Clarence Holbrook Carter (1904-2000)
Property from an Important Philadelphia Collection
Clarence Holbrook Carter (1904-2000)


Clarence Holbrook Carter (1904-2000)
signed and dated 'Clarence H. Carter 35.' (upper left)--signed and dated again (on the reverse)
gouache on paperboard
18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm.)
Midtown Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
Midtown Galleries, Inc., Painting American: Mural Art in the New Deal Era, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1988, p. 13, fig. 14, illustrated.
C. Barnett, "The Writing on the Wall," Art & Antiques, p. 92.
New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., Clarence H. Carter: Works from the '20s, '30s, and '40s, December 6, 1980-January 3, 1981, no. 38.
New York, Midtown Galleries, Inc., and elsewhere, Painting American: Mural Art in the New Deal Era, March 2-April 9, 1988.

Lot Essay

Construction features the Midwestern subject matter and incorporation of stylized elements that verges on surrealism that characterize the work of Clarence Holbrook Carter. Carter attained success early in his career and at a young age found himself categorized as a Regionalist, due to his depictions of his native Ohio. However, even this early realist scenery possesses a visionary, symbolic quality that draws out the metaphysical in everyday life and sets Carter apart from his regionalist contemporaries. This quality can be seen in the particular perspective presented in Construction, in which the beam at center seems to thrust forward from nowhere and be suspended inexplicably, while the hook above hangs motionless from a metal framework. In addition, the vantage point from below—from the yellow leaves, to the long horizontal structure, and on to the two taller buildings in the background—creates a relative size distortion, which imbues each element with a sense of symbolism. Carter’s transformation of public space in this manner is reminiscent of Georgio de Chirico and links his style strongly to the Surrealist movement. After World War II, Carter increasingly incorporated ever-more fantastical subjects such as eggs and ovoids into his architectural landscapes and settings, and over the course of his career he would participate in exhibitions of Magical Realism, Dada and Surrealism.

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