Lot 10: George W. Chambers (1857-1897), American MISTRESS CORNELIA (THE ARTIST'S FIRST WIFE); Oil on canvas; signed and dated 1885 at Kirkwood (Missouri) lower right, signed and titled to artist's label from "St. L. School of Fine Arts, St. Louis, Missouri"
December 11, 2012
Toronto, ON, CanadaLive Auction
Description: George W. Chambers (1857-1897), American MISTRESS CORNELIA (THE ARTIST'S FIRST WIFE); Oil on canvas; signed and dated 1885 at Kirkwood (Missouri) lower right, signed and titled to artist's label from "St. L. School of Fine Arts, St. Louis, Missouri" accompanying this lot39.5" x 23.5" - 100.3 x 59.7 cm.Provenance: Collection of the artist and his wife, Cornelia, Malpeque, Prince Edward Island;Dr. James Keir, Malpeque, Prince Edward Island;By descent to their granddaughter, Mary Margaret Elizabeth Auld, Malpeque, PEI;By descent to the present owner's mother's brother, Malpeque, PEI;By descent to the present owner's parents (Cornelia is thought to be a grandmother or great grandmother of the present owner's mother) who recovered the two paintings from the house of Dr. Keir where they had been held in the family residence in Malpeque, PEI since their execution;By descent to the present, Private Collection, OrilliaThis painting and the next lot (lot 11) were acquired by the parents of the present Private Collection when the Malpeque residence was sold;By descent to the present, Private Collection, OrilliaLiterature: The Spectator, St. Louis, Vol. 6, Oct. 3, 1885, p.72, there is mention of a painting by Chambers with the title of "Mistress Cornelia";H. Barbara Weinberg, The American Pupils of Jean-Leon Gerome, p.104, Chambers listed;The following literature references to Chambers was provided by The Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, MO:"Missouri Historical Society Bulletin", Vol. XXIV a nd Vol. XXVII (by M. Patricia Holmes);"Gateway Heritage", Vol. 8, Number 1, Summer 1987, "Chambers Watercolour Presented to Art Collections"; "Pen and Sunlight Sketches of Saint Louis" Phoenix Publishing Company, Chicago, p.127;"St. Louis Up to Date", 1895, p.228;Walter B. Stevens Scrapbook 46, p. 65Note: The painter and teacher George W. Chambers was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1857. Little is known of his life until 1880 when he entered the Paris studio of Jean Léon Gérôme, the French classicist. He remained in Paris until 1884, studying with Gérôme and also with Julien Dupré, whose Barbizon style influenced his early work. At this time, he was made a professor in the St. Louis Art School and later organized the Art School in Nashville, Tenn., where he was appointed Director in the 1890's. He painted American subjects upon his return to the US, particularly landscapes "full of warm color, light and beauty".In an unidentified clipping (Walter B. Stevens Scrapbook 46, p. 165) Chambers is regarded as an "artist and stained glass designer"... "perhaps as talented a man as the St. Louis school ever turned out". In light of rapid growth of wealth and culture, and an ever increasing demand for the artistic and beautiful furniture, decorations and surroundings, Chambers became well known for his work in stained glass, in particular for his windows, a relatively new artistic craft in St. Louis, that he designed for the St. Louis Union Station while with the firm, Messrs. W.W. Davis & Geo. W. Chambers, located at 1626 Lucas Place (he became a partner of in 1891). His best work as a designer, was the stained glass windows designed for the St. Louis Union Station, a contract headed by The Terminal Railroad Association, and have been referred to as "the most outstanding interior feature of the Grand Hall" and "the most important example of art glass being the pictorial window" at the center of the north wall over the staircase landing of the terminal depicting three classical female maidens representing the cities. His watercolour sketch in preparation for a mosaic mural to be installed in the station and his sketches for his stained glass panels were used in Art and Music, an 1880's cultural magazine published in St. Louis. The watercolour sketch for the mosaic to be installed in the station was gifted to the Missouri Historical Society by a relative of the artist. "Mistress Cornelia" was painted the year after Chambers returned to Missouri from Paris. She is believed to be Chambers' first wife and either a grandmother or great grandmother of the consignor's mother. Cornelia died prior to 1893 when he married Bilo Keir, the woman depicted in the following lot (lot 11).In the October 1885 issue of The Spectator, the writer describes the artist's studio in Kirkwood and the work Chambers executed during the summer of 1885: "Mr. Geo W. Chambers has completed an admirable studio at Kirkwood... He has completed a most satisfactory picture, which will doubtless be exhibited at the Pettes galleries. It is called 'Mistress Cornelia' and illustrates the following lines from Chaucer: For in her living, maidens mighten rede, as in a book, Every goode word and dede which longeth to a maiden vertuous, She was so prudent and so bounteous'.The type is not of Chaucer's time or our own, but every age wherein dwells maiden sweetness and goodness and truth. The landscape is true and good, and thoroughly of our own country. The distance is most charming and clear, but not too distinct to interfere with the interest in 'Mistress Cornelia. It seems to me to be one of the best of Mr. Chamber's productions". (W.R.H.) The present owner remembers his mother and her sister often talking about "Aunt Anne" and Bilo (the subject of the next by the artist, lot 11) in PEI. The two women remember how Aunt Anne and Bilo never got along and their was always tension between them.The Keir House is a large, two storey, Georgian house, established circa 1810 with neo-classical design elements situated on the edge of Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island. The house is valued for its age, its association with the Presbyterian minister, Rev. Dr. John Keir (1780-1858) and his family, and the prominent role that the family played in community education for Malpeque and surrounding areas. The house also has a connection to Lucy Maud Montgomery, who was a friend of John Keir's daughter Anne. For more about the Keir house see http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=18765