American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:         Bruce Crane
Artist Dates:         1857-1937
Painting Title:       Salt Marsh Sunset,
                     Easthampton
Painting Date:       Undated
Medium:              Oil on  Canvas
Signature:             Signed Lower Right
Provenance:          Private Collector
Condition:            Rebacked
Size Unframed:    25 1/8 x 30 1/4
Frame Condition:  Antique Restored
Artist Best Price:   $51,400
Offered At:           SORRY-SOLD
Curator's Comments: Bruce Crane (1857-1937) was born Robert Bruce Crane in New
York City in 1857
. Crane  was a contemporary and friend of John Francis Murphy, both of
the artists having studied with Wyant (1836-92). But Crane lived long enough to complete
the transition from Wyant's 19th-century pleine aire work to full tonalism and then to a
highly individual impressionism. Crane  started with Wyant in the mid 1870s. He also
studied at the Art Students League in New York and then went to France, where he took
up the Barbizon style under the tutelage of Cazin in Grez-sur-Loing.
He returned in the
1880s, when he painted in the Adirondacks and where he wrote to his father that among
the influential painters working nearby at the time were Eastman Johnson, George and
James Smillie, and Samuel Colman. It was Colman who led Crane to Eas
thampton, on the
far end of Long Island, where he started painting during the summer of 1880 or 1881 and
where he met other important American painters, including Thomas Moran. Working from
thumbnail sketches, Crane often completed his paintings in his winter studio in Bronxville,
New York, itself the site of an artist colony that at the time included Ernest Lawson.
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He worked the salt marsh from an exactly identical perspective at different times of day
from sunrise to sunset.
This earlier setting is only recently known, and we reproduce it
here, sole
ly for comparative purposes. By 1900, Crane's palette turned somber, and
Childe Hassam, whose first New York studio (1905) was in the same small building by
Washington Square, called him "extremely introspective." This likely reflects his wife's
growing alcoholism, and Crane's marriage ended in a troubled divorce that saw him marry
his 21-year-old artist step-daughter.  

In the years from 1898 through 1908, Crane would paint his most valuable canvases,
executed as tonalist masterpieces that unite the sky and shadow, often at sunset. Clearly
S
alt Marsh Sunset, Easthampton is a brilliant and important painting that speaks its art
with a clarity and mastery that is rarely seen. We think it may be Crane's ultimate
statement, and we prefer Crane's works, in this high tonalist mode. We think they  
memorialize his discovery of the richness of the atmospheric color spectrum that he shows
here with typical yellow, orange and umber shades. His sunset perfectly captures the
complete drama of a dynamic sky, highlighted in the sun's final passage to darkness--a
passage that Crane's vision shows as ultimately triumphant. But after World War I, Crane
came to favor a moody-grey highly personal impressionism along with stark, barren
images, and his best work is now regarded as the tonalist production of the 1890s and the
first decade of the new century.
We have just received Salt Marsh Sunset, Easthampton
back from a professional cleaning, and mounted
it in a beautiful period antique frame
restored by Spiegel Framing of New York. We believe we own the single best luminist
Crane known today. There is no question of its masterpiece status.
In his early Easthampton works, Crane
painstakingly reproduced the marshes,
beaches, hayfields, and barnyards of rural
Long Island, with critic Charles Teaze Clark
later remark
ing that "the bright luminous
atmosphere of a summer's day
is given in
these pictures, not only with truth to nature
and a certain poetic sentiment, but with a
brilliant sparkling quality of effect." Crane's
often  washed his atmospheric luminism with
green reflections from the landscape, and his  
yellow  is often speckled with a green shade,
which he achieved by stubbing his paint using
a stiffer brush to create short vertical
shadowing.
Crane's earlier Salt Marsh Sky