Charles Courtney Curran
Shadow Decoration, 1887
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Framed: 27 5/8 x 31 1/2 x 3 in. (70.17 x 80.01 x 7.62 cm)
Unframed: 18 x 32 in. (45.72 x 81.28 cm)
Signatures, Inscriptions and Markings v
Signed and dated (LL): Chas-C-Curran-1887.
Purchase price in 1887 was $300.00 (see file - J.Mundy email 5/16/2012)
Published References v
Memphis, Tennesee, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, “Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal,” July 27 – October 5, 2014. Cat. no. 3, repr.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Frick Art and Historical Center, “Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal,” November 1, 2014 – January 31, 2015. Cat. no. 3, repr.
Columbia, South Carolina, Columbia Museum of Art, “Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal,” February 20 – May 17, 2014. Cat. no. 3, repr.
Exhibition History v
Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal (Mempis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 2014), p. 32, repr.
Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal (Pittsburgh, Frick Art and Historical Center, 2014-2015), p. 32, repr.
Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal (Columbia, Columbia Museum of Art, 2015), p. 32, repr.
Poughkeepsie, New York, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, "Mastering Light: From the Natural to the Artificial," April 11 - June 29, 2014.
This beguiling painting, arguably the most popular among visitors to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, was purchased by Vassar’s first professor of art and gallery director, Henry Van Ingen, for $300 from the autumn 1887 exhibition at the National Academy of Design in New York City. It is one of four laundry paintings by Curran that were executed in that year. While it was painted the year before Curran went to Europe, it ably demonstrates his knowledge of certain predicates of Impressionism, particularly the play of light and the design influence of Japanese woodcuts, while retaining ele- ments of the genre tradition in American painting, particularly the quiet, strong, and noble portrayals of working women of Winslow Homer.
Here, we see a laundress, anonymous yet visibly strong, absorbed in her task. The bed sheets on the line create a scrim through which the viewer encoun- ters a play of violet and gray shadows created by the limbs of what might be a peach tree. Their silhouettes, however, conjure in our minds Asian bamboo. Furthermore, the manner in which the clothesline arbitrarily cuts across the upper margin of the painting on a slight diagonal is itself a con- vention of Japanese woodcuts. As a result, Shadow Decoration is a fascinating hybrid creation combining stylized artistic conventions from abroad with an honesty and simplicity rightly associated with the still youthful American Republic.