John White Alexander (1856–1915)

Sunlight

APG 21021D

1909

JOHN WHITE ALEXANDER (1856–1915)
Sunlight, 1909
Oil on canvas, 83 1/2 x 55 1/2 in.
Signed, dated, and inscribed: (at lower left): COPYRIGHT. DETROIT PUBLISHING COMPANY; (at lower right): JW Alexander 09

JOHN WHITE ALEXANDER (1856–1915)
Sunlight, 1909
Oil on canvas, 83 1/2 x 55 1/2 in.
Signed, dated, and inscribed: (at lower left): COPYRIGHT. DETROIT PUBLISHING COMPANY; (at lower right): JW Alexander 09

Description

JOHN WHITE ALEXANDER (1856–1915)
Sunlight, 1909
Oil on canvas, 83 1/2 x 55 1/2 in.
Signed, dated, and inscribed: (at lower left): COPYRIGHT. DETROIT PUBLISHING COMPANY;
(at lower right): JW Alexander 09

RECORDED: James B. Townsend, “Annual Winter Academy Display,” American Art News 8 (December 11, 1909), p. 5 // Charles Henry Beltzer, New York American, December 13, 1909, illus. // New York Sun, December 17, 1909 // “National Academy Pictures,” New York Evening Post, December 18, 1909 // “A Few Excellent Figure Subjects in the Academy Exposition––J. W. Alexander’s Fine Sunlight,” New York Times, December 19, 1909 // “ ‘Sunlight’ by J. W. Alexander,” New York American, December 30, 1909 // “Ten Paintings at the Academy,” The Stylus 1 (January 1910) // John White Alexander, “The Need of a National Academy and Its Value to the Growth of Art in America,” Craftsman 17 (March 1910), frontis. illus. // Masterpieces of American Painting: A Selection of Photogravures after paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, Berlin, 1910 (New York: Berlin Photographic Co., 1911) // Die Kunst für Alle 25.16 (May 15, 1910), p. 367 illus. // Inter Ocean, October 15, 1910 // Maude I. G. Oliver, Chicago Record Herald, October 23, 1910 // Chicago Tribune, November 13, 1910, illus. // “Alexander’s ‘Sunlight’ Sold, Evening World, November 30, 1910 // “Third Corcoran Exhibit,” American Art News, January 14, 1911 // Town & Country, February 1, 1911 // Leila Mechlin, “The Corcoran Gallery’s Third Biennial Exhibition,” International Studio 42 (February 1911), pp. lxxxvi, lxxxviii illus. // Fullerton Waldo, “Exhibitions at the Galleries,” Arts and Decoration 1 (March 1911), p. 219 // “The Prize Winner,” Public Ledger, April 20, 1911 // “International Art Awards Announced,” Philadelphia Press, April 28, 1911, illus. // “New York Artist is First Prize Winner,” New York World, April 28, 1911 // “Awards at Carnegie Exhibit,” New York Times, April 28, 1911 // “Sunlight–by John W. Alexander,” New York Sun, April 30, 1911, illus. // Arthur Hoeber, “The Carnegie Art Institute Thirteenth [sic] Annual Exhibition,” International Studio 43 (June 1911), p. lxxix // The Art Institute of Chicago Thirty-Second Annual Report, June 1, 1910–June 1, 1911, p. 62 // Helen L. Earle, comp., Biographical Sketches of American Artists, 2nd ed. (Lansing: Michigan State Library, 1913), p. 23 // “Alexander’s Painting Sets the Old to Dreaming,” Chicago Tribune, January 10, [1915?] // “Work of John W. Alexander,” Chicago Record-Herald, June 2, 1915, illus. // Homer Saint-Gaudens, “John W. Alexander in the Theatre,” American Magazine of Art 7 (July 1916), no. 9 illus. 370 // Friends of American Art: Sixth Year Book (Chicago, 1916–1918), p. 9 // Sarah J. Moore, “John White Alexander (1856–1915): In Search of the Decorative,” Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York, 1992, pp. 342–43, 499 fig. 110 illus. // Vicky A. Clark et al., International Encounters: The Carnegie International and Contemporary Art, 1896–1998 (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Art, 1996), p. 155 // Sarah J. Moore, John White Alexander and the Construction of National Identity: Cosmopolitan American Art, 1880–1915 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2003), illus. in color opp. p. 65, p. 104 // Mary Anne Goley, John White Alexander: An American Artist in the Gilded Age (New York: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2018), pp. 168, 169 illus. in color, 177, 179

EXHIBITED: National Academy of Design, New York, December 11, 1909–January 9, 1910, Winter Exhibition, no. 192 // Königliche Akademie der Kunst, Berlin, March 17–April 17, 1910, and traveling, Austellung Amerikanischer Kunst, no. 188 // Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, October 18–November 27, 1910, Twenty-Third Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Sculpture by American Artists, no. 1 // Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., December 13, 1910–January 22, 1911, Third Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists // Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, February 5–March 26, 1911, 106th Annual Exhibition, no. 325 lent by the Art Institute of Chicago // Detroit Publishing Company, New York, New York, April 24–May 6, 1911, Exhibition of Paintings and Studies by J. W. Alexander Including Color Facsimilies and Carbon Photographs after His Work // Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 27–June 30, 1911, Fifteenth Annual Carnegie International, no. 3 // Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, May 10–August 31, 1913, Eighth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists, no. 1 lent by the Art Institute of Chicago // Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 1916, and traveled in a reduced version, May 1916–November 1917, John White Alexander: Memorial Exhibition, no. 3

EX COLL.: Friends of American Art Collection, Art Institute of Chicago, 1910 

The most widely exhibited and most important work from Alexander’s post-1900 period, Sunlight received high praise from members of the art press, among them a writer for the New York Times, who, after seeing the work on display at the Winter Exhibition of the National Academy of Design, observed: “There are streaks of light on the floor . . . and the air is filled with the visible motes evoked by strong sunshine” (“A Few Excellent Figure Subjects in the Academy Exposition––J. W. Alexander’s Fine Sunlight,” New York Times, December 19, 1909). He went on, declaring that “The graceful and firm drawing of the figure and the perfect value of the streaks of light, together with the subtle suggestions of texture in the costume with only the slightest insistence upon detail, combine to make the picture a triumph of sensitive execution” (“A Few Excellent Figure Subjects in the Academy Exposition––J. W. Alexander’s Fine Sunlight”). Following its appearance at the Carnegie Institute’s annual exhibition of 1911, Sunlight was deemed by one commentator, also writing for the New York Times, to be a “brilliant piece of coloring” (“Awards at Carnegie Exhibit,” New York Times, April 28, 1911). Another reviewer was equally effusive about the piece, proclaiming: “For grace of lines, relative beauty of color and tone, and illusion of light––sheer necromancy of the painter––this work is without a peer in the exhibition” (as quoted in Helen L. Earle, comp., Biographical Sketches of American Artists, 2nd ed. [Lansing: Michigan State Library, 1913], p. 23). Not surprisingly, this stunning canvas (which retains its original frame, designed by the artist) became known to a wider audience through its reproduction, in 1910, by the Detroit Publishing Company, a photographic publishing firm which produced first rate facsimiles of key examples of American art, and other subjects, for distribution to schools and libraries. (An exhibition of paintings, studies, and reproductions of Alexander’s work was held at the Detroit Publishing Company’s galleries on West 38th Street in New York in the spring of 1911.)

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