American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:         Bruce Crane
Artist Dates:        
Painting Title:      
Salt Marsh Sunset,
Painting Date:       Undated
Oil on  Canvas
Signed Lower Right
Private Collector
Size Unframed:   
25 1/8 x 30 1/4
Frame Condition: 
Antique Restored
Artist Best Price:  
Offered At:          
Curator's Comments: Bruce Crane, who was born Robert Bruce Crane in New York City in 1857, was a contemporary and friend of our favorite 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 first worked as a draftsman for a number of years, then 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 East Hampton, 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.

In these early Easthampton works, Crane painstakingly reproduced the marshes, beaches, hayfields, and barnyards of rural East Hampton, of which the critic Charles Teaze Clark later remarked that "the bright luminous atmosphere of a summer's day was 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. This can be seen in the much smaller
Crane's earlier Salt Marsh Sky
work he did from an exactly identical perspective of the marsh setting, but one that is set earlier in the day. This earlier setting is only recently known, and we reproduce it here, soley for comparative purposes. Also from this period is Crane's Easthampton Cottage at Sunset, which can be seen in our sales archive. That painting was since offered by Spanierman Gallery in an exhibit of Long Island Landscapes that commemorated (2005) the opening of a second Spanierman Gallery branch in Easthampton. 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.  From 1904 on, Crane rented a series of houses in Old Lyme, joining with its resident summer art colony. First painting with the eminent tonalist, Henry Ward Ranger, he continued to develop the style that  brought him membership in the National Academy and eventually three paintings now in the Smithsonian.

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 the rebacked canvas 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.
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