There are a great many art and antique shows in New York. The number can easily overwhelm the newcomer or the seasoned veteran. You must pick and choose which shows to attend if you plan to survive. If you have the opportunity, choose the American Art Fair at the National Academy Museum. This year the third annual fair is within the National Academy’s building at 1083 Fifth Avenue. Just being in the space is a thrill. This was once the home of noted sculptor and collector Anna Hyatt Huntington. Viewing art displayed in these rich interiors is more intimate than in a contemporary gallery setting, or a large art museum. Eleven of the finest galleries join together to create this fair when collectors are in New York for auctions at the end of November. All the dealers I speak with have participated in the first two fairs and are pleased to be back again this year. A list of the galleries may be found at the end of this article, but it is the art that they exhibit which is the real story here.
The first piece that catches my eye is a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington at Hammer Galleries. Many of us have seen a Stuart portrait of Washington, but how often can you look at one with the opportunity to take it home? Originally owned by William D. Lewis of Philadelphia in 1822, this painting was later held at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and most recently was part of the Armand Hammer Collection. I can’t look at the Stuart painting for long, because right in the same display are works by Cassat, Grandma Moses, Andrew Wyeth and Langley. The Langley piece is my favorite. I recognize William Merrit Chase’s 10th Street Studio right away, but have never seen this 1895 view of it before.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries has a really great Tarbell painting of “Emmeline in a Garden” on view. Firmly anchored in American Impressionism, this 1890 work shows a woman in white under the shadow of a tree with a water view behind. If you are looking for an example of these late 19th century summertime paintings, this Tarbell would be an excellent choice. What surprises me are two abstract paintings by Blanche Lazzell. Lazell was a fixture in Provincetown, MA, early in the 20th Century. She is famous for her white-line wood block prints, but her abstract paintings are much rarer. These are gouache on paper, painted in the 1920’s when she was just back from France. She had obviously been exposed to the cubists in Paris.
Menconi & Schoelkopf has a Childe Hassam on display that brings the American Impressionist summertime into the 20th Century. This piece, painted at Gloucester, MA, in 1918 shows a soldier taking his leave from a woman with a view of the town beyond him. The sadness of going off to war seems to be overpowered by the beautiful day depicted here. This piece was last available 70 years ago, when it was purchased at a gallery in New York.
If you want to see something where the mood of the painting matches the seriousness of the subject, then John Sloane’s painting of “The Hungry Boy” may be what you are looking for. It is the first piece I notice at Thomas Colville Fine Art. This 1904 work is as dark as the subject it depicts. The viewer can clearly see the beginnings of the Ash Can School here. Colville also has a number of more cheerful subjects on display including Harry Leith-Ross’ “The Sleigh” from 1927. This is the perfect piece to usher in the winter season.
Adelson Gallery, Alexander Gallery, Avery Galleries, Thomas Colville Fine Art, Debra Force Fine Art, Godel & Co. Fine Art, Hammer Galleries, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Menconi & Schoelkopf, Gerald Peters Gallery and Questroyal Fine Art participate in the American Art Fair each year. They are all worth a visit. The Fair is a great way to see them all in one location.