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    Description

    FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS

    WILLIAM HENRY HOLMES (American, 1846-1933)
    Mount of the Holy Cross, 1873
    Watercolor and gouache on buff paper
    Paper: 18-1/4 x 11-1/4 inches (46.4 x 28.6 cm)

    PROVENANCE:
    William Henry Jackson, gift from the artist, 1873;
    By descent to Clarence Jackson, 1942;
    Mr. Bruce Wear, former Curator of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
    Acquired by the current owner in 1969.

    EXHIBITED:
    Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Thomas Moran Watercolor Exhibition, May 23, 1980 - January 4, 1981, no. 38 (label verso) sic.

    LITERATURE:
    F.V. Hayden, [Seventh] Annual Report of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, embracing Colorado; being a Report of Progress of the Exploration for the Year 1873. Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1874.

    C.S. Jackson and L.W. Marshall, Quest of the Snowy Cross. Denver, 1952, following p. 128, ill.

    W.H. Holmes, Random Records of a lifetime Devoted to Science and Art, vol. 4, part 1 (pencil sketch), "Diary for the Field Season of 1873."

    F. Fryxell, "Mount of the Holy Cross," Trail and Timberline, January 1934, no. 183, (mentions property of Jackson).

    P.H. Hassrick and P. Trenton, The Rocky Mountains, A Vision for Artists in the Nineteenth Century. Norman, Oklahoma, 1983, p. 168, pl. 59.

    "William Henry Jackson," Photograph, Scotts Bluff National Monument, SCBL_ 2644.


    In 1873, explorer Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden led a United States geological and geographic survey of Colorado and parts of adjacent territories. Ample government funding allowed Hayden to organize two major divisions, both including specialists in geology, topography, astronomy, and meteorology, along with assistants and helpers. One of the divisions included the newly appointed official artist, William Henry Holmes, who was to continue as a staff member throughout the remaining Hayden surveys. As a prelude to his seven-year association with Hayden, Holmes had taught several years at various levels of instruction. He also attended several art academies, finally entering the Washington, D.C. studio of Theodore Kauffman. Upon the completion of his studies, he was employed by the Smithsonian Institution to record scientific specimens. It was through this association that Holmes secured his appointment with Hayden's expedition. After his service with Hayden, Holmes went on to enviable positions as artist, topographer, geologist, anthropologist, and finally director of the National Collection of Fine Arts.

    The high point of the summer expedition was the discovery of the Mount of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz). Its existence had been known for some time, but its exact position had never been determined, and no one had recorded the mysterious marking of the peak in sketch, painting, or photograph. The complete revelation of the peak was the determined goal of the entire survey group. Survey photographer William Jackson and artist-geologist Holmes were able to furnish concrete visual evidence of this natural wonder.

    Holmes presented this remarkable and beautiful watercolor of 1873 to the photographer William Jackson as a wedding gift, which can be seen in the background of a photograph of him seated in his studio (see plate 1). The photograph's caption reads: "From a painting made in 1873 by W. H. Holmes, artist and scientist of the 1873 Survey." Despite Jackson's publication and this photograph, in recent years the Holmes's watercolor has been mistakenly attributed to Thomas Moran. In 1979, Patricia Trenton was shown a photograph of this drawing and returned the work to the Holmes's canon. The watercolor is derived from Jackson's 1873 photograph of the Mount of the Holy Cross (see Trenton and Hassrick, p. 171, pl. 60), though the artist has added the intervening ravine and the rocky terrain in the foreground. The entire scene is rendered in a sure, deft hand, revealing Holmes's ability to master the watercolor medium and to create the proper light and atmospheric effects. Holmes made several later watercolor views of the famous peak, but they lack the poetry and sensitivity of his initial effort. Unlike Moran's recordings of the peak, Holmes chose to represent the object in more realistic terms. Of historical importance and aesthetic value, this gem of a watercolor makes a valuable addition to any collection.


    Patricia Trenton, Ph.D.,
    Art Historian and Museologist




    Condition Report*: Very good condition with no discolorations or losses to the paper, no loss of pigment evident.  Mounted verso to mat at top and sides.
    *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, 2011
    17th Tuesday
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