Anne Carleton 1878-1968
The following essay was written by Patricia Jobe Pierce and included in the catalogue for the Anne Carleton exhibition held at Pierce Galleries, Inc.
Anne Carleton was a life-long observer of people and their habits. She was also an avid student of artistic techniques and trends which showed technical advancements or personal initiative. Her training began in Boston in 1899 at the Massachusetts Normal Art School where she learned the tedious fundamentals of cast drawing. After her graduation, she continued a rigorous graduate program at Boston's Vesper George Art School but when she realized that no new or inspired teaching could be found at the school, she sought a more diversified art environment in which to practice and to grow artistically. By 1908 she had met and discussed art with Arthur C. Goodwin, George Hallowell, Charles H. Woodbury, Aldro T. Hibbard and W. Lester Stevens, and she was inspired by the radically different teachers at New York's Art Students League.
At the League she was introduced to the Fauve approaches of painting bold explosive colors on a canvas, which showed the feelings of the artist, as well as a true or imagined representation of facts. Having already met Jay Hambidge whose theories about object-form fascinated her, Carleton traveled to England to study the works of the master painters, and she journeyed on to Greece to develop a firm understanding about how classical ancient buildings were constructed and designed. In 1913 she studied with Jay Hambidge in New York, and Hambidge instilled in her his innovative discoveries regarding dynamic symmetry (a term which he had not yet coined). Hambidge wanted Carleton's brush work to correspond closely to the organic kinetic symmetry of living things - he did not want her necessarily to expose or concentrate on symmetry found in inanimate form. He felt imposing a sense of symmetry on a particular form must be achieved in relationship with the outside areas from, or around, its center of balance and not in relationship to the relative length of its lines. Within the complete structural pattern of a form, therefore, an overall sense of symmetry would be around the center of mass and relationships of mathematically symmetrical sub-areas would compliment the whole. Carleton better understood Hambidge's new theories after her trip to Greece because she had studied Athenian ruins and art. Hambidge later admitted that the ancient Greek and Egyptian architects and artists probably created their art by using a theory of proportion similar to his own. Carleton studied Hambidge's ideas and incorporated them into her work while at the same time she painted form with a Fauvist's color dynamic, and she used the broad less defined brush techniques of the Expressionists in order to express feelings from a semi-realistic viewpoint.
During the 1920's Carleton exhibited at New York's Art Students League; the Copley Society; and the Boston Society of independent Artists. Her works show the individualistic flair of an artist who did not care to be identified too closely with the more restrictive Impressionist's school of thought. During this decade Carleton was instructed or artistically guided by Ella Simons Siple, Grace Ripley, Cecilia Beaux, and Charles H. Woodbury. These instructors taught her more freely and spontaneously to lay down paint in an orderly (but less detailed) fashion. (left: Bathing Togs and Shacks, #413, oil on canvas, 18 x 22 inches)
Carleton admired her close friend, Charles H. Woodbury, as a painter, teacher, and as an artistic inspirer. In Woodbury's Color and Emotions course in Ogunquit, Maine, Carleton learned to control linear dimension. She felt what she painted, and Woodbury encouraged her to paint vivid freely expressed canvases of people doing things in a landscape or seascape environment. Anne Carleton's palette and style often resembles Charles Woodbury's after 1928. Each artist used broad sweeping brush strokes to indicate movement and to show angular depth perspectives, crashing waves, or expansive sky views. Their sureness and accurate draftsmanship allowed a minimum of brush strokes to show the mood, the time of day, and the portrait of a place. Both Woodbury and Carleton enjoyed painting active beach views where figures played in the sand, sat in the sun, walked together along the shorelines, or ran to the water to escape a hot summer's sun. Woodbury and Carleton canvases show an immediacy and an intimacy which many painters of the era lost in intricate overworked detail. The faces shown in many of Carleton's canvases often are featureless because her figures are anyone at any shoreline, beach, or landscape. The purpose of these canvases is to show an event and its atmosphere. The identity of the people depicted is anonymous.
Instructors at the Art Students League (Robert Henri, Jane Peterson, Frank DuMond) further instructed Carleton in diversified painting techniques, but as late as 1929 Carleton still had the urge to investigate further how better to paint and shape form. In that year she traveled to Paris and studied at the l'Ecole d'Art with Archipenko, who gave her new insights about how to sculpt or paint three dimensional objects. Carleton sculptured in clay, plaster, and bronze with Archipenko for one year. Archipenko convinced her that any artist should be seen within his or her work, and that each artist had the moral obligation to try to go beyond what the average artist had created. (left: Girls at Ogunquit, Estate No. B204, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 1/2 inches)
When she arrived back in the United States, Carleton continued her education in Ogunquit with Bernard Karfiol, and by the Great Depression Carleton was an objective, confident, multi-talented painter who had been asked to become a Guggenheim Fellow in New York City. Although Peggy Guggenheim wanted to subsidize Anne Carleton's living expenses to give this artist an opportunity freely to express herself without having to worry about financial obligations, by this time, Carleton was committed and devoted to hundreds of art students whom she had trained in the Massachusetts public school system. Carleton's niece, Eleanor Perkins, remembers:
During the Depression years Carleton continued to teach school and she painted local scenes - a segment of American life which was neither grotesque, morbid, desolate, pathetic, or sorry. Her vision was a bright and pleasant one during the most forbidding and financially insecure periods of the early twentieth century. Her heavily laden, colorful, confidently laid-down, brush strokes show the hope and inspiration of many W.P.A. workers in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and her figures busily complete the tasks assigned to them in a calm accepting manner. Carleton's W.P.A. paintings differ from those views painted by the members of the more avant-garde art groups (centering around the Ash Can painters or the Modernists). Her works are optimistic and are not social or moral condemnations. They show a part of life as it was (or how the artist saw it to be) in Ogunquit, Portsmouth, New York City, or in Boston without adding the burdens of a didactic superiority or a social commentary. Each canvas depicts a slice of life which had its own small reward or its individual justification for hard labor or for simple pleasures.
Anne Carleton painted from nature with Jane Peterson, Cecilia Beaux, Mabel Woodward, W. Lester Stevens, Charles Allan Winter, Bernard Karfiol, and Florence Hosmer. At the end of her career she experimented with Abstract Expressionism but she realized the mainstream of that artistic school had passed by her. After she painted abstracts for pleasure she then destroyed them.
It was difficult for Carleton to earn a living from selling paintings. Her canvases were not what the public understood because her works went beyond Impressionism and idealized realism. Therefore, Carleton taught art in the public school systems of Massachusetts in order to support comfortably her painting habits, and teaching allowed this artist the freedom to paint without having to compromise her artistic standards. She condemned no art or artist but she was more sympathetic and understanding of the works produced by the Fauve and Modern painters, and she felt by 1900 that the Impressionists were too staid in their style. Carleton's paintings show an originality of design and composition, a virile rhythmic color movement, and a forceful simplicity, which were characteristics uncommon in many female painters' canvases. She conscientiously instructed her students and she practiced the lessons she taught: be true to yourself; attempt to be an objective observer of life and of people; honestly paint what you see and feel; don't allow someone else to change your style if you are not comfortable with their style; try to achieve a beautiful and fresh vitality in art; continuously attempt to grow mentally and artistically.
Anne Carleton's paintings from the Depression years show us a humane portion of life during one of the most deprived and anxious periods in American history. Although these years are long past the memory of them lingers on, and Carleton's vibrant, happy, humanistic canvases show us some of the rare, tranquil, industrious, and pleasant moments from this otherwise dismal era. Anne Carleton's paintings reveal that not all Americans felt hopeless, degraded, or defeated during the 1930's. The bold strength embodied in her work characterizes a vital part of the American spirit or outlook. Carleton's optimism and honesty in portraying the stamina of the American people in the face of disaster, reveal a segment of the Depression which many people have forgotten or ignored.
1. Perkins, Eleanor, told to P.J. Pierce, January 25, 1979, Scituate, Massachusetts.
About the author
Patricia Jobe Pierce is an energetic, knowledgeable, experienced curator who assumes leadership. She organizes with finesse visually stimulating, world-class exhibitions that command public attention and critical acclaim. She strives to compile interesting, original exhibitions; scholarly easy-to-read exhibition catalogues; and artistic programs that have an educational outreach. Her substantial national and international contacts help her to collect responsibly and carefully fine paintings from private and institutional collections for major artistic, public exhibitions and because she is well acquainted with professional museum standards and practices, she orchestrates and supervises the development of extensive exhibitions with relative ease.
Pierce has been a full member of the Appraisers Association of America since 1974. As a world authority on American painting, she is an authenticator of American art for many leading U.S. auction houses and since 1969 she has handled the exhibition of over 10,000 paintings in galleries and museums from Maine to Texas.
As a witty, informed communicator and entertaining public speaker, Pierce's strong interpersonal skills encourage audiences to participate actively and to ask questions about paintings, artists and artistic techniques.
Pierce has a significant publication history. Books include:
Biographical essays include:
Curation for exhibitions:
News and magazine articles include:
Radio and television appearances:
Pierce has recently completed the text Edward Henry Potthast-More Than One Man; is currently completing Painters of the American Beach and is compiling Catalogue Raisonnes on Edmund C. Tarbell, John Joseph Enneking, Chauncey F. Ryder and Anne Carleton.
Every summer Pierce organizes American art exhibitions for The Gallery at 4 India Street in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and she gives lectures and leads open public art discussions throughout the summer months. Pierce is President of Pierce Galleries, Inc., a fine arts services company based in Hingham, Massachusetts.
Pierce has served on the New England Advisory Board for the Archives of American Art and is a member of the American Classical Realism Association; National Writer's Union; American Film Institute Alumni Association; Metropolitan Museum of Art; International Platform Committee; Smithsonian Institution; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Fuller Memorial Museum and more. Her outstanding achievements have been listed in Who's Who in American Art (1980-2000) and she is listed in Who's Who of American Women, 1999-2000; Contemporary Authors, 1995- and 2000 Outstanding Writers of the 20th Century, 2000, and more.
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Ms. Pierce's essay is courtesy of the author.
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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/28/11
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