DEAN CORNWELL (1892-1960)
DEAN CORNWELL (1892-1960)
DEAN CORNWELL (1892-1960)
DEAN CORNWELL (1892-1960)
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DEAN CORNWELL (1892-1960)

"A Strange Sound Drifted Down to Kit from the Top of the Range – A Man’s Voice, Singing"

DEAN CORNWELL (1892-1960)
Cornwell, D.
"A Strange Sound Drifted Down to Kit from the Top of the Range – A Man’s Voice, Singing"
signed with initials and dated 'DC/24' (lower right)
oil on canvas
36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1924.
Illustration House, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1993.
A. Ellerbe, P. Ellerbe, Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan, "$2,000.00 Reward," March 1925, p. 101, illustrated.
P.J. Broder, Dean Cornwell: Dean of Illustrators, New York, 1978, p. 231.
Malibu, California, Pepperdine University, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Illustrating Modern Life, January 12-March 31, 2013, pp. 15, 39, frontispiece illustration, illustrated again.
Brookings, South Dakota, South Dakota Art Museum; Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Norman Rockwell Museum; Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hunter Museum of American Art, Masters of the Golden Age: Harvey Dunn and His Students, May 5, 2015-September 15, 2016.

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Lot Essay

The present work illustrated the Cosmopolitan novelette “$2,000.00 Reward,” published in March of 1925. The article tells the story of Kit, a young bandit fleeing from a sheriff who is offering a $2,000 reward to anyone who can deliver her to him, dead or alive.

Cornwell's depiction of the central heroine, Kit, represents a rare and important moment in Western Art. Seldom over the course of the history of the genre are entire compositions dedicated exclusively to female subjects, and when they are, their characters are almost always decidedly romanticized to fit stereotypical female clichés of the West. Despite the undoubtedly romantic tone of the underlying story, Cornwell depicts a bold, adventurous, guiding woman who is ready for anything.

In the present work, Cornwell depicts the moment that Kit recognizes her opportunity to escape: hidden in the snow with her gun drawn, she hears a man singing a tragic song. She follows his voice to his cabin, where she decides to hide. The singing man feigns ignorance about the girl's whereabouts when questioned by the authorities and, when the men leave, Kit arranges a deal with her depressed host. He agrees to lead her to the train station where she can make her getaway to Denver, Colorado. On their long journey down from the mountains, Kit learns that her newfound companion is Shayne Welling, a disgraced former singer distraught about the loss of his talent. Along the way, Shayne is inspired by Kit's excitement about the simple joys in life, while Kit admires his respectful nature when compared to the men of her past. In the end, Kit has fallen for Shayne and, with newfound appreciation for life, Shayne proposes to the woman who saved him.

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