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    The Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection

    JOHN ELWOOD BUNDY (American, 1853-1933)

    Still Life with Grapes, 1898
    Gouache, watercolor, pastel, and graphite on paper
    18-1/4 x 20 inches (46.4 x 50.8 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: JE Bundy 1898

    Purchased from Richard York Gallery, New York, June 28, 1988 (label verso).

    Paul Buchanan's collection of American painting was not devoted exclusively to artists from the the northeastern United States. He was an ardent devotee of painting from his own region, regularly attended the annual Hoosier Salons in Indianapolis, and also patronized Indiana-based artists and galleries.

    This sophisticated still life of blue and green grapes arranged against a blue transferware plate on a white marble ledge is the work of John Elwood Bundy, one of the leading painters of the so-called Richmond group. Based due east of Indianapolis, the Richmond group consistently primarily of landscapists, and are considered to be the most notable Indiana painters outside of the Hoosier group and their successors.

    This mixed media still life is an unusual example of Bundy's work, both on account of its subject and its heightened degree of near-photographic realism. Bundy is best known for his painterly scenes of the celebrated beech forests of eastern Indiana. He liked to paint the trees during the fall when their ruddy foliage made an electric contrast with their bright white trunks. Bundy would often truncate "his monumental and venerable beeches," as William Gerdts has noted, "to suggest their vast size and age and to anchor them firmly in his compositions" (Art Across America, vol. II, New York, 1990, pp. 275-276).

    While quite different from Bundy's more familiar paintings of Indiana's beeches, this elegant still life possesses the artist's exquisite - and seemingly effortless - talent for achieving sophisticated color harmonies and textural differentiation. It is also a testament to his skill as a designer. Bundy bisected the square format of this composition horizontally, placing the man made elements in the upper register of the picture (the plate and the hand-painted wall decoration), and the naturally-occurring grape clusters on the slab of marble below. The lower register is full of harder and shinier textures in the grape skins and the semi-opaque marble. The upper zone is more atmospheric and painterly, not simply in the treatment of the wall but in the fruit motifs painted on the plate as well. If there were to be a protagonist in this painting, it would be the grape leaf on the far left. The light filters through it, making it more transparent and ethereal than the rest of the plant. Oddly, the light transforms it into a motif that has more in common with the handpainted leaves on the plate - turning nature into art. The artist's sensitivity to the whiteness of the setting for this still life, and the ways that shadows and highlights throw color against it, is particularly masterful. It is tempting to see this understanding stemming from Bundy's work as a photographer during the 1870's.

    John Elwood Bundy came to Indiana as a young boy from his birthplace in Guilford County, North Carolina. He was raised on a farm in Morgan County near Monrovia, where he attended Quaker schools and worked as a farmer. When he was twenty, he took art lessons in Indianapolis from portraitist Barton S. Hayes, then continued on to New York City to copy paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By some accounts, he also worked as a photographer for a period, though it is unclear whether such employment coincided with his stay in New York, or whether it post-dated his marriage in Indiana to Mary Marlatt in 1875. In 1888, he moved to Richmond where, for eight years, he headed the Art Department at Earlham College. In 1895, just three years before he produced this still life, Bundy resigned from his teaching position to be able to devote himself more thoroughly to painting. Later in life he became one of the first artists to paint the Indiana dune country at the base of Lake Michigan.

    The artist exhibited widely across the United States: in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the Pennsylvania Academy; in 1911 and 1916 at the National Academy of Design; in 1903 and 1907-1914 at the Chicago Art Institute; in 1925 at the Hoosier Salon; and in 1902 with the Society of Western Artists.

    Condition Report*: Framed under glass; not examined out of frame. There are two small areas of abrasion present: one immediately to the right of the lower-hanging cluster of grapes, and the other about half an inch above the signature in the lower right corner. Otherwise unblemished, well-preserved condition.
    *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
    June, 2009
    10th-11th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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