5th Dec, 2021 14:00 EST

American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists Featuring the Collection of Virginia and Stuart Peltz

 
  Lot 102
 

102

Mary Elizabeth Price (American, 1877–1965)
Cheerful Barge 269

Signed 'M. ELIZABETH PRICE' bottom right; also titled and signed verso, oil on canvas
32 x 40 in. (81.3 x 101.6cm)
Executed circa 1929.

Provenance

Bianco Galleries, Buckingham, Pennsylvania.
Acquired directly from the above.
Private Collection, New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Sold for $56,700
Estimated at $50,000 - $80,000


 

Signed 'M. ELIZABETH PRICE' bottom right; also titled and signed verso, oil on canvas
32 x 40 in. (81.3 x 101.6cm)
Executed circa 1929.

Provenance

Bianco Galleries, Buckingham, Pennsylvania.
Acquired directly from the above.
Private Collection, New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Exhibited:

"Phillips Mill Inaugural Exhibition," Phillips Mill, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1929.

"Twelfth Annual Exhibition: The Philadelphia Ten," Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 3-26, 1931.

"Annual Exhibition," National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 1932.

"Earth, River and Light: Masterworks of Pennsylvania Impressionism," Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut, June 28-September 28, 2003.

"The Painterly Voice: Bucks County's Fertile Ground," James A. Michener Museum of Art, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, October 22, 2011-April 1, 2012.

Literature:

Page Talbott and Patricia Tanis Syndey, The Philadelphia Ten: A Women's Artist Group 1917-1945, Galleries at Moore and American Art Review Press, Philadelphia, 1998, pp. 135, 161-162, plate 78 (illustrated).

John A. Cuthbert, Early Art and Artists in West Virginia, West Virginia University Press, Morgantown, 2000, p. 105 (not illustrated).

Brian H. Peterson, Pennsylvania Impressionism, James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, and University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2002, p. 199, no. 113 (illustrated).

Note

While she is mostly known for painting decorative floral panels and screens, Mary Elizabeth Price in fact depicted a rich variety of subjects, as exemplified by Cheerful Barge 269 - a formidable early work presented at auction for the first time. The painting depicts the artist's own grounds, "Pumpkinsee Cottage," which Price had already featured in 1922 in Sycamore Tree, where one can spot the same bench, the same canal (albeit frozen) and small cabin across it. Instead of focusing on the shading tree however, this time Price makes a red barge the center of attention, gently passing across the picture plane, showcasing its identifying number next to the characteristc twin white circles, the proud bargeman shown at its rear.

As many artists who lived on the Delaware Canal, Mary Elizabeth Price found many of her subjects in her own front yard. Built in the 1820s, the Delaware Canal started at Easton, PA and went all the way to Philadelphia. It played a large role in 19th century commerce, carrying coal to the city and returning manufactured goods to the countryside. They operated in spring, summer and fall and underwent repairs during the winter, when icy water made the canal impassable. Soon however, the railroads and railways surpassed canals as major, and more reliable means of transporation, and by the time Mary Elizabeth Price painted the present work, canal barges had outlived their usefulness and only served a romantic, picturesque purpose which appealed to many Pennsylvania Impressionists such as William Lathrop, Edward Redfield or Fern Coppedge.

When Cheerful Barge 269 was exhibited in the Twelfth Annual Exhibition of the Philadelphia Ten in 1931, C.H. Bonte of the Philadelphia Inquirer called it "the best of all [Price's] offerings...a creation embodying much that is admirable." Executed in a broken, almost pointillist style, the work bedazzles the eye and recalls, through various-sized, spaced brushstrokes, the tapestry effect famously coined by Daniel Garber. Replete with warm colors, from the red of the barge, to the lime-green of the lawn and the brown of the shades and main tree's bark, the painting captures a sweet summer feeling. Sheltered from the harsh sun underneath the cottage's solid roof, the viewer watches the boat slowly go by before their eyes, a nostalgic image of the old Bucks County that is already changing judging from the presence of the telephone poles in the background. Similar to Fern Coppedge (but very much unlike Daniel Garber), Price juxtaposes the old and the new, the slow and the fast, to suggest an ever-changing world, and to remind her viewer to remain in harmony with nature despite modern changes, and welcome every new day like a sweet summer idyll.

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Mary Elizabeth Price