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Alexis Many (1879 – 1937) Quarry Workers

Quarry Workers, c. 1930s, mixed media on board, unsigned, 24 x 24 inches, possibly exhibited at Many's Solo Exhibition at the Washington Art League, November 1934; provenance includes Many's sister; note: accompanied by letter of authenticity from Charles Gerhardt noting that the painting was acquired as part of a group of works from Many’s sister who lived in Lebanon, OH and that the group included three works on board in metal frames, none of which were signed, but all of which were ascribed to Many by his sister; presented in original painted metal frame


About the Painting

Alexis Many painted Quarry Workers in the early 1930s after a trip to Mexico which had a dramatic impact on his art. Before this trip, much of Many's work was bright, decorative, carefully rendered, and easy to digest. After his exposure to Mexican muralism and the challenges of the Great Depression south of the border, the overall look and feel of Many's paintings changed. Writing about Many's 1934 solo exhibition at the Washington Art League where Quarry Workers may have been shown, an art critic for the Evening Star wrote, "The current showing . . . represents, to a great extent, if not entirely, the fruits of travel and sojourn in Mexico and marks a considerable diversion on the part of the painter in the style and character of his work, which while always decorative and stylistic, was heretofore in higher key and much less grim. That it is, in the examples set forth, still decorative and very individualist none will deny, but discounting these virtues is a note of the primitive . . . Almost all the canvases in the collection are interesting in pattern and rather sonorous in color." In Quarry Workers, Many's figures have changed from a conservative, almost academic approach to a gritty form of modernism with spare detail, thick dark outlines and block-like forms, which mirror the surrounding stones and rock faces. Gone are the refined surfaces of his earlier paintings. In Quarry Workers texture dominates the square composition which Many seems to have favored after his Mexican sojourn. The artist must have been fond of his new creative approach since he often exhibited his Mexican works, including most of the twenty-one paintings at his solo show, a painting called Two Children at the 1932 Annual of the Nebraska Art Association and Church in the Rocks at the 46th Annual Exhibit of the Society of Washington Artists at the Corcoran Gallery, which Leila Mechlin, art critic and cofounder of the American Federation of Arts described as "a big and splendid conception which, while of today, is rooted in the depths of ancient tradition. At no time has Mr. Many produced a more impressive and notable work."

About the Artist

A native of Indiana, Alexis Many pursued his career as an artist and teacher mainly in Washington DC. Many trained in New York before arriving in Washington in 1901, where he was an art instructor at McKinley High School for almost four decades. Serving as a teacher, allowed Many to spent many summers in Laguna Beach, where he exhibited and won a prize at the California Art Club and traveled to Mexico. Many was a member of the Salmagundi Club, the Society of Washington Artists, the Laguna Art Association and the Washington Art League. He exhibited frequently at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, including having a solo show. Many was a fixture in the Washington art scene. Upon his death, C. Powell Minnegerode, Director of the Corcoran reflected, "Mr. Many was an able painter. His death is a loss to the Washington art brotherhood." He is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and other standard references.


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