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    Sale 1911

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    29 November 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 15

    Ernest Lawson (1873-1939)

    River in Winter

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Ernest Lawson (1873-1939)
    River in Winter
    signed 'E. Lawson' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm.)
    Painted circa 1907.


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    Trained with the Impressionist painters John Henry Twachtman and J. Alden Weir, Ernest Lawson's work represents a stylistic bridge between Realism and Impressionism. River in Winter is an early and accomplished example of Ernest Lawson's work that demonstrates his keen observation of light and color.

    Lawson had a predilection for painting landscapes of New York City, his home, particularly the quieter areas facing the Palisades and the bridges and rivers that surround the northern tip of Manhattan. Valerie Ann Leeds writes of the present work, "Bodies of water often dominate Lawson's compositions, as in River in Winter, one of a group of closely related views he painted of the Harlem River. All of these paintings include similar boats, buildings, water and landscape, executed roughly from the same perspective, only varying in the atmospheric effects. Lawson included a variant of River in Winter in the Eight exhibition at the Macbeth Galleries. The painting, Winter on the River, was purchased by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney directly from the exhibition, later to become part of the Whitney Museum's collection." (The Independents: The Ashcan School & Their Circle From Florida Collections, exhibition catalogue, Winter Park, Florida, 1996, p. 12)

    River in Winter depicts a partially frozen Harlem River, as the winter snow begins to melt away. Lawson has placed two small ice-covered boats in the foreground to give the composition a sense of scale and proportion. While the two buildings on the far shore are dwarfed and integrated into the backdrop of low hills, they help define the spatial openness of the middle ground and foreground. As a consummate landscape painter, Lawson conveys the temporal quality of the scene through his careful rendering of the ice floating motionless on the water. River in Winter demonstrates all of Lawson's talent in creating an atmospheric environment that draws the viewer into the scene.

    River in Winter lends much of its poetic charm to Lawson's close association with his teacher J. Alden Weir and his friend and mentor John Henry Twachtman. Twachtman's nearly monochromatic compositions of the Connecticut countryside provided for Lawson an artistic foundation on which he could express his own love for the environment of New York City. The soft brushwork in River in Winter, as well as the painting's overall tonality, recalls Twachtman's own approach to landscape painting. In adapting these characteristics, Lawson created an entirely new and highly personal vision of New York.

    River in Winter exemplifies the artist's best work in terms of its subject matter and its Impressionist palette. Robert Henri, a fellow member of the Ashcan School, appreciated the genius and the poetry evident in Lawson's body of work: "Of Ernest Lawson, there is the love of the vibration of light, his enjoyment of life as it is, his power to see poetry in it, his desire to express all the romance of Nature without adding to it finding enough romance in the thing as it exists--a greater romance than any human mind could imagine." ("The New York Exhibition of Independent Artists," The Craftsman, XVIII, no. 2, May 1910, p. 170)

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    Provenance

    Mrs. John E.D. Trask, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Janet Fleisher Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Private collection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    James Graham & Sons, New York.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Samuel B. and Marion W. Lawrence Collection


    Literature

    V.A. Leeds, The Independents: The Ashcan School & Their Circle From Florida Collections, exhibition catalogue, Winter Park, Florida, 1996, p. 62, no. 37, illustrated.
    J. Hardin and V.A. Leeds, In the American Spirit: Realism and Impressionism from the Lawrence Collection, exhibition catalogue, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1999, pp. 19, 63, 84, no. 23, illustrated.


    Exhibited

    Winter Park, Florida, Rollins College, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, The Independents: The Ashcan School & Their Circle From Florida Collections, March 9-May 5, 1996, no. 37.
    St. Petersburg, Florida, Museum of Fine Arts, In the American Spirit: Realism and Impressionism from the Lawrence Collection, March 21-June 13, 1999, no. 23.