American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:         Robert Lewis Reid
Artist Dates:        
1862 - 1929
Painting Title:      
New England Autumn
Painting Date:      
Oil on Canvas
Provenance:          Private Collector
Frame Condition:  
Artist Best Price:  
Offered At:           
Curator's Comments: Reid was the youngest and, in terms of palette, the brightest of The Ten, the earliest of the two groups of American painters to rebel against the “stacked” exhibitions of the National Academy at the turn of the century. The Ten were dominated by J. Alden Weir, Twachtman, DeCamp and Frank Benson, with the latter personally closest to Reid. Later came The Eight under the leadership of Robert Henri. But Reid also was stimulated by the work in stained glass of Edward Emerson Simmons, another of the Ten, and Reid’s output soon turned to that medium, even though, like Simmons, he continued to paint. Robert Lewis Reid was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, into a family of New England clergymen. Schooled at the Philips Academy from 1880 to 1884, he was a student and teaching assistant at the Boston Museum School, an institution then known for its conservatism. He studied briefly at the Art Students League in New York then journeyed to Paris for three years of study in the late 1880s under Boulanger and Lefevbre at the Académie Julian, where the Americans met the classical tradition and its anatomy lessons head on. While in France, Reid worked with the colony of French and foreign artists at Etaples on the Normandy coast, painting peasant genre scenes of religious tone.  But in 1890, Reid quite suddenly adopted an impressionist style with a brighter palette, leaving behind many aspects of his academic background. He had discovered Monet. The Beaux Arts classical female nudes of his murals were now joined by easel paintings of loosely gowned maidens carefully posed in landscapes or sunlit gardens and rendered in vivid colors with slashing brushwork. Like his fellow impressionists in America and abroad, Reid was fond of painting attractive young women in outdoor settings.
Reid, The Pines Reid, Autumn Sunlight
Robert Reid
But there was a great deal more to his transformation. Reid, much like Simmons at the same time, apparently sensed a connection between the dramatic coloration of stained glass and the brighter impressionistic palette. This was Tiffany’s opaline period, and Reid’s single best work of the Nineties was his opaline nude, called The Opal. It was shown in Durand Ruel’s New York Gallery—home of The Ten—and The Critic described it as “that happily named Opal, a study of the nude in cross lights, from fire and window. The whites and flesh in this picture...are cool, delicate and harmonious to an unusual degree." Interestingly, and with regard to the work we offer, the 1898 review continues: "Those German romanticists who worshipped the color blue would have felt at home among Mr. Robert Reid's paintings at the Durand Ruel galleries on Sunday and Monday last. Not that in all of them blue is the dominant note; but that Mr. Reid takes pleasure in accenting it whenever he finds it. The color of the distance, of heaven, of blue eyes and blue gingham, has a strong fascination for him. Yet to our mind, his most charming color is in those pictures in which the blue is but an undertone.” By then, Reid was teaching at New York’s Art Students League and Cooper Union, and he was soon inundated with important mural and stained glass commissions: joint work on the "White City" at the Chicago Columbian Exhibition, the Library of Congress and the Boston State House, where his three large panels are: James Otis Delivering his Speech against the Writs of Assistance, Paul Revere’s Ride and the Boston Tea Party. He executed a panel for the American Pavilion at the Paris Exhibit-ion of 1900, and in 1906 he completed a series of ten stained glass windows for a church at Fair-haven, Mass., for the Rogers Memorial. In the same year, Reid became a full member of the National Academy of Design. But Reid did not have it easy. He gambled his way into debt and had to flee to Colorado Springs at the peak of the Roaring Twenties. He tried to recoup his losses with a wave of portraits. But in 1927, he suffered a stroke. And even though he managed to learn to paint with his left hand, he died in a New York sanatorium in the year of the Crash at the age of sixty-seven.
Our work is typical of Reid's production from the 1890s going forward, in which carefully constructed form, here the red tree, is balanced with impressionist light and color. The overall decorative effect and lack of depth and perspective are not surprising given Reid's numerous major decorative commissions involving murals and stained glass windows. After his conversion to The Ten, Reid affected an even more dazzling palette that “outshone the more somber tones of his colleagues.” The decorative quality of his canvases prompted one critic to dub him a "decorative Impressionist"; yet another called his work "sentimental" and "pretty," all of which must have improved his sales in some markets. The sentiment that Reid was responding to was what sold paintings in his day. But the important point, as one critic has observed is that many of these works “contain figurative allegories in which he painted, for example, personifications of the five senses and symbols of justice, peace, and prosperity.” We definitely do not think it “is unreasonable to suppose that Reid intended an allegorical connotation in this depiction.” For us Reid’s tree is a dominant and powerful brush in nature’s hand, and it is painting over the typical New England scene with its white church—almost as if Reid were saying goodbye to all that. This was the spirit that when fulfilled would earn Reid a place for four of his works in the Smithsonian, including his masterpiece, The Bathers.
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