Knight’s Lodging, 1941, oil on canvas panel, signed and dated lower left, 16 x 20 inches, exhibited: 1) 6th Annual Exhibition, Massilllon Museum November 2 to December 1, 1941, no. 50; 2) 59th Annual, Portland Maine, March, 1942; 3) 4th Annual, Parkersburg, West Virginia, May, 1942; 4) Spring Salon, Butler Art Institute, May, 1943; 5) Canfield Fair, Canfield, Ohio, September, 1944 and 6) USO Exhibition, Youngstown, Ohio; presented in original painted frame
About the Painting
Butler’s Knight’s Lodging is a cheeky play on words and symbols as the artist portrays an unhoused man assuming the part of a knight contemplating his evening’s accommodations in an abandoned carpenter gothic railroad depot. Painted in 1941, almost a decade removed from most dire years of the Great Depression, Butler likely felt some freedom to depict what had by that time become an unkind stereotype of the 1930s, the wandering "hobo." Unlike many of the works of his Social Realist contemporaries, Butler's scene is not one of obvious want, as the plump protagonist cuts an ample figure to the right of the composition. Knight's Lodging is the sort of painting which inspired a critic writing about Butler's 1948 solo exhibition to comment that his works from the early 1940s had a "subdued humor that often went unnoticed." As the country exchanged the Great Depression for the new tragedy of World War II, Butler's "humor" was likely seen by many viewers as nostalgic, if offbeat, comic relief when it was exhibited extensively during the first half of the decade. That Butler was one of the most privileged artists of the period apparently passed without comment.
About the Artist
Joseph Green Butler III was an Ohio Regionalist painter and arts administrator. The grandson of the founder of The Butler Institute of American Art, Joseph Green Butler III was born in Youngstown, Ohio. He graduated from Phillip Exeter Academy and Dartmouth College. Butler studied art with Ceylon Hollingsworth and Clyde Singer and in 1934 became the Director of his grandfather's namesake institution, the first museum in the county dedicated exclusively to American art, a position he held until his death in 1981. From the late 1930s, Butler exhibited at the Institute's Mid Year exhibitions, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the American Watercolor Society (New York), the Audubon Artists (New York), the Mississippi Art Association (prize) and at numerous regional museums in the Midwest and East. During World War II, Butler served in the United States Army Air Corps, eventually achieving the rank of Major. The Akron Society of Artists hosted a one-man exhibition in 1948. During the late 1940s and beyond, Butler served on the jury of exhibitions in Michigan, New York and Ohio. In 1962, he was awarded the Patron of American Arts prize by the Chautauqua Institute and the Ohio Arts Council granted him an award in 1970 for his thirty-five years of service to the state's art community. Butler is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and all other standard references.