WILLIAM J. MCCLOSKEY (1859-1941)
WILLIAM J. MCCLOSKEY (1859-1941)
WILLIAM J. MCCLOSKEY (1859-1941)
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WILLIAM J. MCCLOSKEY (1859-1941)
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PROPERTY FROM A SOUTHERN ESTATE
WILLIAM J. MCCLOSKEY (1859-1941)

Oranges in Tissue Paper

Details
WILLIAM J. MCCLOSKEY (1859-1941)
Oranges in Tissue Paper
signed and dated 'WJ. McCloskey/copyright/N.Y. 1889.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1889.
Provenance
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Private collection, New York, acquired from the above.
Acquired from the late owner from the above, 1997.

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Lot Essay

Like many still-life paintings, William McCloskey's Oranges in Tissue Paper of 1889 is at once a straightforward depiction of fruit as well as a complex and beguiling compositional exercise. A student of Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, McCloskey would have attended classes where the American master gave such advice as, "Paint an orange. After you have it done, introduce a white thing...Take an egg or an orange, a piece of black cloth, and a piece of white paper and try to get the light and color." (as quoted in An American Collection: Works from the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 2001, p. 124) Apparently inspired by this directive, McCloskey explored the subject of oranges wrapped in white paper to great success throughout his career, as exemplified by the present work.

In Oranges in Tissue Paper, the artist delights in the crinkles and folds of the crisp, white paper as it molds over the curvaceous forms of half of the bright oranges on display. The other bare pieces of fruit demonstrate McCloskey's attention to the freckled surface of the orange peel and the unique dents in the shape of each individual fruit. The surface of the polished wooden table reflects all of these features, further highlighting the artist's prowess for realistic detail. The background of blue velvet, a visible fold of brighter blue, adds drama to the scene and, executed in a complementary color to the oranges, emphasizes their vibrancy.

As William H. Gerdts and Russell Burke write, "The sense of 'rightness,' of careful balance, in McCloskey's compositions bespeaks Eakins, as does the sense of drama. McCloskey's fruit is richly colored and always dramatically lighted, so that it shines out within a darkness--dark background and dark wooden support--just as Eakins' figures glow radiantly from their surroundings." (American-Still Life Painting, New York, 1971, p. 166) With a careful and calculated slight lack of symmetry, the elements of the present work coalesce into a perfectly harmonious composition and attest to McCloskey's distinction as the "Master of the Wrapped Citrus."

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