Thomas Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910)
Property from The Westervelt Company, formerly The Gulf States Paper Corporation
Thomas Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910)

Autumn on the Delaware

Thomas Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910)
Autumn on the Delaware
signed 'W. Whittredge' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 x 28 in. (45.7 x 71.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1875.
Private collection, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
[With]Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York,
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1990.
Waco, Texas, Sixth Annual Brazos Forum, America Comes of Age: Emerging Arts and Culture, August 17-October 4, 1990.
Montgomery, Alabama, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Impressions of America: The Warner Collection of Gulf States Paper Corporation, June 18-July 28, 1991.
Memphis, Tennessee, The Dixon Gallery & Gardens, Impressions of America, November 15, 1992-January 24, 1993.

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Lot Essay

Worthington Whittredge's masterfully refined and exquisite renditions of nineteenth century American landscapes are exceptionally articulate visions of nature. These compositions, complemented by the artist's use of light to convey emotion and romanticism, are among the best conceived of the nineteenth century. "His paintings of the primitive woods of the Catskills, the vast, seemingly endless stretches of the western plains and the coast of Newport are among the finest productions of any of the Hudson River School." (C.A. Cibulka, Quiet Places: The American Landscape of Worthington Whittredge, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1982, p. 13)

Upon Whittredge's return to New York City in August 1859 after studying in Europe, he took a space at the Tenth Street Studio building along with artists Frederic Church, John Casilear and Jervis McEntee. Whittredge formed a close relationship with these artists as well as with Asher B. Durand and Sanford Robinson Gifford who were the two greatest influences on him and became lifelong friends. Whittredge preferred quiet scenes, such as the forest in Autumn on the Delaware, to the majestic vistas of his contemporaries. He wrote in his autobiography, "There is no denying the fact that the early landscape painters of America were too strongly affected by the prevailing idea that we had the greatest country in the world for scenery. Everybody talked of our wonderful mountains, rivers, lakes and forests, and the artists thought the only way to get along was to paint scenery. This led to much wandering of our artists. Simplicity was not in demand. It must be some display on a big canvas to suit the taste of the times. Great railroads were opened through the most magnificent scenery the world ever saw, and the brush of the landscape painter was needed immediately. Bierstadt and Church answered the need. For more homely scenery, this need was answered by a group of artists known as the Hudson River School--all of whom I knew and one of whom I was." (as quoted in Quiet Places: The American Landscape of Worthington Whittredge, p. 21)

Whittredge painted with many of the Tenth Street Studio artists nearer to home along the New England coast, Lake George and along the Hudson River. His favorite place to paint, however, was the Catskills. Whittredge wrote in his autobiography, "Short distances in our Catskill country often bring us to changed landscapes which display peculiar characteristics not always easy to engraft upon the scenery of another neighborhood..." Now roaming the dense forests of the Catskills, Whittredge had the dilemma of being accustomed to the cultivated landscape of Europe. "I hid myself for months in the recesses of the Catskills. But how different was the scene before me from anything I had been looking at for many years! The forest was a mass of decaying logs and tangled brush wood, no peasants to pick up every vestige of fallen sticks to burn in their miserable huts, no well-ordered forests, nothing but the primitive woods with their solemn silence reigning everywhere." (as quoted in E.H. Dwight, Worthington Whittredge, exhibition catalogue, Utica, New York, 1969, pp. 14-15)

Autumn on the Delaware depicts several deer at a clearing by the river. Whittredge paints the deer diminutive to the large trees and majestic mountains and with less care than the surrounding landscape, conveying the magnificence and power of nature. In this tranquil scene, Whittredge is able to make the viewer "aware of his own depth of feeling in the presence of nature and reveals its inherent lyricism, what art historian Lisa F. Andrus has termed the 'inevitable, self-evident, and ever-present' poetry of nature." (Quiet Places: The American Landscape of Worthington Whittredge, p. 20)

The palette and light in Autumn on the Delaware imbues the scene with a poetic beauty. The warm autumnal coloring of the blazing yellows, reds and oranges are contrasted with the dark shading of the trees. Whittredge's rich depiction of Luminist light transforms the landscape into a dramatic rendition of nature. Most recent historians have acknowledged Whittredge's brilliant light as the central aspect of his oeuvre, and the one that unifies his work with the other artists of his time. John Baur wrote about the American Luminists such as Whittredge and Gifford, "Technically, [the Luminists] were extreme realists, relying on infinitely subtle variations of tone and color to capture magical effects. Spiritually they were the lyrical poets of the American countryside and the most sensitive and feeling and in the profound identification of the artist with what he portrayed." (as quoted in A.F. Janson, Worthington Whittredge, New York, 1989, p. 96)

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