The Winter Show Online:
An Exploration of Provenance

By Margie Fuchs

Jonathan Boos is pleased to announce our participation in The Winter Show Online, the fair’s first virtual iteration, from January 22 – January 31, 2021, with the VIP Preview beginning January 19th! For this year’s presentation, we are celebrating the diversity of American art with over a dozen masterworks from across the 19th and 20th centuries. But what are the stories behind these works? We explore the provenance of six of these unique paintings, learning how they travelled the continent as a part of some of the most significant collections of American art.

We hope you enjoy the walk through history below and join us at The Winter Show Online this week.

Edward Dufner's work depicting two young girls lounging on the shore of a pond enjoying the view
Edward Dufner
Youth and Sunshine, 1916
Oil on canvas
62½ x 72½ inches
Signed lower left

The story of Edward Dufner’s Youth and Sunshine (1916) starts on the beach. A professor at the Art Students League and resident in Manhattan, Dufner conducted a special summer session for the League on the Jersey Shore in 1910. Taken by the Atlantic, he spent subsequent summers in New Jersey, capturing the sunny weather in impressionistic seaside scenes and earning a reputation as both the “painter of sunshine” and the state’s leading American Impressionist.

Shortly after its completion, Youth and Sunshine was featured in the National Academy of Design’s Winter Exhibition of 1916-1917. The iconic work resided in private collections and trusts for the next 60 years until publicly resurfacing as a part of the Brooklyn Museum’s 1970 exhibition A Panorama of American Painting – The John J. McDonough Collection. Featuring artworks from the mid 18th to the mid 20th century, A Panorama of American Painting chronicled the development of American painting and how American artists including Dufner expanded upon Impressionism and other international artistic movements. In 2008, Youth and Sunshine caught the eye of Richard and Jane Manoogian, leading Detroit-based collectors of historical American art, and joined their collection. In 2010, the work returned to the seaside as a part of the show Nature’s Banquet: American Paintings from the Manoogian Collection, presented at Savannah College of Art and Design’s Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia.

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An excavation construction scene.
Stefan Hirsch
Excavation, 1926
Oil on canvas
35 1/2 x 45 inches
Signed and dated lower right

Stefan Hirsch was only 27 years old when he painted and debuted this precisionist cityscape in the aptly-titled show Young American Art at New York’s Valentine Dudensing Gallery in 1926. Throughout the latter half of the decade, Hirsch participated in multiple shows at Edith Halpert’s influential Downtown Gallery and, by 1930, Excavation was listed in the gallery’s records. But where is this excavation site? In the early 20th century, Hirsch’s New York City was buzzing with industry and construction. According to The New York Landmark Conservancy, Excavation depicts a work area in the midtown Manhattan neighborhood of Turtle Bay, with the green train behind the excavation site most likely the IRT Second Avenue Elevated train. This homage to the ever-changing nature of New York appeared in The Museum of Modern Art’s 1930 survey An Exhibition of Work of 46 Painters & Sculptors Under 35 Years of Age and travelled to the Midwest for a show at the Cincinnati Art Museum that same year.

In 1979, Excavation was acquired by luxury travel magnate and esteemed Saint Louis collector Barney Ebsworth. Deemed one of the ‘World’s Greatest 200 Collectors,’ Ebsworth built a diverse collection of modern American art masterpieces, spotlighting the diversity and dynamism of US art of the past century. Excavation traveled the country in exhibitions surveying the Mr. and Mrs. Barney A. Ebsworth Collection, stopping at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Saint Louis Art Museum, among others.

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A man walking down a street with buildings on once side.
O. Louis Guglielmi
Land of Canaan, 1934
Oil on canvas

30 x 36 inches
Signed lower left

Much like Hirsch’s Excavation, the early provenance of O. Louis Guglielmi’s 1934 painting Land of Canaan can be traced to Edith Halpert – in this case, her personal collection – and the Ebsworth Collection. A strong advocate of the Precisionist movement, which sought to depict modern urban and industrial landscapes through emphasizing their angular and geometric qualities, Halpert invited Guglielmi to join the Downtown Gallery in the mid 1930s and exhibited Land of Canaan in 1936. Depicting the textile mills of Peterborough, New Hampshire, Land of Canaan represents one of the artist’s earliest forays into his mature aesthetic, with its bluntly ironic title contrasting with the bleak, Depression-weary scene. In the following decades, the work crisscrossed the country, participating in exhibitions on social realism and American modernism at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and The Maier Museum of Art in Lynchburg, Virginia, among others.

The Ebsworths acquired Land of Canaan when Halpert’s personal holdings went to auction in 1973. Since then, the work has been displayed in The Whitney Museum of American Art’s Guglielmi retrospective and two separate traveling surveys of the expansive Ebsworth Collection, wowing audiences from Honolulu to Boston and back again.

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Alton Pickens image of an acrobat
Alton Pickens
The Acrobat, 1947
Oil on canvas
49 3⁄4 × 34 inches
Signed and dated lower left

Alton Pickens’ The Acrobat (1947) personifies the anxieties of the Atomic Age, touching upon issues of performance, balance and truth (is the acrobat indeed upside down?). This monumental work first belonged to the collection of Mary and Earle Ludgin, Chicago-based collectors with a keen interest in contemporary art. In a 1952 feature, LIFE magazine reported that the Ludgins possessed Chicago’s largest private collection of American art. While in the Ludgin Collection, The Acrobat was included in The Whitney Museum of American Art’s The New Decade: 35 American Painters and Sculptors, which went on to the San Francisco Museum of Art, Art Galleries University of California at Los Angeles, Colorado Springs Fine Art Center and the City Art Museum of St. Louis between 1955-1956. It was also showcased internationally in both Canada and Germany. In 1981, the Ludgins gifted The Acrobat and a variety of other artworks to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, where it resided until 2019.

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An American businessman, politician and member of the Rockefeller dynasty, Nelson Rockefeller was a passionate advocate of the arts, promoting public access and assembling a significant personal collection. Provenance records reveal that Rockefeller acquired George Tooker’s poignant self-portrait Divers directly from the artist himself in the 1950s. The work would remain in the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection for nearly 15 years before moving to another private collection. Rockefeller’s interest in modern art was expansive and ever-evolving, incorporating both figurative and abstract works. From the Downtown Gallery, he acquired George Morris’s nonrepresentational Opposition of Forms (1945), a tempera fresco relief on marble. This miniature avant-garde work by one of the “Park Avenue Cubists” was in the Happy and Nelson A. Rockefeller collection for decades – until 2019!

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Thank you for joining our provenance investigation! 

We invite you to explore additional works in our presentation for the 2021 The Winter Show Online:

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