Factory Worker, c. 1936, oil on canvas, signed lower right, 18 ¼ x 36 inches; exhibited in City Life, Los Angeles: 1930s to 1950s, Laguna Art Museum, February 21 to June 12, 2016, provenance includes George Stern Fine Arts (Los Angeles); presented in a newer very high quality handmade frame from Vandueuren (Los Angeles)
About the Painting
James Patrick’s Factory Worker is a rare painting in terms of subject matter, sensibility, and media. California Scene painters were best known for their bright, usually optimistic and modestly scaled watercolor compositions which depicted California as the Golden State, a destination for those hoping to escape the challenges of the Dust Bowl and South. In contrast, Factory Worker is a sizable oil painting crafted in somber tones of browns, grays and ochres and depicts a laborer standing against the backdrop of a smoke-belching factory on the outskirts of Los Angeles. It is part of a series of works Patrick completed in the mid to late 1930s of Sulphur and vulcanized rubber processing plants in Southern California, two materials that were key to the automobile industry. The work at the Sulphur pits was hot and dangerous, taking a toll on the factory workers and the environment. As Factory Worker shows, these industries released pollution into the air and fouled waterways. Patrick did not sugar coat the scene as he presents the worker staring directly back at the viewer with an ambiguous expression that is at the same time fearful and stoic. Noted California art historian Gordon McClelland described another painting from this series, The Sulphur Pits (The Buck Collection) as “one of the most poignant, yet engaging, scene paintings Patrick produced. The piece visually captures the look and feel of what it was like to visit or work at this type of factory in the 1930s.”
About the Artist
James Patrick was a California Scene painter who was born in British Columbia but grew up in Los Angeles. After graduating from Hollywood High School, Patrick earned a three-year scholarship to the Chouinard School of Art, where he studied with Frank Tolles Chamberlin and Clarence Hinkle. He also studied with Millard Sheets and attended a mural workshop with one of Los Tres Grandes, David Alfaro Siqueiros. Patrick became an instructor at Chouinard, assisted Sheets on several mural projects and even did pre-production art for Walt Disney Studios, including working on Pinocchio and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. During World War II, he worked with the US Army on various camouflage projects, and he eventually became the Chief Camoufleur of the Western Defense Commend for the Pacific Coast. Patrick was a member of the California Watercolor Society, serving as its President in 1941. During his short life, he exhibited extensively, including at the Corcoran Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the National Gallery. He is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and other standard references.