John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902). Bobbin Mill sketch, oil on wood panel, 5 3/4 x 8 3/4, signed lower left. Attribution.
Cigar Box Sketch Looks Right to Us
We took this gem to the Twachtman curatorial committee then situated at Ira Spanierman's gallery and they had no opinion on it--neither rejecting or accepting it. Previously, we took this sketch to be cleaned by our restorer, one of the most prominent in New York, who remarked that it was a good 100 years old, in the old hard paint and with a signature matching the artist's and "in" the painting. Additionally, it was done on a wooden cigar box cover, much the same as those Twachtman was known to carry in his pocket to capture scenes he wanted to paint or etch. As one Twachtman scholar has noted, "He often worked on cedar cigar-box lids, which he could carry easily, sketching a design when something of interest caught his eye." Moreover, the subject of the sketch fits well with Twachtman's emphasis on early mills and boatyards. Note that scholar Susan Larkin remarks in her study of the Cos Cob Art Colony, that Twachtman in his masterpiece, The Old Mill, depicts one of the first tidal-powered grist mills in the country: "Although painted in the age of steam and electricity, this work continues his emphasis on industrial zones, on mills, barns, stables and warehouses, which captured not the 19th century, but the 18th century and its use of water-power, which tied humanity closer to nature."
Both in his early Cincinnati period works and later in New
England, Twachtman focused on water mills.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Twachtman (1853-1902) first studied at the Ohio Mechanic Institute, and in 1874, began to paint with Frank Duveneck, an American artist of the Munich School of direct, impasto brushwork, often in dark tones. In 1875, Twachtman went to Europe and studied at the Royal Academy in Munich, and, in 1877, traveled with Duveneck and William Merritt Chase to Venice. But his style changed from the dark sombre tones of the Munich School, in 1883, when he went to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian with Jules Lefebvre. From that time on, his style was characterized by low-key gray and green tones, and smooth texture. In 1890, Twachtman purchased a seventeen-acre farm in Connecticut and set up a studio. The farm became an inspiration for much of his later work, including a footbridge he had constructed himself. In 1897, he became a founding member of The Ten, a group of artists who broke with the National Academy and its exhibitions. He died suddenly while painting in Gloucester in 1902.