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Major Southern Commissions of the 1930s-1940s at D. Wigmore Fine Art in New York
George Biddle (1885-1973), Poultry Market, Charleston, South Carolina, 1930, 8 x 10 3/4 inches, watercolor, ink & charcoal on paper.
NEW YORK, NY.- D. Wigmore Fine Art, Inc. presents Major Southern Commission of the 1930s-1940s, on view through October 28th, 2011. Over 40 oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings show the range of commission work in the 1930s-1940s, including corporate projects, illustrations for famous literature, and studies for post office murals.

The exhibition includes many works on paper from George Biddle’s 1930 visit to Charleston. Biddle (1885-1973) used these works as the basis for his illustrations for the original libretto for George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, published alongside the opera’s New York premiere in 1935. The opera will have a revival on Broadway in the 2011-2012 season. David Fredenthal’s (1914-1958) four watercolors about Georgia sharecroppers created for the 1940 deluxe edition of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road are another highlight. Fredenthal spent two months guided by the author’s father Reverend I.C. Caldwell getting to know sharecroppers around Wrens, Georgia to create his watercolors. Also on view are two of the fourteen illustrations made by John Steuart Curry (1897-1946) in 1935, including The Attack on Fort Sumter, for the Civil War epic poem John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benét.

There are six paintings in the exhibition from the American Tobacco Company’s 1941 commission of the foremost American Scene artists to paint the story of tobacco from field to auction. Groups of artists were sent to “Tobacco Country”- Northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee- to paint the farming of this historic crop. Arnold Blanch (1896-1968), Aaron Bohrod (1907-1992), Ernest Fiene (1894-1965), and Frederic Taubes (1900-1981) represent four of the nineteen artists selected for this commission. The tobacco paintings were displayed in the company headquarters and appeared in Lucky Strike ads in Life and Time magazines as early as February 1942.

Doris Lee’s (1904-1985) drawing Corn Field exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1939 Annual Exhibition relates to her mural Georgia Countryside for the Summerville, Georgia Post Office. Lee’s composition celebrates Georgia’s three crops: peaches, corn, and cotton. The mural was developed from sketches made on her many trips through Georgia to spend the winter in Florida. For the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina Post Office, Charles Ward (1900-1962) visited the area twice during the year he worked on his mural commission. He submitted several mural designs including The Use of Chemicals in Agriculture of which we have four proposals and The Story of Cotton from Field to Dressmaker’s Shop of which we have one painting. Out of Ward’s design one small section of The Story of Cotton was selected and the finished mural installed in 1938 was titled Cotton Pickers. Both Lee and Ward’s murals are still existant.

The exhibition has Southern military subjects including two watercolors from Charles Burchfield’s (1893-1967) time at Camp Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina in 1918, as well as Albert Gold’s (1916-2006) time at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. Studies from Doris Lee’s trips to South Carolina and Alabama can be seen as well as Abram Tromka’s (1896-1954) 1938 painting of Harlan County, Kentucky.



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