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$ 35,000

Yellow Calla Lily

Documentation Signed
Documentation Notes Signed (at lower right): Clarence Holbrook Carter 31
Period 1920-1949
Materials Oil on canvas
W. 18 in; H. 24.3 in;
W. 45.72 cm; H. 61.72 cm;
Creation Date 1931
Description In his long and productive career, Clarence Holbrook Carter followed an independent course. He incorporated an unlikely mixture of stylistic influences, drawing from such disparate sources as regionalism and surrealism without strictly cohering to any one school. An experimentalist in the truest sense, Carter produced an oeuvre that defies categorization. He attempted nearly every variety of subject, from genre to still life, landscape to portrait, abstract to magic realist. In this sense, his career reflects the changing currents of twentieth century modernity, in which artists struggled to find an appropriate means of self-expression.

Carter was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1904. He showed an early talent for the arts, taking watercolor classes at the age of nine, followed by cartooning classes at thirteen. In 1923, he enrolled at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Ohio, from which he graduated four years later. Carter then set for Europe, where he spent a year traveling to Italy, Sicily, Tunisia, Switzerland, France, England, and Belgium, and spent a summer studying at the Hans Hoffman Summer School in Capri. In 1929, he returned to Cleveland, where the following year he began teaching at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1938, Carter was made Assistant Professor at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he taught until 1944.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, Carter painted prolifically and enjoyed considerable success, exhibiting frequently, including several shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from 1940-42. His style was widely interpreted as Regionalist, since his paintings often represented scenes of ordinary American life. Farmers, fruit stands, street scenes, and factories all appear in works of this period. Paintings such as Trapeze Artists, formerly at Hirschl & Adler (1933; see Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, 1989, Clarence H. Carter: Early Works, no. 2 illus. in color), display an interest in the playful innocence of the rural Ohio lifestyle. However, the real-life scenes and places depicted in his paintings from this period, by their straightforward representation, are often laid bare for the viewer to contemplate their inner mysteries.

Beginning in the early 1950s, Carter began painting in a surrealist mode, in which he pursued ideas about time, death, and spirituality in a series of works, called the Projectives. These canvases are constructions of images, reminiscent of collage, in which a variety of disjunctive elements appear together to form elusive, mysterious narratives. By the 1960s, Carter had begun his most well-known paintings, characterized by the incorporation of ovoid shapes, including the Transections, Eschatos, and Mandala series. To Carter, the ovoid symbolizes a transection, or a bridge between life and death. “The shape of the egg affirms life, but biological life in time passes away, becoming spirit. The ovoid becomes simply a void. In death shape remains only in silence — eternal, all encompassing silence” (Clarence Carter, as quoted in Linda Weintraub, “The Egg Symbol in the Work of Clarence Carter,” in Center of the Arts, Muhlenberg College, Allentown Pennsylvania, 1978, Clarence H. Carter, n.p.). Carter remained occupied with these ideas until the end of his life.

Because of the wide range of Carter’s career, critics have had a difficult time placing his work in an art-historical context. Carter perhaps summed it best himself:

My credo is simple and changeable. I may not change radically but if I wish to I have no preconceived theories to hold me back. I feel that theories tend to make an artist academic no matter how advanced and radical these theories appear to be at the present time. My paintings at various times have been termed cubist, surrealist, neo-romanticist, realist, and even oriental, but at no time did I ever follow any school. I have painted my world as I have seen it and felt it (Carter, as quoted in Monroe A. Denton, Jr., “Some notes on Clarence Carter,” in Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, op. cit., n.p.).
Styles / Movements Realism
Dealer Reference Number APG 8048
Incollect Reference Number 376179
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