Youth

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Youth

United States, 1926
Paintings
Oil on canvas
50 3/16 x 60 1/16in. (127.48 x 152.56 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection (27.7.5)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

This charming painting of a boy with his stuffed rabbit is a portrait of Preston Carter Harrison (born about 1921), son of Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison....
This charming painting of a boy with his stuffed rabbit is a portrait of Preston Carter Harrison (born about 1921), son of Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison. No doubt Preston Harrison chose Frieseke to paint the portrait on the advice of his artist-friends; indeed, Harrison records in a letter dated June 5, 1926, that Ernest Lawson (1873-1939) thought Frieseke the "greatest of all to paint youngsters." This sentiment was expressed to Harrison when the collector visited New York on his way to France. Frieseke painted the portrait a few weeks later at his summer home in Le-Mesnil-sur-Blangy. The Harrisons arrived there in late July, and by August 12 Harrison could write to Louise Upton at the museum that the portrait was completed. Harrison was quite satisfied with the finished painting, considering it not only a typical Frieseke but a painting worthy of being in the museum. It combined the best of Frieseke’s talents, being a figure painting to which natural light is essential. Young Carter sits politely on the edge of an elegant French chair, obviously posing for the artist and oblivious to the sunlight filtering into the room through the windows and door. The sun’s intense rays contrast with the soft interior light. The pastel palette used to describe the scene is unlike that of most late works by Frieseke, which are delicate but usually darker. In fact, although Frieseke completed the painting, it appears almost unfinished. Despite the delicate effect, the painting has a strong structure organized by the lines of the room and the placement of the furniture. The variety of decorative patterns within the composition do not confuse the legibility of the scene, and, in fact, the patterned objects -- upholstered chair, oriental rug, and garden flowers in the distance -- form a contrast with the figure of the quiet boy. Harrison entitled the painting Youth rather than identifying it as a portrait of his son to avoid the type of criticism that the portrait of Mrs. Harrison by ROBERT HENRI, 1925 (LACMA; q.v.), had received.
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About The Era

The early twentieth century witnessed the transformation of the United States into a modern industrialized society and an international political power.

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The early twentieth century witnessed the transformation of the United States into a modern industrialized society and an international political power. By 1920 more than half of the country’s population lived in urban areas. Seeming to guarantee employment, the cities lured many farmers and African Americans from rural areas. In addition, between 1900 and 1920, 14.5 million immigrants from Europe, Russia, Mexico, and Asia settled here, primarily in urban centers. A new energy was channeled to such cities as New York and Chicago, as massive skyscrapers were erected to furnish much-needed office space and living quarters. Even West Coast cities were affected—the population of Los Angeles tripled between 1900 and 1910; its unplanned urban sprawl and dizzying speed were captured in the zany movies of the Keystone Cops, filmed on the streets of the city.


Art reflected these changing social and economic dynamics. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism were still popular. Yet other, more progressive ideas now challenged artists. A strong new commitment to realism emerged in literature and the fine arts.


In Philadelphia and New York, a group of artists centered around Robert Henri captured the vitality of urban American life. These realists depicted the hustle and bustle of city streets, the common pleasures of restaurants and various forms of entertainment. Critics dubbed these realists the “Ash Can School” because of their treatment of unidealized subject matter previously considered unattractive. These artists focused on the inhabitants of cities rather than the cities themselves. Their interest in people also led them to create a significant number of single-figure paintings, conveying the human side of the new America . During the 1910s and 1920s the realist celebration of America spread throughout the country, as artists recorded the neighborhoods and people that made their own cities distinct.

 
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.