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Huntington purchases two major American paintings in anticipation of gallery expansion
George Bellows (1882-1925), Summer Fantasy, 1924, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
SAN MARINO, CA.- The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens announced today it has purchased two major paintings by transformative 20th-century American artists: Lattice and Awning by Arthur Dove (1880–1946) and Summer Fantasy by George Bellows (1882–1925). Dove was among the first American abstract painters and was not previously represented in a public collection in Los Angeles. Summer Fantasy is a late-career landscape that enhances The Huntington’s representation of Bellows’ work. Both paintings will go on view July 19, 2014, when The Huntington opens five new rooms in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art to display its growing collection of 20th-century works.

“We have strengthened our collection of great American paintings dramatically with these acquisitions,” said Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russell Kully Director of the Art Collections at The Huntington. “Lattice and Awning is a superb example of the artist’s work at a peak moment in his career, while Summer Fantasy is a fascinating, multifaceted painting that eloquently fills a gap in our collection. Each will add invaluable depth to our display of American art.”

Lattice and Awning (1941) by Arthur Dove
Arthur Garfield Dove was an early American modernist recognized as the most radical of those in the circle of influential photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz. A key player poised at the cusp of the American abstract movement, Dove based his paintings on natural forms and referred to his type of abstraction as “extraction”—that is, he extracted forms from a scene in nature.

“Dove was resolutely committed to abstraction throughout his career, and late works such as Lattice and Awning move toward pure abstraction, though he never completely broke the tie with the natural world,” said Jessica Todd Smith, Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art at The Huntington. “This is a prime example that shows the artist at the pinnacle of his career.”

Lattice and Awning is composed of a lively interplay of yellow, green, and earth-toned shapes that appear to overlap as though they were woven, as a lattice might be, though the painting is unerringly flat. The work was exhibited publicly only twice, once in 1941 and again in 1945, both times at Stieglitz’s gallery in New York.

Though the Los Angeles County Museum of Art hosted a Dove retrospective in 1998, the acquisition by The Huntington makes it the first public collection in Los Angeles to own an example of the artist’s work.

Summer Fantasy (1924) by George Bellows
George Bellows is perhaps most famous for his gritty depictions of early 20th-century New York urban life, including the iconic boxing picture A Stag at Sharkey's (represented in The Huntington’s collections by the celebrated lithograph of the subject). But he was equally adept at portraits (represented at The Huntington by a painting of his half sister, Laura) and landscapes. “In fact,” said Salatino, “Bellows is one of the greatest landscape painters in the history of American art.”

Summer Fantasy is a dream-like landscape made in the year before the artist’s premature death at the age of 42. It depicts a verdant park scene of ladies with parasols and long flowing dresses, riders on cantering horses, and a golden sun brilliantly reflected in the surface of an idealized Hudson River. Rendered in the artist’s characteristic late style, the painting is a field of riotous, highly keyed color. Its design, though constructed according to a rigorous formal system, is lively and rhythmic.

“On a deeper level,” Salatino said, “the work may be interpreted as an allegory of life. Its imagery subtly moves from birth to maturity to death, all within the confines of a pleasant day’s outing in the park. Nevertheless, Summer Fantasy is ravishingly beautiful and life enhancing, ironically a work of remarkable optimism, given that it's one of Bellows’ last paintings.”

The picture’s balanced, almost classical, compositional structure, eccentric coloring, free brushwork, and dramatic contrasts of light and shade make it a masterpiece of the artist's final years according to Salatino. A work looking simultaneously back to the great traditions of Old Master painting and forward to the modernism that would define 20th-century American art, Summer Fantasy is, said Salatino, “a summation of the artist's tragically truncated career pointing to new and fascinating directions never fully realized.”

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