SCOTT KAHN (B. 1946)
SCOTT KAHN (B. 1946)
SCOTT KAHN (B. 1946)
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SCOTT KAHN (B. 1946)

Winter on Wig Hill

Details
SCOTT KAHN (B. 1946)
Winter on Wig Hill
signed and dated ‘Scott Kahn ‘91’ (lower right); signed, titled and dated ‘WINTER ON WIG HILL KAHN 1991’ (on the overlap)
oil on linen
66 x 78in. (167.7 x 198cm.)
Painted in 1991
Provenance
Galleries Maurice Sternberg, Chicago.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006.
Exhibited
Chicago, Galleries Maurice Sternberg, 2006.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

An enigmatic scene of snow-hushed splendour, Winter on Wig Hill (1991) is a magical large-scale landscape by Scott Kahn. Spanning almost two metres across, it presents an immersive vista rich in detail, texture and hints of symbolism, based on a location in Chester, Connecticut, close to the artist’s long-time home. The painting is dominated by swelling, dappled mounds of snow, their soft shadows and contours as smooth as polished marble. They are dotted with dark, spindly trees, sections of low stone wall, and a red-painted garage that seems to float on its blanket of white: it is answered, to the left, by a single evergreen shrub. Free of human presence, the painting places these objects in silent conversation. The background gives way to a treeline of variegated golden-brown branches and distant, stippled hills. Crisp clouds fill the sky, which fades from a stormy grey to a clear blue. Stone walls frame the foreground, furthering the picture’s play of symmetry: a driveway of rutted snow seems to rush out towards the viewer.

Kahn’s paintings are renowned for their surreal, cinematic staging and beguilingly dreamlike aura. They are also animated by a rich sensitivity to the realities of landscape, light, and the shifting seasons. Kahn studied at the Arts Students League, New York, under Theodoros Stamos in 1968, and received his MFA in painting two years later. After this early abstract period, it was a four-year stint living in Sag Harbor, Long Island, where he taught himself to paint landscapes, portraits, and interiors from life, that proved foundational for Kahn’s mature practice. His more fantastical works are often composed when he has no appropriate setting at hand, and must draw instead on imagination and memory. With beauty in his sights, however, he is a keen observer of the outside world.

The present painting is among a number of works based on the view from the home of a patron, where Kahn would stay while she and her British husband were in the UK. The artist himself resided in Connecticut until 2013 and studied its environs intimately over the years, painting the outlook from his home in nearby Griswold Point, and prospects of the Connecticut River from Old Lyme and Old Saybrook. Visits to friends in nearby New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as trips to the mountainous Berkshires of western Massachusetts, furnished further inspiration. Kahn has also painted sights seen on his travels in France and England. His landscapes pay exquisite attention to nature and architecture alike: they are alive with sunrises and sunsets, the moon’s phases, frozen ponds, spring blossoms, characterful clouds, rising mists and the changing colours of autumn. Kahn’s eye for nuance is clear in the present painting, its snow pearlescent with varied hues and its stark foliage worthy of Pieter Bruegel’s sixteenth-century winters.

In their intense, idiosyncratic focus on the painter’s locale, works like Winter on Wig Hill have as much in common with the great American Regionalist landscapes of Grant Wood—himself an inheritor of Northern Renaissance style—as they do with the Surrealism of René Magritte. They might also be considered works of Expressionism: Vincent van Gogh, whom Kahn greatly admires, similarly inflected a firm sense of place with the shapes and colours of his emotional interior. Kahn conceives of his paintings in diaristic terms, aiming to communicate the places, relationships and feelings of his life with straightforward lyricism. ‘If I am successful,’ he says, ‘hopefully, the painting will have depth, poetry, and honesty. The effect should be direct and clear’ (S. Kahn, quoted in ‘Artist we love: Scott Kahn’, RDN Arts, 23 October 2020). Spellbinding, minutely vivid and profoundly personal, Winter on Wig Hill superbly realises Kahn’s vision of landscape as a way to paint one’s life.

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