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George Biddle (1885 – 1973)

Updated: Sep 28, 2023




Winter or Winter on the Hudson, 1927, oil on canvas, signed and dated lower right, 36 x 36 inches, exhibited: 1) The Society of Independent Artists, Waldorf Astoria, New York, March 11 to April 3, 1927, no 62 (Illustrated in catalog); 2) Paintings by George Biddle (Solo Exhibition), Kraushaar Galleries, New York, New York, January, 1928; 3) 123rd Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, January 29 to March 18, 1928, no. 259 (illustrated in catalog); and 4) 41st Annual Exhibition of American Paintings & Sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago, October 25 to December 16, 1928, no. 17; literature: 1) The Art News, vol. 26, issue 14, January 7, 1928 and 2) Matthews, Marcia, George Biddle's Contribution to Federal Art, Records of the Columbia Historical Society, vol. 49, 1973, pp. 493 - 520 (illustrated on p. 496); provenance includes a private collection (Santa Barbara, CA); presented in a newer wood frame


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About the Painting

George Biddle painted Winter after a nearly three-year series of journeys to France, Haiti, Puerto Rico and finally Cuba. Together with a companion painting, Autumn on the Hudson, Winter was among the first paintings Biddle completed after returning to the US and settling in Croton-on-Hudson in 1927, a year before his departure for Mexico City where exposure to Mexican muralism would change the course of his art and set the stage for Biddle's plea later during the Great Depression to start federal support for public art. Winter is a beautiful example of Biddle's ability to synthesize various insights and influences gained over the prior three years. Biddle arrived at a highly decorative form of modernism which was heralded by critics when the painting was widely exhibited in 1927 and 1928. "George Biddle's 'Winter,'" wrote H. Kinston Fleming of The Baltimore Sun, "[is] about as clever and as definite a piece of design as this writer has seen for some time." In its review of Biddle's solo exhibition at Kraushaar Galleries, The Art News called Winter "an effective study in decorative pattern and color." The review further noted that Winter was the only "ambitious oil" that had "the vitality of his more relaxed compositions." In contrast to his later hard-hitting social realist compositions, Winter was part of a group of what one of Biddle's friends characterized as a "pleasant" picture. "I don't like your unpleasant pictures, George," the friend wrote, "I like your pleasant ones." In reviewing the 1928 Annual Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the critic for The Minneapolis Journal also commented on this aspect of Winter when describing the work approvingly as a "calm landscape." Within several years after its completion, the calm present in Biddle's Winter would come to an end in late 1929 with the stock market crash.


About the Artist

Born in 1885 in Philadelphia, George Biddle was a socially conscious artist who experimented with a variety of media during the WPA Era including murals, easel painting, and sculpture. He received a B.A. from Harvard in 1908 and LLB in 1911. Biddle then pivoted his studies to art and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Académie Julian in Paris. He painted in Giverny and served as an ambulance driver during World War I. In the 1920s, he painted in Tahiti, France, and Mexico, where he met Diego Rivera. Biddle was influential in the creation of New Deal arts programs during the Great Depression. In 1933, he wrote to his former schoolmate and friend, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and urged him to create government programs to aid struggling artists and contribute to the beautification of government buildings. Biddle was among the first to receive a federal mural commission for the Justice Department Building in Washington D.C. Biddle was married to the Belgian-born sculptor Helene Sardeau who often served as inspiration in his works. During World War II, Biddle worked as an artist correspondent for Life magazine and served in various teaching roles during and after the war. Biddle’s work has been exhibited at dozens of institutions across the US, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Academy of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Biddle was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at the Woodmere Art Museum. He is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and all other standard references.


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