches (58.4 x 45.7 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: Will Sommer / 1926

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Vincent Melzac (1914-1989), Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., before 1950, likely acquired from the above;
    Private collection, Weymouth, Massachusetts, acquired from the above, circa 1950s;
    Private collection, Kempton, Pennsylvania, by descent, 2018.

    EXHIBITED:
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, "The William Sommer Memorial Exhibition," November 1-December 10, 1950, no. 19.

    LITERATURE:
    The William Sommer Memorial Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, p. 84, no. 19.

    This lovely Post-Impressionistic portrait by noted Cleveland modernist William Sommer depicts the artist's youngest son Ray (born 1902) at around age nine. It belongs to a group of three other related likenesses Sommer painted of Ray, all in oil and all dating to or around 1911. Of these, two are bust-length portraits-one showing Ray's head turned to the left (dated 1911, private collection, Cleveland, Ohio), and one showing it turned to the right in an attitude and coloration closer to the present work. A slightly smaller and more heavily worked version of the present composition, showing Ray at half-length wearing a purple hat decorated with fruit and flowers, sold through Hindman, March 28, 2010, lot 42. Interestingly, in the auction catalogue it was described as "Young Girl in a Purple Hat with Flowers." Indeed, Sommer often dressed Ray as girl in his portraits of him, as a way of appeasing his wife who had always wanted a daughter and instead had three sons. A comparison of the Hindman version with the present work shows how Sommer's small adjustments of facial shape, arch of the eyebrows, hairline, and costume combine to make the Hindman version more androgynous if not more feminine in appearance. The present work, by contrast, accentuates the suspenders (traditionally a male accessory) over the fluffy white shirt/blouse in the Hindman version.

    Although Sommer dated the present work to 1926, that year must be considered anachronistic since by the mid-1920s Sommer was working in an entirely different manner and his son would have been 24 years old. As Sommer scholar Lawrence Waldman has noted: "Sommer sometimes dated his paintings the year he sold them," which seems to have almost certainly been the case here.

    At the time he painted Boy with Straw Hat, William Sommer was going through a profound stylistic shift in his art. He had just fallen head-over-heels for the radical new paintings that a cluster of Cleveland artists just brought back with them from Europe. Brimming with brand-new conceptions for picture-making were Abel Warshawsky, who introduced Impressionism to Cleveland audiences when he exhibited his radiant French landscapes downtown before returning to France for more inspiration. And perhaps even more important to Sommer at this moment were the paintings of Clevelander William Zorach and the even more radical efforts of his fiancée Marguerite Thompson, who fractured form, flattened space, and used color with greater abandon than the others, who still stuck fairly close to naturalistic color. Boy with Straw Hat documents the start of William Sommer's remarkable artistic transformation.




    Condition Report*: Under UV exam, there does not appear to be inpaint. Discoloration along the extreme edges (approx. 1/4 inch wide). Minor craquelure in areas of thicker impasto. Surface soiling throughout.
    Framed Dimensions 30 X 25 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
    May, 2021
    7th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 439

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