• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2133

    American Furniture and Decorative Arts including English and Dutch Delft

    23 January 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 255

    Henry Gritten (1818-1873), dated 1852

    Three Views of Springside

    Price Realised  

    Henry Gritten (1818-1873), dated 1852
    Three Views of Springside
    each painting signed and dated H. Gritten/1852 (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    25½ x 37 in. (each) (3)


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    These paintings of Springside are important documents of the work of Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852) with their vivid depictions of the only known structures that can be attributed to Downing as an architect. Near Poughkeepsie, New York, Springside was created as the embodiment of an idyllic pastoral landscape. Envisioned by Matthew Vassar (1792-1868), a Poughkeepsie resident and philanthropist who founded Vassar College in 1861, Springside represents the only surviving landscape design of Downing, America's first landscape architect. Vassar commissioned Downing to design the grounds and architecture for the 47-acre tract of land in 1850. Since 1841, Downing had been considered the nation's leading horticulturalist and tastemaker in the field of architecture and landscape design. His first book, Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1841) was the first American book on the subject of landscape design, and became a premier sourcebook for the Gothic Revival style in American architecture. Rejecting the popular Greek Revival style of the 1820s and 1830s, Downing took his inspiration from Italian villas, Swiss chalets, and rustic European architecture. At the time of Springside's construction, Downing was appointed by President Fillmore to design and supervise the landscape surrounding the White House, The Capitol and the Smithsonian.

    The original designs for Springside, now in the collection of the Vassar College library, include two designs for the barns, each with Downing's initials. The design for both the Springside Carriage House and Stable is illustrated and discussed in Downing's book Cottage Residences (Andrew Jackson Downing, Cottage Residences (New York, 1842), pp. 186-187, fig. 93). Downing's original plans for Springside included over 40 architectural and landscape elements (fig. 1). Among these, several can be seen in the three paintings, including the gardener's cottage (fig. 3), the barn complex, a carriage house, the villa, and a small structure, possibly an aviary or a pagoda.

    Henry C. Gritten (1818-1873) was a landscape painter who resided for a short period in New York City, exhibiting at the National Academy of Design between 1850 and 1853. Gritten's work from this period demonstrates his interest in both Gothic Revival architecture and pastoral landscapes. In 1851, he exhibited several paintings at the NAD, including View of the Catskill Mountains and Recollection of New-Hampshire Scenery, in addition to The Cathedral of Rouen, France, from Place Notre-Dame (see National Academy of Design Exhibition record (New York, 1943), p. 198). These three views of Springside, dated 1852, were painted the same year that Springside was completed, and were probably partially painted in person by Gritten during a visit to Springside in the spring of that year. The presence of what appears to be a villa in the distance of two of the paintings suggests that Gritten may have been inspired by Downing's sketches, since the villa was never built.

    These paintings were acquired by Karl Keiling (1865-1939; fig. 2), a caretaker of the Vassar estate who resided at Springside with his wife Helen Zoellner Keiling from 1898 to 1939. By family tradition, these three paintings were acquired by Mr. Keiling at a Poughkeepsie yard sale in 1898. It is recorded in family history that there were five paintings, but that he only had enough money to buy three. Family tradition further states that a later owner of the Vassar estate offered to buy them from Mr. Keiling, but that the caretaker refused to sell them.

    Provenance

    Matthew Vassar (1792-1868), Poughkeepsie, New York
    Karl Keiling (1865-1939) and Helma Zoellner Keiling (1864-1926)
    Ella Zoellner (1885-1972), sister
    Thence by descent to current owner


    Pre-Lot Text

    VARIOUS PROPERTIES


    Literature

    Sarah Laird Baldwin, "Mr. Vassar and the Hand of Taste," Vassar Alumnae Magazine (May 1955), pp. 2-5.
    Timothy Allred, "Springside, Where Public Met Nature & Art," Clearwater Navigator (March/April 1984), pp. 7-9.
    Denise Otis, Grounds for Pleasure, Four Centuries of the American Garden (New York, 2002), n.p.
    Harvey Flad, Prophet with Honor, the Career of Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852), (Philadelphia, 1989), pp. 219-257.