Landscape with Old Tree, c. 1931, oil on canvas, 30 x 36 inches, signed lower right; artist, title and original price ($1,000) on label verso; exhibited: 1) 26h Annual Exhibition of American Art, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, April 17 to May 29th, 1931, no. 9; and 2) College Art Association, unknown date (label verso); remnants of several other exhibition labels verso; ex collection: Griffiths Art Center, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York
About the Painting
Landscape with Old Tree is wonderful, exhibition-sized example of Arnold Blanch’s version of rural modernism. Throughout most of his career, Blanch was based in the artist’s colony of Woodstock, New York, which at various times included George Bellows, George Ault, Konrad Cramer, Fletcher Martin, Andrew Dasburg and Doris Lee among many other painters and sculptors. In Landscape with Old Tree, Blanch depicts a late-Fall upstate New York vista dotted with small farms with their fields divided by fences and roads which form a grid-like structure receding into the background where a rural hamlet with its church spires is seen in the distance. This painting comes from Blanch’s most important period when his works were routinely selected by juries for inclusion in major exhibitions of American paintings at the Whitney, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and it is possible that this work was included in one of those exhibitions under the title “Landscape.” What is certain is that Landscape with Old Tree was exhibited at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, in 1931, and is directly related to Untitled – Farm Landscape, which is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. The Smithsonian’s painting shows the same scene after the lumberjack who has started to notch the large tree on the left of Landscape with Old Tree has finished his task (see image below).
(Untitled – Farm Landscape, 1934, gouache on paper mounted on paper, photo copyright and collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC - not included in this sale)
About the Artist
Arnold Blanch was a key figure in the Woodstock, New York art community during the 1920s through the 1960s. Born in Mantorville, Minnesota, Blanch grew up surrounded by equal parts of the outdoors and art. His mother painted china and his aunt was an oil painter. Blanch recalled having a great reverence for art from a young age, though he admitted that many times he would have rather been hunting and fishing. He studied at the Minneapolis School of Arts and the Art Students League in New York with Kenneth Hays Miller, Robert Henri, and John Sloan. During World War I, Blanch served as a solider in France, the first of many times that he would journey to Europe. He taught at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, at the Colorado Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs, and the Art Students League in New York, as well as several other art schools. From his home in Woodstock, Blanch helped define the look and feel of rural modernism in New York state. Drawing on American vernacular scenes and an earthy, vaguely northern European palette, Blanch followed the dictum that he should paint the local surroundings of wherever he found himself. Blanch was fortunate to be a favorite of Juliana Force of the Whitney Museum of American Art, which acquired a half dozen of his works. His style during the 1930s and 1940s is what the American art world of the time viewed as a rationale modernism. Writing of Blanch’s solo show in 1930 at Chicago’s prestigious Walden-Dudensing Gallery, the Chicago Times art critic Eleanor Jewett wrote, “The exhibition of paintings by Arnold Blanch . . . comes as a complete surprise. Blanch is a young painter, an American a modernist and an active member in the Woodstock group. Woodstock, modernist, young, are three adjectives whose qualifications are practically limitless. In the case of Blanc none of their tritest meanings are with significance. He is of the Woodstock clan, without being inseparably so; he is young, with a refreshing dignity of poise; he is a modernist in the sense of being original. His paintings are neither banal, imitative, vulgar, commonplace, nor bizarre. They are spiritly American.” During the Great Depression, Blanch worked as a muralist on government sponsored art projects. During the 1950s and 1960s, Blanch significantly simplified and flattened his forms into barely recognizable shapes in his increasingly abstract landscape and still life paintings. Blanch was married to the artist Lucille Blanch and later around 1939, he began a life-long relationship with another Woodstock artist, Doris Lee, who was also his former student, though they never married. Blanch’s work is many important museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and scores of others. He is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and all other standard references.