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    Description

    William Sommer (American, 1867-1949)
    Brandywine Valley, circa 1918
    Oil on board
    20-1/4 x 26-1/8 inches (51.4 x 66.4 cm)
    Bears estate stamp lower right

    Property from The Wainwright Collection of American Modernism

    PROVENANCE:
    Hollis Taggart Gallery, New York;
    Dod and Annie Wainwright, Fort Myers, Florida, acquired from the above, 2005.

    This exuberant landscape exploding with blossoming trees in the foreground and swaths of fresh green fields beyond is a work William Sommer painted around 1918 in his Cubist/Futurist style. In the painting, the Cleveland Modernist references the dramatic geography of the rural property he purchased just four years earlier, in 1914, which was situated along the Brandywine River just south of Cleveland. By day, Sommer worked as a lithographer for Otis Lithograph Company in Cleveland, but by night and on weekends he devoted himself to avant-garde painting. This property provided the artist with the retreat from the city he had so ardently desired, as well as a connection with nature which served as a wellspring of inspiration for his painting. In addition to the farmhouse where Sommer lived with his wife and three sons, and related outbuildings, the artist's property had an old schoolhouse which he used as his studio.

    In a touching foreword to the catalogue for the 1950 "William Sommer Memorial Exhibition" at The Cleveland Museum of Art, then-director William M. Milliken perfectly expressed the importance which the Brandywine farm held for Sommer: "The rolling hills of that beautiful countryside were to be his horizon until his death. What no other painter of Cleveland has done, he had made this part of the Cleveland area come to life much as Cézanne did Aix-en-Provence. As subject material it was inexhaustible, and the hills, fields, flowers and fruits, the farm animals, the houses and their inhabitants, are the leitmotifs which he used endlessly in abounding variations. He had the genius for wringing the eternal from the everyday. No greater proof of the wellspring of creative energy that was his can be found than in his complete penetration of this, his own particular workaday world." (William M. Milliken, "William Sommer the Individual," The William Sommer Memorial Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 1959, p. 13)

    The Modernist antecedents in Brandywine Landscape can be easily felt in the highly angular shapes as well as the thick dark outlines preferred by the German Expressionists and the Futurists. The reduction of complex forms in nature to simple geometries, which are then broken into facets, emerge from Braque and Picasso. The brilliant primary and secondary colors, seemingly unmixed, derive from Matisse, Derain and the Fauves. Some of these influences came to Sommer indirectly through the work of his Modernist compatriots in Cleveland associated with the Kokoon Art Club, the avant-garde group which he helped co-found in 1911. But some of the impact came from seeing the European Modernist work firsthand, in venues such as the famous Armory Show of 1913.

    Although the present work is undated, it can be convincingly dated on the basis of style to circa 1918. The particular motif of the stylized roofs in the center of the painting is extremely similar to an illustration Sommer designed for the back page of the program for David Pinski's play, "The Dumb Messiah," at the Cleveland Play House, December 1918.

    Many thanks to Lawrence Waldman for generously sharing this information.

    This work is accompanied by the exhibition catalogue, Painting in Pure Color. Modern Art in Cleveland before the Armory Show 1908-1913 by Henry Adams (Cleveland Artists Foundation, 2013).


    Condition Report*: Under UV exam, tiny spots of retouching's along the extreme edges (largest approx. 1 x 1/4 inch). Extremely mild wear to the lower left corner.
    Framed Dimensions 27.5 X 33.5 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: 2
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