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Waldo Peirce (1884 – 1970)

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

21. County Fair, c. 1933 (or 35)

Oil on panel, 10 x 20 inches (unframed), 15 ½ x 25 ½ inches (framed), inscribed “To Ed – WP ‘33” (or “35”) lower right



Probably exhibited at a group show in the modernist gallery of J.J. Gillespie Gallery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 1, 1936 (see Naylor, Douglas, Modernist Art Is on Exhibit at Gillespie’s – Most of Work Shown is Quite Sensible, Critic Says, The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), April 1, 1936 – “There is grace and sprightliness, however, in the ‘County Fair’ by Waldo Peirce which shows a black race horse speeding past an idle but colorful refreshment stand.” Literature: Gruskin, Alan D., Painting in the U.S.A., Doubleday & Company, Inc. (1948) – the larger version of this painting was featured on the dust jacket and illustrated on p. 54; Note: the refreshment stand in the larger version of “County Fair” is not “idle,” suggesting this version of the painting is likely the one exhibited at Gillespie.

About the Artist

Born in 1884 in Bangor, Maine, Waldo Peirrce was a painter whose artwork reflected his adventurous outlook on life. From the family of a wealthy lumber merchant, Peirce attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and Harvard University where he was well-known for his strong personality and football skills. Peirce studied at the Art Students League and beginning in the early 1910s, Peirce lived in Europe and continued painting at the Academie Julian in Paris. In 1915, he joined the American Field Service, serving in France as part of an ambulance corps. Peirce was influenced by early Spanish painters and later by the French Impressionists. During the 1930s and 1940s, Peirce painted and traveled extensively and led a generally privileged Bohemian lifestyle. He was married four times and had several children. He was a professional colleague and social friend of Edward Rowan and under the auspices of the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts, Peirce was awarded three mural commissions. Peirce exhibited widely and his works are in the permanent collections of over a dozen museums and public institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum. Peirrce and Ernest Hemingway were longtime friends who traveled together. Peirce’s art is often focused on joyful depictions of American life in the American Scene tradition. Peirce died in 1970 in Searsport, Maine. Peirce is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and all other standard references.


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