Joseph Ryan Woodwell at Auction

A hansome pair of Joseph Ryan Woodwell paintings sold at auction this weekend. Wiederseim auction house had estimated the paintings would fetch between $200 and $300, far short of the $2400 they ended up bringing. The last Woodwell painting I know of to come up at auction was in October of ’06. That painting, somewhat larger than the ones this weekend fetched $4100. Still, this weekends offering was a pair and they appear very representative of Western Pennsylvania.

The pair of paintings show a river scene, perhaps the Niagara River, and a wooded landscape with a small cabin. The description read “Pair of oil on canvas landscape paintings signed “J. R. Woodwell” and dated 1861. 7.5″x9.5″”

Woodwell would sometimes travel with George Hetzel to the area known as the Scalp Level, an artists retreat near Johnstown. Unlike Hetzel, Woodwell’s compositions featured clear signs of human life. Woodwell studied in Paris in the 1860’s and adopted impressionism.

Woodwell exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition, National Academy of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, and Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915. He worked in Pennsylvania, California, and Niagra Falls. He was an original trustee of Carnegie Institute and chairman of the Fine Arts Committee during the last two years of his life.

Woodwell was born to Pittsburgh cabinetmaker Joseph Woodwell. His daughter, Johanna Woodwell Hailman would also become a well-known Pittsburgh artist. A portrait of him by Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins is in the Carnegie Museum of Art.

The pair of paintings was won by a floor bidder.

There are several great places to view works by Woodwell in Western Pennsylvania. The Westmoreland Museum of Art has a few and if you’re ever in the Carnegie Music Hall there are several hanging in the lobby (one similar to the pair sold at auction) along with other Western Pennsylvania paintings often missed by visitors to the museum.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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