Red Moore: The Blacksmith

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Red Moore: The Blacksmith

United States, circa 1933-1934
Paintings
Oil on canvas attached to wood board
64 1/8 x 52 1/8 in. (162.88 x 132.4 cm)
Gift of Sidney and Diana Avery Trust (M.84.197)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

In 1933 Speicher met Vincent Moore, a farmer from Glenford, New York, a village three miles from Woodstock....
In 1933 Speicher met Vincent Moore, a farmer from Glenford, New York, a village three miles from Woodstock. Speicher first saw Moore, who was nicknamed "Red" because of his red hair and formidable moustache, swinging a hammer in his blacksmith shop and was so struck by his exceptional physical presence that he persuaded Moore to pose for him. Eventually Moore became one of Speicher’s favorite models, sitting for him every year for five years, but only in the autumn after the farming and hunting seasons. What resulted was a series of drawings and paintings in which the artist was able to convey the strength and ruggedness of this modern version of Longfellow’s "Village Blacksmith," as one critic referred to him. Speicher usually depicted the brawny Moore wearing work clothes-a rough shirt, pants, and heavy shoes-characteristic of the rural American laborer. (Speicher thought of him as an independent son of the soil.) He placed Moore in interior settings natural for him, often with different implements indicative of his manly activities: an anvil and wheel for this blacksmith scene, a gun for the painting of Moore as a hunter, and a table laden with food for the image of Moore as a farmer. A restrained palette was typical of Speicher, and here the choice of browns was exceptionally well suited for underscoring the rugged, masculine quality of the image. Further conveying Moore’s physical power is his assertive gesture of crossing his muscular arms over his broad chest. The painting was exhibited in several major American cities during the mid-1930s, winning awards that confirmed Speicher’s being one of the most important figure painters of the day. Although his approach to the figure was conservative, Speicher’s handling was that of a modernist, for he built form with a soft, but square, planar and economical brushstroke. The artist was commended for this "direct painting" in a review of the Whitney Biennial. Speicher painted another version of Moore as a blacksmith (see Related Works). His reason for creating this other version is not known nor is the chronology. The two blacksmith paintings were the only images of Moore that Speicher made as full-length figures, and they are among the most monumental of his images. Speicher’s romantic conception of such rural American figures seems to be midway between the classicism of academic painting and American regionalism.
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About The Era

Four years after the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the New Deal, a program of domestic reform meant to revive the econ...
Four years after the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the New Deal, a program of domestic reform meant to revive the economy and alleviate the problem of mass unemployment. Toward these ends, he established various new federal agencies, putting many more people to work to do the increased business of government. Thousands of artists were employed, most through the largest program, the Works Progress Administration. Although the government did not dictate the type of art that was to be produced, it did encourage the use of a representational style and American themes. As a result, most of the art created in the decade prior to World War II was humanistic in orientation.
Artists, writers, and philosophers of the period became obsessed with the social relevance of art. Although a small group of American artists did attack the societal ills of the nation (housing shortages, unemployment) and of the world in general (the rise of fascism and militarism), most adopted a more pragmatic and even positive attitude. American scene painters captured busy city dwellers on streets, in buses, at work, and at play. Occasionally artists infused an element of humor into the pathos of everyday existence, even in scenes that allude to the political disasters of the day. Regionalists were particularly fond of idealizing the past and aggrandizing the present accomplishments of the country. In fact, the myth of America as a country where everyone lives a pastoral, carefree existence emerged with new vigor in the art of the 1930s.
The diversity of the people also emerged as a strong current of social realism. Artists who were accustomed to working in their studios now looked beyond their immediate circles for models. Individuals of various races, professions, or creeds inspired some of the most moving portraits of the century and demonstrated the soul of the people.
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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.
  • Quick, Michael; J. Myers; M.  Doezema; and Franklin Kelly.  The Paintings of George Bellows.  New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1992.