FAIRFIELD PORTER (1907–1975)
James Deely, 1967
Oil on canvas, 55 5/8 x 46 5/8 in.
Signed, dated, and inscribed (in script, in artist’s hand, on left center stretcher): Fairfield Porter 1967; (on right center stretcher): to James S. Deely / 320 E 72 Street
EX COLL.: the artist; to James Deely; by descent until 2008; to sale, Christie’s, New York, May 21, 2008, no. 13; to private collection until the present
Porter’s involvement with John Sedgewick Deely as a portrait subject began in 1967 when Deely commissioned a portrait through Porter’s gallery, Tibor de Nagy, in New York. At that time, Deely and his family lived in New York and in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. John Deely was a member of a family that owned the Lee Lime Manufacturing Company, in Lee, Massachusetts, adjacent to Stockbridge about five miles north and west. Unlike his two brothers, Deely was not involved in the family business, but worked in New York City as a banker for the First National City Bank (now Citibank). In 1947, Deely married Patricia Johnson (1923–1996), granddaughter of Robert Underwood Johnson who had served as Ambassador to Italy and as editor of The Century Magazine. Patricia Johnson’s father, Owen Johnson (1878–1952), was a prolific author, who, in 1922, purchased an estate in Stockbridge that included Ingleside, an old, historic house. In 1948, a year after Patricia Johnson married James Deely, Johnson sold the house to his daughter. Ingleside became the country home of James and Patricia Johnson Deely and their daughters.
Porter painted James Deely at least five times, twice in 1967 and three times in 1974. The present portrait, a work of 1967, is a large-scale canvas, capturing Deely at a moment of leisure. On an idyllic summer day, Deely sits on a cushioned porch chair on a deck at Ingleside, his legs comfortably crossed, his gaze directed straight ahead. Next to him on a small table is a glasses’ case, a cigarette pack, and an ashtray. A shimmering expanse of light green grass gives the canvas a brilliant presence, while, on the upper third of the canvas, Porter summons Vuillard with foliage and then the peaks of locally beloved Monument Mountain. With three hiking trails graded gentle, moderate and strenuous, Monument Mountain has always been a popular attraction both for local residents and for the visitors who flock in summer to this area of the Berkshires.