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Keelin Before the Reflected View No. 2

Porter, F.
Keelin Before the Reflected View No. 2
signed and dated 'Fairfield Porter '72' (lower center)—signed and dated again and inscribed with title (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
60 x 62 in. (152.4 x 157.5 cm.)
Painted in 1972.
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1980.
J. Ludman, "Checklist of the Paintings by Fairfield Porter," Fairfield Porter: An American Classic, New York, 1992, p. 302.
J. Ludman, Fairfield Porter: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels, New York, 2001, p. 280, no. L797, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Renowned for his balanced and colorful compositions, Fairfield Porter drew from his extensive knowledge as an art critic throughout his career, transforming scenes of everyday life into modern masterworks. According to John Wilmerding, “Fairfield Porter’s figurative realism firmly takes its place within the larger currents of modernist representational art during the middle decades of the twentieth century. His art was singularly joyful and occasionally elegiac.” (Fairfield Porter, New York, 2016, p. 25) Indeed, the present work is a lyrical expression of Porter’s keen ability to beautifully capture the people and places that he loved.

Since he was a child, Porter’s family spent the warmer months at their house on Great Spruce Head Island in Penobscot Bay, off the coast of Maine. Fairfield’s father James built a large two-story shingle house on the small, mile-long and half-mile-wide island in 1912, and the artist and his brothers spent many summer days on its porch overlooking the bay. Porter grew to love the Maine atmosphere, once writing, “We go to Maine in the summer because I have since I was six. It is my home more than any other place, and I belong there.” (as quoted in J. Wilmerding, K. Wilkin, Fairfield Porter, New York, 2016, pp. 19-20)

The work that Porter painted in Maine emphasizes his evident affection for his family home and the time spent there with the people he loved. His surroundings encouraged sunny, cheerful depictions of the beautiful scenery, and the present work is no exception. Porter’s Maine works, in particular, parallel those of another Maine summer resident and fellow artist, Alex Katz. Each artist’s arresting, large-scale portraits demonstrate their individual mastery of figuration and are undoubtably imbued with the joy of their surroundings.

Porter first explored the present composition in 1970, spending the summer of that year focusing on portraiture. That same summer marked his sister’s husband Michael Straus’ final visit to Great Spruce Head. Michael’s niece Keelin Murphy is the sitter in the present work, as well as in a smaller version, Keelin before the Reflected View No. 1, from 1970, which is now in the collection of the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York.

The present work was completed two years later, in 1972, a year in which Porter was extremely prolific and eager to paint following the success of his extensive one-man exhibition at Hirschl & Adler Galleries in New York. That same year, he painted another life-sized canvas—one of the last of his career—The Tennis Game (1972, Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, Mississippi). The scale of these works contributes a sense of familiarity between subject and viewer, as if one sits alongside Porter himself as he paints. The intimacy of these Maine pictures—particularly those depicting his family home, as in the present work—is palpable. In a 1968 interview, Porter discusses painting the home that his father built: “It’s an example of his architecture. And so in a sense if I paint that house in Maine I’m also painting a portrait of my father…” (as quoted in J.T. Spike, Fairfield Porter: An American Classic, New York, 1992, p. 184)

Here, Porter places Keelin seated in a relaxed position on the porch, bathed in sunlight, as she looks toward the surrounding landscape. Porter cleverly uses window reflections to highlight the stunning Maine seascape that captivated him, while also deftly capturing daily life at his summer home. Harmoniously joining the bright pink of her shirt with the clear blue of the water, Porter effortlessly portrays the joyful, serene nature of a summer day in Maine.

Keelin before the Reflected View No. 2 exemplifies the best of Porter’s ability as a portraitist and landscape painter, transporting the viewer to the sunny shores of Great Spruce Head Island. Seamlessly infusing the two genres in the present work, Porter communicates his love for his family and Maine itself in his depiction of each.

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