The Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, 9th Floor New York City, NY 10022 United States 212.535.8810
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The Mill House

Documentation Signed
Origin United States
Period 19th Century
Materials Oil on canvas
W. 18 in; H. 14 in;
W. 45.72 cm; H. 35.56 cm;
Condition Excellent.
Creation Date c. 1890-91
Description Through the subtleties of his palette and a modest abstraction of form, Sykes created an exciting group of works that are memorable for their simplicity of structure and their honesty and directness of vision.

Sykes was born and raised near London, the eldest of the seven sons of Frederick and Helen Furnell Sykes. When his mother emigrated to the United States due to marital discord, Sykes and his five oldest brothers accompanied her. They settled in Brooklyn, where, by 1876, Mrs. Sykes had established a fashionable boarding house.

Although very little is known about Sykes and his work as an artist, his surviving pictures, approximately a hundred in number, stand as mute testimony to a painter of considerable talent and dedication to the artistic traditions of his time. The paintings reveal, through inscriptions, subjects, and dates, Sykes’s whereabouts during the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Views from the 1880s were usually executed near his home, in Brooklyn, on Staten Island, along the nearby Atlantic shore, and in England, where he made a brief visit in 1884. In the 1890s, Sykes painted along both sides of the Hudson River, in Dutchess County, New York, in the Catskills, and near the Delaware River at Dingman’s Ferry, Pennsylvania. He also traveled to Niagara Falls, and around the turn of the century he visited Mexico in the company of his brother, Charles Albert Sykes, who was on a photographic exhibition. By 1907, he had settled permanently in Dutchess County, southeast of Poughkeepsie, New York.

Since Sykes appears never to have exhibited any of his paintings or left anything more than the scantiest biographical information, details of his artistic life remain obscure. Any formal training he may have had is undocumented. A study of the works that he left behind, however, reveals more than a cursory knowledge of the art of landscape painting of his time, and from it one can deduce that he was a keen observer of, if not an active participant in, the art life around him. Treading a fine line between the academic and the primitive, Sykes’s style seems more than marginally related to his almost exact contemporary, Levi Wells Prentice (1851-1935), another Brooklyn-based artist who divided his time between Brooklyn and the Adirondacks. Like Prentice, Sykes never became a mainstream artist, but he possessed a rare vision that endowed his work with a character that will not easily be forgotten. Now, after nearly a century of confinement to the parlors and attics of his family, Sykes’s work takes a well-earned place among that of his contemporaries.
Styles / Movements Realism
Dealer Reference Number APG 14570D.14
Incollect Reference Number 255126
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