Bowers Museum of Cultural Art
Santa Ana, CA
photos, ©1999 John Hazeltine
Following are excerpts from the book titled "Partners in Illusion - Alberta Binford and William J. McCloskey,." which was published in 1996 by the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art. The ISBN number is 0-9633959-4-7. The excerpts and images are reprinted with permission of the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art. The first excerpt is the Introduction (page 7) and the second excerpt is the chapter titled "The McCloskey's Career Together," pages 15-39. The text for the book was written by Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, well-known art historian, writer, and former Assistant Curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The way the tissue paper crinkled around the orange was so true to life it almost fooled the eye into believing it was real rather than a painting. The signature read "William J. McCloskey." Even experts could only come up with small tidbits of information on the artist. Strange, since the quality of the piece was so high. To add to the confusion were a number of equally well painted still lifes of flowers and grapes signed "A. B. McCloskey." Nothing was known of that artist.
The search began in old newspapers. Page after page of yellowed and crumbling newsprint was turned before even one notice was found. The quest expanded to various historical societies and art researchers across the country. Slowly, a picture of the artists began to form. While some of the mystery is now taken away, the true story proves more interesting -- a real-life human drama of a talented husband and wife, both with medical problems, who painted portraits together for fifteen years and who left a record of their efforts in half the states of the union, England, and France. (left: William J. McCloskey, Untitled (Still Life, Tangerines), 1912, oil on canvas, 10 x 17 inches, BMCA 74.22.26)
The struggle of Alberta Binford McCloskey has particular relevance today. She was a talented woman, seeking recognition in a male-dominated late nineteenth-century art world. How did she balance those qualities that society revered -- being a mother and wife -- with her own creative urges? And what about William McCloskey. Were his dreams answered when he married the sprightly little lass full of talent and drive who showed promise of being his soulmate as well as a painting companion?
Everyone's moment for recognition finally arrives. As the 1980s turned into the 1990s auction prices fetched for William's still lifes of oranges soared into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the same time the Bowers Museum decided to share with the public the rich resource of paintings that had been preserved in its storerooms for a number of years. Included in this was the largest holding of McCloskey paintings in the world. The result was an exhibit of the restored works and this first-ever biography on the couple. The artists turn out to be the best-kept secret of the fin-de-siècle New York art world and the most talented of the early painters of Southern California.
The McCloskey's Career Together
In early June 1884, William and Alberta, with two-month-old Eleanor, arrived in Los Angeles for a visit with the Binford family. "Mr. McCloskey is an artist of some note and is now making his first visit to the Pacific Coast. Should he find a suitable opening, we understand he will take up his residence in our city." By 1884, the Binford family was living together at 126 Temple, although within a year they permanently settled at 230 Temple, where they were joined by William and Alberta. Most of Alberta's brothers were clerks or tellers in various banks, and by 1887 Alberta's father Henry entered the real estate field.
In 1884, Los Angeles was anticipating "boom" times with the arrival of the Santa Fe railroad that would bring competition to the monopolizing Southern Pacific. The town's population was beginning to explode, and Los Angeles was just starting to develop a permanent artist community. Although there were not yet any art clubs or art schools, there were fifty to one hundred "artists" ranging from many amateurs and china painters to a few professionals; the McCloskeys' abilities ranked them far above all the others. By November the couple had taken a studio in Childs' Grand Opera House and were holding open house. This form of introducing themselves to a new city was to become a formula, for the McCloskeys frequently moved from city to city. In addition to the public, they would invite the local art critic(s) who were usually impressed and gave them rave reviews. A Los Angeles reporter wrote of his visit to their studio, "Mr. McCloskey's specialty is portraiture -- oil and crayon -- and with him in this department his wife works with skill and efficiency. They have several fine portraits on exhibition...among which will be recognized the beautiful face of Miss Stella Binford, so recently deceased." The reporter was struck with the life-like quality of Stella, Alberta's younger sister, who died of typhoid fever, in early October. On view in the studio were crayon portraits by William and flower studies, probably by Alberta. The studio was open to the public on Wednesdays. Probably soon after their arrival Alberta had her carte de visite photo taken.
The artists became prominent members of the art community. The press was proud to announce that William was included in Koehler's Artist's Directory (NY: Cassell, 1882), and newspapers devoted more space to describing the McCloskeys' studio open houses than those of other artists. At a June 1885 open house the couple showed portraits in crayon and oils of several Los Angeles persons as well as the still lifes A Cluster of Snow Balls from Colorado, Colorado Poppies and California Blossoms. (The latter contained roses, orange blossoms, Forget-Me-Nots and purple lilacs, "clustered upon a table on which stood a tiny vase whose perfect transparency was a triumph of artistic skill"). (left: William J. McCloskey, Untitled (Operatic Heroine in Medieval Dress, 1922, oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x 22 inches, BMCA 74.22.8)
Thus, from the very first, the artists focused on portraiture and still life, which were to be their mainstays throughout their careers. The portraits appeared to be William's strength, while the flower still lifes were Alberta's contribution, Alberta's earliest known floral works bear titles of Colorado flowers, suggesting they were painted in Denver. But, flowers (along with fruit) were also a popular subject for Southern California still life painters through the turn of the century. At the time, Southern California promoted itself as a garden land; it abounded in flowers, especially roses, whose petals were lavished, and even squandered, on such things as parade floats. In spite of Los Angeles' ubiquitous orange industry, the still lifes of paper-wrapped oranges for which William McCloskey has subsequently become famous do not seem to have originated during this Los Angeles residency. The first title suggesting such a subject appears in a spring 1888 exhibition catalogue, well after the McCloskeys had moved East.
As leaders in the Los Angeles art world, the McCloskeys accepted the task of hanging the pictures at the Art Loan Exhibition of June 1885, a show of major proportions and import for Los Angeles. It was sponsored by the local parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West, a fraternal organization. The Los Angeles of the 1880s - without a museum - depended on special fairs and shows to expose art; even the concept of exhibitions featuring loaned artworks was relatively new. The show mounted by the Native Sons consisted of historic works by European, American and San Francisco artists, borrowed from the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, as well as studios in San Francisco, and also included recent work by Los Angeles artists. William McCloskey was quoted, "We shall have a collection not only creditable to Los Angeles, but one which would command respect in any of the art centers of Europe or America." The McCloskeys lent the portraits and still lifes that they had shown at their studio the previous week. Interestingly, William exhibited On the Platte River, Colorado, a winter scene, one of only two known landscapes.
The McCloskeys continued to figure prominently in Los Angeles news with a July show at their studio of works by fellow artist Alexander Harmer (with whom William was said to have roomed during one art school year in Philadelphia). In August they were "drifting back and forth between town and sea shore, drinking in health and inspiration on the breezy beach amid the crowd of happy faces." They were also painting portraits and teaching art privately to nine pupils. In the fall, they held several open houses or were visited by reporters canvassing the art scene.
Around December 1885 or early 1886, however, the two left for the East. Why the couple made the move at this particular time is unknown. Certainly in Los Angeles they were at the top of their profession, and they may have temporarily tapped out the portrait market. As one grows to understand their personalities, one suspects the mobile and ambitious Alberta was the motivator and that she may have encouraged or even led the move to New York, the city that was regarded as America's most culturally developed. Her exhibit of three works at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts annual exhibition in late 1885, suggests two things - that she and William either made a brief trip to visit his relatives in Philadelphia or that Alberta was testing the Eastern waters for reaction to her paintings. The appearance of Alberta's paintings Colorado Poppies, Snowballs, and California Blossoms in New York's National Academy of Design spring annual exhibition in 1886, suggests the couple arrived in time for the cutoff date for submission of paintings, but the lack of specific address for them in the catalogue suggests they were still looking for a residence.
Although New York was certainly the most artistically developed of American cities in the 1880s, it too had only enjoyed major art growth after the Civil War -- when the Metropolitan Museum was founded, and art schools, clubs, commercial galleries, artist supply stores, and other specialty art institutions came into being and proliferated. The McCloskeys had a track record of settling near the center of art activity, and they first took a studio at 58 West 57th Street (autumn 1886). Although this placed them at the southeast corner of Central Park where some of the art world was beginning to move, the McCloskeys must have soon realized the real center remained further south, around Madison Square, bounded on the south by 23rd Street. By spring 1888 when they exhibited at the National Academy of Design Annual Exhibition, they had moved to 222 West 23rd Street (the Chelsea Hotel, famous for its artistic residents), and by fall a few doors down to 140 West 23rd Street (a building now converted to self-owned units), where they remained through most of 1891.
Residence on 23rd Street placed them on an important thoroughfare and in the center of the art and entertainment area. Their American Tile Building was home to several artists and to an art school run by John Ward Stimson (1850-1930). Also on 23rd Street was the Art Student's League (a school for artists) and the YMCA building which contained many artists' studios. Along the cross street of Fifth Avenue were several commercial art galleries including those of William Schaus and Reichard & Co. Down a couple of blocks was the National Academy of Design, where one or the other exhibited in the spring and fall of 1888, 1889 and 1890, and the spring of 1891. The American Art Galleries, at No. 6 E. 23rd St., was where Alberta exhibited her outstanding Hydrangeas (Bowers Museum 74.22.19) in 1886 and where she showed at the Prize Fund exhibitions in 1888 and 1889. Nearby was the American Watercolor Society where William exhibited in 1890, 1891, 1892 and Alberta in 1897.
It is the work from this five-year period with which the art world is most familiar today. It was a period of art growth for the couple. Although they continued portrait work, Alberta gave more attention to still life while William adopted it, and both expanded into figure work and genre paintings. They also sent their works to exhibitions at most of the major competitive venues such as the Pennsylvania Academy, the Chicago Art Institute, the Brooklyn Art Association, and Gills in Springfield, Mass.
The subject for which William is most readily known is the tissue paper-wrapped oranges. An example is Untitled (Still Life, Tangerines) (Bowers Museum 74.22.26). Only one other artist of sophistication, Lemuel Everett Wilmarth (1835-1918) painted this item, and paucity of works by both artists prevents one from drawing any conclusion as to who painted the subject first. William's first known examples of orange still lifes are Lady Apples and Tangerine Oranges and Tangerine Oranges, which he exhibited in spring 1888 at the National Academy of Design. However: both William and Alherta went on to paint the subject with tissue paper as is shown by Alberta's Untitled (Oranges in Tissue with Vase) (Bowers Museum 74.22.2) 1889, and William's Wrapped Oranges. 1889 (sold Sotheby's. New York, 5-30-85),
Both McCloskeys produced a similar-looking product, well lit fruit in a triangular arrangement, resting on a highly-reflective mahogany table top, and backed by a darkly obscure plush or velvet drape. Many of the works have an extended horizontal format. Sometimes a basket or a clear glass bowl is included, usually with the fruit spilling out of it in the "cornucopia of plenty" concept. Each work known to us today is a unique arrangement with varying types of oranges (Florida, Catania, Mandarin, and pineapple oranges), quantity, numbers wrapped, unwrapped and partially wrapped, numbers peeled or with sections pulled apart, and the inclusion of subsidiary objects such as jugs and vases. The frequency of this theme for the artists must prove it was a popular seller, and indeed the uniqueness of the subject, the striking color combination of oranges against white paper and Prussian blue drape, as well as the trompe l'oeil gimmick of crinkled tissue, must have been very appealing.
Art historians are prone to look for compositional precedents, but from the time of the Peale family through the nineteenth century, when still life was at its height of popularity, most fruit still lifes followed a simple format -- a few items arranged on a tabletop against a plain background. Unique were the large-sized show-stoppers that contained a multiplicity of objects of various textures, landscape backgrounds and philosophical overtones. The Peale family established a precedent for trompe l'oeil rendering, i.e., the painting of objects with such fidelity that the human eye could be fooled into believing they were real. Technical facility, which had been scorned by pre-1800 artists set on expressing intangible values such as history or morality, was actually admired by nineteenth century, practical-minded Americans who were just acquiring an appreciation of culture and who could understand such simple concepts.
Since the couple blossomed into still life while in New York, they must have recognized it as a marketable theme well suited for their particular talents; they must have analyzed the work of other still life artists to see what "sold" and how to make themselves unique. William couldn't have grown up in Philadelphia without having known the still life paintings of the Peales, who were literally an institution in the city. The McCloskeys' painting Song or Mama's Favorite Song (Bowers Museum 74.22.11) contains a still life hanging on the back wall that appears to be by their New York contemporary John F. Francis (1808-1886) and features strawberries in a white ceramic compote backed by a green drape, the same color combination the McCloskeys used with their paintings of strawberries. Alberta's flower work was similar in subject and on a par with the flowers of other Victorian painters such as Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) and George C. Lambdin (1830-1896.) Most still life artists distinguished themselves by specializing in the recreating of a particular unique object. While California artists never seemed to show much interest in rendering types of paper (sheet music, pages of books, money, envelopes, wrapping paper) as did East Coast artists, the McCloskeys are unique in their painting of tissue-paper.
While the McCloskeys are best known for their renderings of oranges, as well as other citrus such as lemons, in actuality they painted a whole variety of fruit. William confined himself to simple and round items such as oranges, lemons, apples, plums, peaches, grapes, cherries and strawberries. Examples are Untitled (Apples Spilling from Glass Bowl) (Bowers Museum 74.22.31) and Untitled (Strawberries Spilling from Basket Lined with Tissue Paper), (Bowers Museum 74.22.32). Alberta took on the additional challenges of pomegranates, watermelons, bananas and pineapples.
One of Alberta's specialties that deserves special mention is her study of flowers. We see from Los Angeles newspapers that within a few months of arrival she was exhibiting a painting of red poppies that was of a quality to evoke comment, and so we must assume that she had been developing this talent for some years. In California she painted such flowers as pansies, roses, orange blossoms, Forget-Me-Nots and lilacs. In New York in 1887 she exhibited her Hydrangeas (Bowers Museum 74.22.19). This large, spectacular work shows a living plant flowering in a ceramic pot. Each petal of the flower clusters is individually rendered. The work proved so spectacular that it was reproduced in G. W. Sheldon's Recent Ideals of American Art (New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1888) which remains an important American art book even today. (As Alberta and William traveled from city to city she kept the painting with her as an example of her abilities.)
Not content with rendering a narrow range of flowers, in 1888 alone, she exhibited a vase of Japanese Chrysanthemums (Bowers Museum 74.22.3), Catharine Mermet Roses, Lilacs and Moss Roses, and Cornelia Cook Roses. In later years, she was to also paint orchids and daisies. Compositionally, some of her floral still lifes followed the horizontal format of the fruit still lifes -- flowers strewn on a tabletop backed by a drape. An example is Untitled (Yellow/Pink Roses with Blue Drape) (Bowers Museum 74.22.16). But most were verticals showing flowers in vases backed by a drape. See followed the horizontal format of the fruit still lifes -- flowers strewn on a tabletop backed by a drape. An example is Untitled (Yellow/Pink Roses, Lilacs In Ornamental Vase) c. 1901(Bowers Museum 74.22.6). Many of the vases were cloisonné whose shape, intricate designs and texture clearly intrigued Alberta and which she masterfully rendered. She is not known to have utilized the floating sprig format that botanical artists and some other flower painters favored. Following contemporary fashion, she used specific botanical title; these reflected the era's interest in genetics and emphasized the paintings' fidelity to the original.
Alberta also painted a couple of studies of ducks. Hunting still lifes had their own compositional conventions, and following them Alberta hung the dead ducks from their feet by a string against a wood paneled backdrop. She may not have considered this subject successful because she does not seem to have pursued it on many canvases. (See Catalogue of Known Artworks.)
During the couple's New York years, they also expanded their subject matter into genre paintings, that is, pictures of people engaged in some activity whose story is self explanatory. Most of these, painted about 1890-1892, used the couple's daughter, Eleanor, who was then between six- and eight-years-old, as model. Eleanor's son claims that his mother had more than thirty pictures painted of her before she reached ten. The couple never seems to have used their son to model genre pictures (although a portrait: of him is known). Most if not all of the genre pictures are in the watercolor medium, and most are signed simply "McCloskey" with no initials. This seems to imply that both artists had a hand in the execution, although usually only one of the artists exhibited the work. One of the first genre pictures was William's If You Don't Eat It, I'll Give it to Doggie, exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1890 (possibly the same as Feeding Dolly, collection of the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers) showing a little girl at a child's tea table feeding her doll while a toy dog looks on. The same year William (with Alberta's help?) painted Mama's Favorite Song (Bowers Museum 74.22.11) that shows the couple's daughter standing in a parlor, hands clasped, singing. The subjects of I've Found Papa's Picture and Dimple by William McCloskey, also exhibited in 1890, can only be guessed. Maternal Cares (Bowers Museum 74.22.5) signed "McCloskey Paris 92" shows daughter Eleanor on her knees rocking a doll's cradle; and Waiting (Bowers Museum 74.22.1)), a watercolor bearing Alberta's "A. B." initials, shows a little girl dressed in a fancy coat waiting at the bottom of a stair apparently for the rest of her family to go out to their entertainment. Chess Party 1893 (formerly in the collection of William McCloskey, Jr. but now unlocated), by William McCloskey, shows a little girl seated on an old man's lap studying a chess board.
Many late nineteenth century artists painted children, capitalizing on the late Victorian change of attitude that no longer saw offspring as only a financial burden or an entity to be put to work to support the parents, but an innocent being that should be protected and nurtured. Untitled (Donor as Small Child) (Bowers Museum 74.22.9) showing Eleanor wearing a wreath in her hair reflects the time's idealism. Most post-Civil War American painters of children were caught up in a nostalgia for innocence and were led to paint middle class farm children playing or attending country schools or even to paint poor city children selling papers or working as boot blacks. However, the McCloskeys chose a more European vision -- the pampered child in wealthy surroundings, seen indoors. This was. of course, their own personal situation. The artists spent most of their lives in cities and indeed in their own studio or home/studio. But the fine furnishings also reflected Alberta's tastes and aspirations. According to family tradition, she owned Oriental carpets and carved furniture, part of the reason the couple ran out of money in the late 1890s.
That Eleanor posed for more than thirty pictures before she was ten might lead today's public to accusations of child cruelty for the long hours of immobility one might expect. However, recently-discovered, professionally-made photographs of Eleanor posed very close to how she appears in Song and If You Don't Eat It I'll Give It to Doggie suggest the child was saved from the drudgery by being captured on film. Although the late 1880s development of the box camera and roll film had recently enabled non-professionals to take pictures, the McCloskeys depended on commercial photographers. "Tonnele" is the name stamped on the reverse of the Doggie photograph. (Song photo is not stamped but appears to be by the same photographer.) Both photographs appear to have been taken in a photographer's studio (rather than in the McCloskey quarters); in the Doggie photograph, Eleanor is actually posed atop a raised stage or dais. William's teacher, Eakins, was well known for his use of the photograph to "scientifically" establish the position of human and animal limbs during locomotion. Like Eakins, William used the photos primarily to obtain information on the figure and composition. The rest of the painting was developed from imagination and by painting from actual still life objects. The photos' backgrounds are out of focus and vary in many details from the finished paintings. And, since the McCloskeys' photographs were black and white, the couple had to develop their own color schemes.
The McCloskeys' subject matter may also have been influenced by Eakins. Song not only picks up the theme of a female singing in a private home but Eleanor is posed with her hands clasped below the waist, as seen in Eakins's Pathetic Song, 1891 (Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).
Also entering the couple's repertoire were pictures of actors in their costumes. Before 1897, during the McCloskeys' New York residence, Alberta painted the actor Frederick Paulding as Romeo (Private Collection). As a newsman described, "Paulding played that part 1100 consecutive times in New York and at no time was he ever more natural stepping down with outstretched right arm to the footlights and the audience than he is walking out of that canvas." William also painted R. D. McLean as Brutus (exhibited in 1924 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club). Portraits of actors playing important roles had been painted by fine arts artists since the 1750s. Some were made to be engraved as illustrations in histories of the theater, while others were made to decorate theater foyers or the offices of theater administrators. Still others were made as portraits in honor of a particular actor's success. At the end of the nineteenth century, when photography replaced the brush for recording the features of a person, painting actors allowed artists to represent famous personalities and at the same time exotic and beautiful costumes. Two works in the collection of the Bowers Museum may be of this type: William's Untitled (Operatic Heroine in Medieval Dress) (Bowers Museum 74.22.8) dated 1922, and Alberta's Untitled (Actor in Renaissance Costume Standing Inside Garden Wall) (Bowers Museum 74.22.27). Since Alberta's work is inscribed with the word "copyright" it may have been created for an illustration in some book.
The McCloskeys achieved an exceedingly high technical quality in their works, Grandson Gretmore stated, "My mother said they used to have a big magnifying glass and they'd hold that up and just touch it. They wouldn't paint, just touch a drop here and then a drop there." Such technical competency was crucial to the financial success of nineteenth century still life painters. However, the McCloskeys' works, being physically small, were often overlooked by show reviewers whose eye was caught by neighboring large-sized and visually spectacular genre scenes.
During their New York years, the McCloskeys continued their portrait work. Famous East Coast personalities whom they painted include General Grenville M. Dodge (a Union soldier of whom they painted several images, one of which is in the Army War College, Washington, D.C.), Dr. Samuel Lilienthal (1815-1891, a physician who authored books on diseases of the skin and homeopathic therapeutics), Dr. Egbert Guernsey (a physician of New York City interested in homeopathic medicine), a Dr. C. M. Parker, and the Honorable John C. Abbott.
In the larger art world of New York, the McCloskeys were not the leaders they had been in Los Angeles, but they were respectable contributors. They do not seem to have joined art groups for social purposes, but catalogues show they participated in most of the open competitive exhibitions held by such art groups as the National Academy of Design and the American Water Color Society. To date no magazine article has been found that devotes a substantial article to them, but occasionally they received paragraph-long notices in publications; They do not seem to have established any ties to commercial art galleries, at least no galleries are yet known to have held or published a catalogue for a one-man show of their works.
Like other artists, they had their own personal circle of acquaintances -- primarily among the non-landscapists. They mention Vasily Vereshchagin (18421904, a Russian military artist who was receiving major newspaper notice in the early 1890s in New York); Ferdinand Pelez (French painter active in the 1890s); Jean Leon Gerome (1824-1904, one of the most important French artists of their generation and an artist who wrote them a recommendation); possibly Jules Breton (1827-1906, a French artist); Alexander Harrison (1853-1930, an American landscapist): Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1927, an expatriate American figure painter), and others.
The McCloskeys were known to various publishers of art materials, and the copyright inscriptions on many of the couple's paintings suggest the works were made for illustrations. Mrs. A. E. Grady, an Atlanta newspaper correspondent, wrote in 1895, "Goupil D. Co. of Paris and Knoedler & Co. of Now York, who touch nothing inferior, have reproduced some of their works, while Prang leaves with them a standing order, accepting anything they choose to send. Their work is also seen in the Recent Ideals of American Art. Mr.Frank Seaman of the Cassell Publishing Company of New York is the proud possessor of eight of their charming pictures." Goupil's of London published tile profusely illustrated catalogues of the French salon. Cassell published Magazine of Art, among other art hooks. Prang, the famous Boston chromolithographer, is said to have published a chromo of one of their paintings of tissue paper-wrapped oranges, but this has yet to be located. A painting entitled Oranges by William was among the thousands of artworks from Louis Prang's collection that were auctioned in 1899.
Much of the problem in tracing the movements of the two artists lies in their rampant mobility. Before 1890, Alberta had painted in twenty-seven states of the union, if we can believe a notice in the Magazine of Art. We know that while resident in New York the couple probably traveled to Atlanta, Georgia; Buffalo, New York; and Providence, Rhode Island to execute portrait commissions. If they went to the cities where they exhibited their still lifes, then they also were in Springfield, Massachusetts there they exhibited at the Gill's exhibitions), in Boston (where they exhibited with the Boston Art Club), and in Philadelphia (where they exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts).
During the summer of 1891, the couple went to San Francisco where they stayed for about a year. During that period, portraits were painted of Lewis Gerstle of the Alaska Seal Company (present location unknown), and of Mr. and Mrs. Frcderic C:. Kohl (The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), among others. There is reference to the fact that the McCloskeys painted many Mormons. Colonies existed in Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but no specific names of sitters have been discovered, and Utah art researchers :are unfamiliar with any McCloskey portraits or published references on the couple. While on the coast the McCloskeys listed themselves in the Crockcr-Langley San Francisco City Directory at 640 Market (although the publication didn't appear until May 1892-93). They exhibited two still lifes (Peaches and Strawberries) and two genre paintings (Song and The Daisy Field) at the San Francisco Art Association during a spring exhibit. (left: Alberta Binford McCloskey, Untitled (Yellow/Pink Roses with Blue Drape, 18891, oil on canvas, 10 x 14 inches, BMCA 74.22.16)
By mid-1892 the couple had moved on to London. Throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, American artists looked upon London and Paris as art meccas where the most important artists worked and the most important exhibitions were held. It is not unexpected that the couple should aspire to travel there, and the trip probably fulfilled a long-time dream. Years later William was to tell a newspaper reporter. "His early work did not receive the recognition that he hoped for and when a colleague remarked that he could not hope for much in this country until he possessed a French collar, he decided to go to France and get one." In London they lived at 81 Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square when William exhibited one work at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolor and three works at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Their address placed them in the center of a triangle whose points were al the British Museum, Hyde Park and Regents Park. In the area were located the Arts Royal Club on Fitzroy Square, the Arts Club in Hanover Square, and Euston Station.
A work that may have been painted about this time is an unsigned piece Unsigned (Woman in Kimono) (Bowers Museum 74.22.25) identified as by Alberta at the time of the gift to the Bowers. Although this is said to be a self-portrait of the artist, the model's slim figure doesn't match the short, stocky (maimed) build of Alberta as shown in a family photograph of her taken in the mid 1890s. The subject and composition of this work are reminiscent of the work of James A. M. Whistler (1834-1903), the charismatic turn-of-the-century American painter who worked in London and who several times painted a single woman standing on a fur rug. However, this woman in kimono is also a still life, in that it brings together rich textures and patterns that Alberta obviously delighted in painting. The elegant decor of the room suggests a European location; very possibly the room represents one of the couple's lodgings abroad; in the background. hanging on the wall is Untitled (Eleanor in Green Dress), 1890 (Bowers Museum 74.22.28).
In late 1892 they apparently moved to Paris, because the watercolor Waiting was signed by Alberta "Paris '92". From there William sent Song to the Royal Society of British Artists exhibit (possibly between December 1892 and January 1893). In addition, the couple sent art to exhibitions at the Municipal Art Gallery in Leeds and the Manchester Art Gallery in Manchester, England. Perusal of art magazines of the time show that these towns, which we today do not identify with art, were important art centers in the 1890s. Alberta also exhibited California Roses at the Royal Society of British Artists in London.
In Paris the couple resided at 58 Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, the old studio of Delaunay. Adhering to their routine, they brought with them top examples of their art and put them on display in their studio, held an open house, and invited local artists as well as the local art critics. A magazine author, "M. C1," visited them during an open house they held during the run of the Salon exhibition (c. May 1893). "At the top of Notre Dame-de-Lorette Street is Delaunay's old studio.... Small, blonde, courteous, Mr. MacCloskey [sic.] gives me the best welcome in the world, introduces me to Mrs. MacCloskey and to several distinguished guests, who like me, are studying the latest works of the two American artists.... I recognize Gerome.... I greet Mrs. Brown, then Georges Le Metayer, Mrs. James-Grivar, the artful miniaturists who you know. And we chat: art, painting, Salon. Mr. MacCloskey sent to the Champs-Elysees a portrait of his daughter and one of Mrs. MacCloskey (a watercolor) 'Waiting' which was really noticed. We celebrated that. Then we reviewed the canvases of the studio. I notice among others of Mr. MacCloskey, 'The Chess Party,' and 'The Song,' of good color, with easy drawing leading to detail from which the miniaturists who surround me get great pleasure. Finally a 'Bouquet of Hydrangeas,' by Mrs. MacCloskey and 'The Prairie,' collective work by the two painters, having an exquisite grace and freshness. The general character of this painting seems to be a feeling for inspiration and finesse of execution. There is in 'The Prairie' variety and gradation of tone which most likely demanded tremendous toil. Excellent artists, hence a studio to visit."
The most important event for the couple on this trip was the exhibition of their paintings in the French Salon at the Champs Elysees. William exhibited Ma Fille (Bowers Museum 74.22.17), a larger-than-life-size picture of their daughter, Eleanor, standing in a party dress. Alberta exhibited Waiting (Bowers Museum 74.22.1, a watercolor of a well-dressed child waiting at the foot of a stairway." It is a distinct compliment to both William and Alberta that of the hundreds of talented artists who exhibited each year, that Ma Fille and Waiting were mentioned by eighteen celebrated journals of art reviewing the Salon. Critic Armand Silvestre wrote, "Stop before one of the most delicate portraits of children that I have ever seen, that of Mlle Closkey by her father, an American, that this masterpiece suffices to make a naturalized Frenchman." Art critic Sigmund J. Cauffman says of My Daughter, "I have rarely seen a better portrait than this -- in fact, but few to equal it. It is not a dead likeness...but life itself, the complexion is not paint, but flesh and blood; the veins appear to throb under the skin, the lips look as if about to open to speak...the eyes in this instance, really 'windows of the soul,' seem to reflect the thought and intelligence within; added to this is a modeling of the head so masterly that one is apparently able to see around it, and of the hands as if one could grasp them."
It is Strange that the McCloskeys did not remain in France for in truth their meticulous technique and the sophisticated settings of their genre pictures are more European in feel than American. The great French painter, Jean Leon Gerome, who had attended their studio opening and who rarely wrote recommendation letters, was led to write on June 19, 1893, "I went to the studio of Mr. J. M. Closkey [sie.] and Mrs. A. B. Closkey [sie.], who had been recommended by my student Eakins, who taught them art. I saw their works of art, and viewed them with interest because they deserve serious consideration. There is in their paintings a great sense of truth, and [one] gets from them a sincere impression of nature. Mr. and Mrs. Closkey [sie.] are capable of giving good advice and are very apt teachers of young people who couldn't but benefit from their guidance and counsel. It gives me great pleasure to give them the present certificate. M. Gerome, Member of the Institut, Professor of the National School of Fine Arts." The McCloskeys proudly displayed this letter for the rest of their careers.
The McCloskeys must have left Paris some time in the summer or early fall of 1893. Untraced newspaper reports state they were invited to show eight works at the Royal Society of British Artists, London, and that upon their return to the United States their Salon entries were placed on exhibit in New York. Allowing generous travel time they were probably back in the United States by mid-fall. They had been out of the country at a very important time -- when the art exhibits were being gathered for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Thus their work was not included in this landmark display. Possibly they visited the exhibition in late 1893, since it ran from May through December and their train to the West Coast may have gone through Chicago.
The McCloskeys must have arrived in Los Angeles by the very end of 1893 -- in time to be listed in the 1894 Los Angeles City Directory and to complete the portraits of Mrs. Albert Carlos Jones (present location unknown) and Mr. J. S. Slauson (History Collection, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) by May of 1894. Before compilation of information for the 1895 Los Angeles City Directory they moved into a home at 1918 Lovelace Avenue. Remaining until summer 1895, the couple completed Portrait of an Unknown Woman (Promised gift to the Laguna Art Museum); Portrait of Harris Newmark (History Collection, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County), one of the most prominent businessmen of nineteenth century Los Angeles; and a portrait of Mrs. Mildred Howell Lewis (exhibited at the San Francisco Art Association in spring 1898, no. 115, present location unknown).
Although the McCloskeys' portrait work is overshadowed today by their still lifes, during their lifetimes they probably earned their main income from the jointly-produced portraits, for which grandson Marshall Gretmore says they asked $3,000 (a princely sum at the time). Even though photography took over most of the responsibility of recording likenesses as early as 1840, portrait painting remained a viable profession through the late nineteenth century. In fact, relieved of likeness-making, portrait painters were able to employ more latitude in pose, brushwork, and colors, so that by the very end of the century some portraits were regarded as fine arts paintings rather than as records of human visages; sometimes the sitter's name was not even included in the title, if the work was sent to exhibition.
William's four years of Life Classes at: the Pennsylvania Academy under Thomas Eakins trained him to paint directly from a live model. He may also have taken advantage of the Academy's newly-instituted portrait classes. Alberta may or may not have studied with William Merritt Chase, as was once reported. She might have taken some training from her husband in Denver, but her high competency in oil as early as 1884 suggests her ability was primarily the result of self-developed, natural talent. Through their careers, the couple no doubt learned from each other, and we have seen how they expanded together into new subjects.
The style of the McCloskeys' portraits remained consistent and conservative from the joint works of the mid 1880s to those painted by William alone in the late teens and early 1920s. Usually, the subject sits in repose close to the surface plane of the picture and is backed by a plain, darkly-colored drape. The McCloskeys depended on sympathetic likeness to convey their sitters' personalities rather than on incorporating into the painting physical items that would reveal character traits (for example books that would indicate authorship or scholarship, nautical instruments that would suggest association with shipping or the sea, or rich home furnishings that would imply wealth, etc.). In the revelation of psychology under carefully rendered physiognomy and in a sober presentation, their work was reminiscent of that of Thomas Eakins. Conversely, their work is very different from that of two other outstanding portraitists of their time: John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), known for splashy society portraits, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), known for his tonal coloration. When the McCloskeys painted three-quarter length portraits, hands (also considered revealing of the personality) were placed prominently in the lap or on the knees. The McCloskeys did not succumb to the new Barbizon and Impressionist styles emerging around them, styles that eventually cast their work into the background. They remained master technicians whose sound drawing and craftsmanship linked them more closely with the conservative French School and artists like Jean Leon Gerome.
Alberta was aware of the emerging Impressionist style but not impressed by it. "I listened to an art address some weeks ago and the astounding phrase was used, 'that a picture which was so closely painted to the model that you could not tell the original from the picture, or the picture from the original, was not art.'.... If the ability to transmit to posterity through the medium of man, the divine spirit of feeling existing in the creations of the Almighty, as God has given these truths to us through the forms of creation, is not art, why take nature as a basis of study?... I consider it impossible to produce a picture too exact or too near akin to the living reality, provided the artist carries through the material, the mental quality of the subject; and the greater the knowledge of the science of his art will be the skill in displaying through the temporal body the divinity in which man is made in the 'likeness of Himself.'" In addition, she believed painters:themselves must be educated and sensitive in order to recognize those traits in their sitters.
In fact, the McCloskeys' portraits were not slavish copies. What set their conservative work high above that produced by hundreds of other likeness-makers in the late nineteenth century, was their ability to capture the elusive inner spirit of their sitters. William's teacher, Eakins, would no doubt be flattered to think that he had been able to transmit this ability to his pupil. Eakins' own portraits are known for their pensive expressions suggesting profound thoughts. Capturing a sitter's soul was the goal of the best portrait artists and difficult to attain -- most portrait painters were confronted with individuals they did not know, and most persons hide their true personality under a veneer of socially correct behavior. The McCloskeys' sitters, however, have a subtle family resemblance in their frank openness, their serenity, and their guileless stares back at those who are regarding them. (left: Alberta Binford McCloskey, Hydrangeas, 1886, oil on canvas, 44 x 36 1/4 inches, BMCA 74.22.19)
Alberta was sensitive to how the placement and pose of
a sitter could reveal the sitter's personality as much as the physiognomy
of the face. "We have found the most successful result...in watching
patiently through several sittings.... After the first feeling of reserve
has passed away, the mind fully occupied and entertained, our sitter unconsciously
settles for comfort into a pose of both ease and grace, and it is needless
to add, thoroughly habitual.... Thus we find that an important adjunct is
the chair upon which the person sits, and [we provide] a variety of styles...from
which to choose." Alberta also believed the background to be important
and not to be added thoughtlessly after the face was rendered. "Early
in the study of painting I discovered that color was only a certain shade
from its relative value, and tried an experiment." Alberta painted
several colored backgrounds and held
them up behind subjects of various colors. "...our first effort is to ascertain what color in the background makes our sitter look his or her best. If the complexion is 'spotty' or varied in color, experience teaches us that a background much broken up greatly hides this defect...being careful of course that the main body of color is in harmony with the complexion. Neither do we guess at these combinations, but keep a large assortment of various colors and shades which we try behind our subject.... This done, the dress of course must be in keeping with the style and color of the person..[then] the picture advances without any of the vexations which beset the artist [who has not planned these things in advance]."
It is not unusual for two artists to work together on the same painting. Popular, in-demand portrait artists often depended on others who specialized in drapery, for example, to paint backgrounds, or else they maintained studios where assistants handled the preliminary or finishing work. The McCloskeys coordinated their efforts differently. "It is also of the utmost importance that a person posing for a picture should be thoroughly entertained, and it is in this connection that Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey work in such harmony, for when either paints the other entertains the model. In this manner they save one another the double task of playing upon the thoughts and minds of the sitter for an outward result in the expression of the face and at the same time concentrating the energy requisite for the technicalities of execution...." Alberta spoke lovingly of friendships that she established during certain sittings. William was to later say, "I never paint a portrait of a person I do not know.... I talk with them, not once, but many times, until I feel that I am acquainted with the real personality. 1 find often that their most vital interest is something far from their daily life and upon that subject they will become enthusiastic...will brighten, and the whole face will express a spiritual quality not present at other times.... I have been called the painter of the soul.... A portrait of any individual is always a likeness of two persons, he who paints the picture and he who is painted. Unless the painter's soul can see and mingle with the soul of the subject there can be no real portraiture. It will be merely a likeness."
Since the McCloskeys' painting styles were so similar, it is impossible to tell which parts of a joint portrait might have been handled by either one. Although William's initials come first in the signature, one suspects the order was Alberta's feminine bow to her husband rather than an indication of the dominant hand. Comparison of paintings created by the individual artists show that Alberta was technically superior. Her lectures indicate it was she who had investigated the properties of color used by the couple, and we suspect that her personality, which impressed audiences at her lectures, was also put into play in conversation during sittings. Her pride in capturing the inner personality of the sitter is evident and possibly her contribution -- as shown by comparison of the couple's joint portraits to the later works painted by William alone.
Until now, Alberta has remained an unsung woman artist.
In the post-Civil War era, with art an acceptable profession for women looking
for careers outside the home, Alberta had social free rein to develop her
natural talents. Although Alberta deferred to her husband in many artistic
ways (such as placing her initials after those of her husband in the signatures
on their joint portraits), a glance at their individual paintings show us
that she had a more refined touch and a wider repertoire of still life objects
than he. She was so good, in fact, that her peers in sophistication were
easily such well known artists as Mary Cassatt (1845-1926) and Cecilia Beaux
(1855?-1942) (although these women worked in different styles). Her practicality,
common sense and intellectual curiosity were revealed in her lectures in
which she described her investigation of color through her own scientific
experiments. The confident tone of her lectures showed that she believed
in herself and her abilities, at no point capitalizing on her deformity
or usurping her husband. Reading between the lines, one even gets the impression
that she might have been a stronger personality than her husband, since
she took the lead in addressing women's groups, organized and made artistic
decorations for elegant social events that allowed the couple to circulate
in the sphere of those people whose portraits they painted, and possibly
made the decisions to advance to more sophisticated art centers such as
New York, London and Paris. In the last ten years of the century, newspapers jumping on the bandwagon of the women's movement often had a women's page and devoted feature articles to successful career women, including writers and artists. Alberta was praised by Mrs. A. E. Grady of the Atlanta Constitution who saw her as a kind of Renaissance woman -- a successful writer, a brilliant pianist, a talented painter and sculptor, as well as a devoted mother and wife. Her current lack of fame seems to be due to her concentration on efficiently balancing the duties of home and career as well as the couple's ceaseless migration from town to town. Unfortunately also, she was not a member of the Woman's Art Club of New York to whose exalted ranks her work would have qualified her, exposure with them would have no doubt given her earlier recognition.
Alberta, understanding that sitters often chose portrait painters to whom they could relate, or understanding the importance of a Bohemian image, surrounded herself with luxuries, such as carved furniture and Oriental carpets. The couple's two children received schooling from private tutors (probably also a necessity since the couple traveled so frequently); shoes were made by cobblers who called at the house, and clothing was made by dressmakers. When traveling to paint portraits, the family sometimes lived in luxury hotels (such as the Palace in San Francisco and the San Rafael). The parties and studio open houses that the McCloskeys hosted attracted famous people. At the Paris open house, for example, attended by Paris' major art critic, were such illustrious personalities as the master painter Jean Leon Gerome. At a dinner party given in Los Angeles just before the couple departed in 1895, the guest of honor was Mrs. Maude Andrews Ohl, a distinguished journalist of the Atlanta Constitution. The guest list included, besides Binford family members, top ranking clergy from L.A.'s Catholic church, two judges, Colonel and Mrs. Otis of the Los Angeles Times, major businessmen such as Mr. and Mrs. Harris Newmark, as well as Senator and Mrs. Cole, Senator and Mrs. Del Valle, and thirty others of probable importance but not immediately recognizable to us today. For this event Alberta prepared a music program, possibly with herself playing the piano, hand-decorated table implements for door prizes, and handled all the decorations. And what was the couple like personally? Alberta's lectures tell us that she believed an artist must have taste and character in order to recognize those qualities in his or her clients. She and William must have been skilled conversationalists to carry on with sitters of varying personalities and backgrounds. As for William, a Parisian critic who visited the McCloskeys' studio found him amiable. Grandson Marshall Gretmore described him as 118 pounds, "a live wire" and that he had a sense of humor.
In the summer of 1895, the ever-restless McCloskeys pulled up stakes again and headed either for England to paint the family of Lord Lytton (an English peer) or to Paris to remain two to three years (depending on the newspaper publicity one wishes to believe). Neither one of these destinations has yet been confirmed. That fall they probably painted their first portrait of Esther Baker Steele (Syracuse University), which is dated "NY. 1895," and it may be that for the next two years they remained in America.
They exhibited five works in the Cotton States and International Exposition, held in Atlanta, Georgia, September 18 - December 31, 1895. This exposition of new inventions and manufacturing was meant to counter the South's reputation as agricultural and to stimulate Atlanta's economy following the nationwide depression of the early 1890s. The Fine Arts display was put together by Horace Bradley (c. 1860-1896), art editor for Harper's and a former Atlanta artist. He borrowed many of the over 1000 items from his wide circle of New York and Philadelphia artist friends (25 per cent of the works were illustrations from New York's large publishing houses, such as Harper's). The Official Catalog of the Cotton States and International Exposition (Atlanta, Ga.: Claftin & Mellichamp, 1895), which lists the exhibitors in the Fine Arts Building on pages 240-265, does not cite the McCloskeys, but the catalogue is known for its high error factor, and many of the paintings that eventually ended up in the Fine Arts Building had been requested for displays in either the Woman's Building or the Negro Building. A current study being made on the Exposition has uncovered newspaper reviews that describe at least six works shown by the McCloskeys: Waiting (Bowers Museum 74.22.1), white chrysanthemums (probably Japanese Chrysanthemums [Bowers Museum 74.22.3], a child in a daisy field (probably Daisy Field, a child rocking a cradle (probably Maternal Cares [Bowers Museum 74.22.5], and a child out walking (currently not attributable to any known work). The couple also showed the jointly-painted portrait of Mrs. Walter Taylor, possibly an Atlanta resident. They knew the importance of exhibiting portraits of a town's socialites to generate additional portrait commissions. It is not unexpected to see the McCloskeys exhibiting in Atlanta. We know that by January of 1895 Mrs. A. E. Grady of the Atlanta Constitution had met the McCloskeys and held a high opinion of Alberta; Alberta considered herself a "Southern" woman; and the McCloskeys probably knew Bradley, the show's organizer, in New York. The Exposition's Fine Arts display was dominated by sentimental genre works, exactly what the McCloskeys produced. The Atlanta Constitution for November 22, 1895, under "Medal Winners Named" lists Mrs. A. B. McCloskey as winner of either a Diploma of General Excellence or a Bronze Medal for Waiting and W. J, as receiving Honorable Mention for an oil portrait of a child (possibly Ma Fille). Scholars have noted that this exposition's jury seemed to award medals for the demonstration of technical ability. The two artists' city of residence was listed as Paris, but whether they were actually there or whether the reference was assumed from the word Paris inscribed on Waiting is not known. (left: Alberta Binford McCloskey, Untitled (Chinese Woman Wearing Green and Purple Dress), c. 1901, oil on canvas, 14 x 10 inches, BMCA 74.22.33)
No record for them has yet surfaced for 1896. About this time they had a studio in Carnegie Hall -- the McCloskeys' daughter remembered hearing the music, and Alberta gives the Hall as her address when she exhibited in the February 1897 American Water Color Society show. By the later 1890s, 57th Street boasted a number of buildings that contained artists' studios, including Carnegie Hall's upper floors, which were developed after 1896.
About November 1897, the McCloskeys returned to San Francisco. A newspaper reporter wrote, "The McCloskeys have left their Parisian home and friends for the winter only. Mr. McCloskey's health has been very poor, and the rigors of a winter in Paris was forbidden by his physicians." One does not actually know if this was the whole truth, although we know that William had recurring bouts with malaria. The McCloskeys well understood the principle that important-looking painters attracted important portrait clients. Increasingly one sees in their publicity the dependence on "image"; dropping the names of important collectors of their works, dropping the names of important persons whose portraits they had painted, dropping the names of important artists with whom they mingled or places that they exhibited. They were either just coming from or just off to the magical sounding worlds of London and Paris; they lived in expensive hotels, and they summered and wintered in certain towns at their "doctor's orders."
In San Francisco their studio address was 728 Montgomery Street with their residence at the Palace Hotel. Their Portrait of a Gentleman exhibited at the San Francisco Art Association winter exhibit, December 1897, may actually be Captain Robert Lowry, a San Franciscan then traveling abroad. That April the couple were busy painting the second portrait of Mrs. Esther B. Steele, and in the April 16 - May 1, 1898 exhibit of the San Francisco Art Association, the couple showed a portrait of Mrs. Marcus Koshland painted just that year.
17. Arrive, LA Herald, June 10, 1884, p. 5, col. 3.
18. Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, Loners, Mavericks and Dreamers: Art in Los Angeles Before 1900, exh. cat., Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, Ca., Nov. 26, 1993 - Feb. 20, 1994; Henry Winifred Splitter, "Art in Los Angeles before 1900," Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, (1959).
19. LAT, Nov. 23, 1884, p. 2, col. 3-4.
20. "50 Years Ago," LA Express?, Oct. 4, 1884, p. unknown (from McCloskey scrapbook, original not traced).
21. McCloskeys issue cards for reception, LAT, June 3, 1885, p. 4, col. 5; "Art Reception of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. J. McCloskey," LAT, June 4, 1885, p. 1, col. 9; listed in Artists' Directory, LAT, June 14, 1885, p. 1, col. 9.
22. Janice T. Driesbach, Bountiful Harvest: 19th-Century California Still Life Painting, exh, cat., Sacramento: E. B. Crocker Art Museum, Nov. 15 - Dec. 29, 1991.
23. Native Sons borrow works, LAT, April 29, 1885, p. 1, col. 5; request art from local collections, LAT, May 7, 1885, p. 4, col. 7; McCloskeys hanging show, LAT, June 9, 1885, p. 4, col. 4; opening of show, LAT, June 10, 1885, p. 4, col. 4; description of pictures, LAT, June 14, 1885, p. 1, col. 3; a second landscape of a tree and meadow (Private Collection) is also known.
24. LAT, July 9, 1885, p. 4, col. 5.
25. LAT, Aug. 22, 1885, p. 7, col. 1.
26. Hold week-long studio open house, LAT, Oct. 28, 1885, p. 4, col. 3; will leave for East, LAT, Nov. 10, 1885, p. 2, col. 2.
27. George Parsons Lathrop, "Progress of Art in New York," Harper's, v. 86, April, 1893, pp. 740-52.
28. Description of Madison Square area in Gustav Kobbe, New York and Its Environs, New York: Harper & Bros., 1891, pp. 174-180.
29. Appleton's Dictionary of New York and its Vicinity (23rd Year), New York: D. Appleton, 190?, describes places and institutions in New York, places an art school at 140 West 23rd St., and names numerous Fifth Avenue galleries including Knoedler's at 34th; Christine T. Oaklander, "Studios at the 1869-1903 YMCA," Archives of American Art Journal, v. 32, no. 3, 1992, pp. 14-22; Florence Turner, At the Chelsea, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1986.
30. For McCloskey exhibits see section: "Catalogue of Known Artworks by Alberta Binford and William J. McCloskey."
31. Deborah Epstein Solon, The McCloskeys: Legacy of Partnership,"· a lecture presented at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, California, the Golden Years -- Easels in the Arroyos: Plein Air Paintings from the Permanent Collection and Partners in Illusion: William and Alberta McCloskey, Saturday, November 12, 1994; John Fuller McGuigan, Jr., Wrapped Oranges, Still Life Paintings by William J. McCloskey, Master's Thesis, University of Denver, 1995.
32. S. Burns,"Barefoot Boys and Other Country Children: Sentiment and Ideology in Nineteenth-Century American Art," American Art Journal, v. 20, no. 1, 1988, pp. 24-50; Adrian Vincent, Victorian Watercolors of Children, London: Michael Joseph, 1987; "Eakins American Pictures of Children at Play," American Art Journal, v. 18, no. 1, 1986, pp. 21-41; Lee M. Edwards, Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Painting, 1840-1910, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, exh. cat. May 18 -July 14, 1986; Rosamond Olmstead Humm, Children in America: A Study of Images and Attitudes, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, 1978.
33. Painting described, "Renowned Artists -- Mr and Mrs. W. J. McCloskey -- The Famous Portrait Painters," San Francisco Call, Dec. 19, 1897, p. 70, col. 4.
34. Ann. of exh. at Athletic Club, LAT, May 11, 1924, pt. 3, p, 17, col. 5-6.
35. The Garrick in London has one of the largest collections of portraits of actors; "Paintings in the Theatre Museum London," Apollo, n.s. 125, April 1987, pp 258-64; "John Bell, the British Theatre and Samuel DeWilde," Apollo, n.s. 113, Feb. 1981. pp. 100-103; Portraits of the American Stage 1771-1971, Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, 1971; the Japanese and Chinese cultures also produced color wood block prints of famous actors in costume.
36. Nancy Moure's interview with Marshall Gretmore July 25, 1993.
37. Patrons and sitters, LA Herald, Jan. 26, 1895, p. 9, col. 4-5; it may be possible that the McCloskeys' portraits of doctors were made in return for medical advice, but there is no substantiation for this.
38. The Gills Art Galleries Fourteenth Annual Exhibition...1891, catalogue says the couple were members of the New York Water Color Society, the Boston Art Club, the Philadelphia Art Club and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. William's Tangerine Oranges received a mention in Art Amateur, v. 18, no. 6, May 1888, p. 133, col. 1; the couple was briefly discussed in Magazine of Art, vol. unknown, c. Oct-Dec, 1889-90, "American Art Notes," p. iv (not traced).
39. Reminiscences, LA Herald, Feb. 16, 1895, p. 7, col. 1-2.
40. Mrs. Grady in LA Herald, Jan. 26, 1895, p. 9, col. 4-5.
41. No. 1320 (and also 1339) Oranges, oil on canvas, by William McCloskey was sold 6th afternoon's sale, Dec. 7, 1899, Catalogue of Louis Prang's Collection Sold by Public Auction, appendix 3 of Katharine Morrison McClinton, The Chromolithographs of Louis Prang, New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1973. The McCloskeys obviously knew Prang in New York but could also have renewed their acquaintance with him on the West Coast, since he retired to Pasadena, near Los Angeles, in the mid 1890s.
42. Alberta in 27 states, The Magazine of Art, c. October/November/December 1889-90, "American Art Notes," p. iv; Possibly the reason the couple does not appear listed in any of the New York city directories is because they were out of town at the time the yearly publications were compiled. Regarding their possible exhibit in Buffalo, N.Y. -- a call to the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy shows no reference to them in a card file of artists who exhibited there nor in a scrapbook kept by Mrs. Lars G. Sellstedt, whose husband literally ran the institution in the 19th century. Regarding the Atlanta connection -- there is no listing for the artists in the Atlanta City Directory from 1886 through 1895; no check was made of the non-indexed Atlanta Constitution, although Mrs. Grady's article on them probably appeared in it before 1895. Regarding the couple's possible work in Providence, R.I. -- that has not been traced.
43. Ellen Schwartz, Index to the San Francisco Art Association Exhibition Catalogues, unpublished MS; regarding their reported portraits of Mormons -- the McCloskeys do not appear in the Utah Gazetteer & Directory (1884-86, 1888, 1889, 1892-93) or R. L. Polk & Cos. Salt Lake City Directory (1891-92, 1896), nor do any of the experts on the state's art (such as Bill Seifrit, Richard Oman or Robert Olpin) have any references to the McCloskeys working in Utah.
44. Passport and transportation information were not found on the soundex index to the National Archives of the Immigration and Naturalization service, or to the Passport Applications, 1906-1925, or to the Extensions 1910-17.
45. "Noted Painter Exhibits Work at.Siskiyou Camp," The Oregonian, July 26, 1925, p. unknown.
46. Jane Johnson and A. Greutzner, The Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, London: Antique Collectors' Club, 1976, p. 325; Jane Johnson, Works Exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists 1824-1893 and the New English Art Club 1888-1917, Woodbridge: Antique Collector's; Club, 1975; the Royal Society of British Artists winter exh. was held in January and the annual in April.
47. Leeds and Manchester information from typed label on reverse of painting owned by Bowers Museum; these shows are reviewed in the Magazine of`Art, 1890s; Borough of Leeds Municipal Art Gallery Spring Exhibition 1893, invitation to private viewing Feb. 20 (Coll. Robert Canete, Pacific Grove); Jane Johnson, Royal Society, op. cit.
48. Rough translation from the French article that appeared in an unidentified French-language magazine, about May 1893.
49. Societe des Artistes Francais pour l'Exposition des Beaux-Arts de 1893, Salon de I893...Explication des Ouvrages de Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture, Gravure et Lithographiee des Artistes Vivants Exposes an Palais Les Champs-Elysees, May 1, 1893, Paris: Paul Dupont, 1893, no. 1170, Alberta is listed as Mina A. Binford MacCloskey, D-2272 "L'attente" aquarelle.
50. Works reviewed in 18 journals, LA Herald, Jan. 26, 1895, p. 9, col. 4-5; Armand Silvestre review of Salon in unknown French publication c. May 1893 (from McCloskey scrapbook); praise of Ma Fille, Sigmund J. Cauffman, "This Year's Paris Salon," Philadelphia Sunday Press, May 14, 1893, pt. 3, p. 25 and various other issues dealing with the Paris correspondent's review of the French Salon.
51. Rough translation of original letter in French (Coll. Robert Canete, Pacific Grove).
52. Royal Society exh., S.F. Call, Dec. 19, 1897, p. 70, col. 4; exh. in N.Y., LA Herald, Jan. 26, 1895, p. 9, col. 4-5 Organized by Carolyn Kinder Carr and George Gurney, essays by Robert W. Rydell and. Carolyn Kinder Carr, catalogue of works by Brandon Brame Fortune and Michelle Mead, American Art at the 1893 World's Fair, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D. C., 1993.
53. Review of exh. of portraits at their studio, LA Herald, May 13, 1894, p. 4, col. 3; recently arrived from Paris, Land of Sunshine, Nov. 1894, p. 123, col. 2.
54. Robert Simon, The Portrait in Britain and America, Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall, 1987.
55. Although LAT, Nov. 23, 1884, p. 2, col. 3-4 says Alberta studied with Chase, this information is never repeated in any later literature supplied by the couple. Chase did set himself up as a painter of still-lifes and flower pieces in St. Louis, Missouri in 1871 and remained for about a year, but Alberta's family seems to have been in Tennessee that year (at least that is where her brother Robert was born c. 1868 and her brother Charlie born c. 1872) after which time they could have returned to Linn County, Missouri, where they were in 1880. (Linn County records have not yet been searched.) Alberta could have seen Chase's work when she passed through St. Louis at his studio or at his parent's house. Or she could have studied with Chase when he began teaching at the Art Students League, New York in 1878. Alberta's mother and aunt were born in the state of New York, possibly New York City. However, it is also possible that the reporter made a mistake. If Alberta did study with Chase, her later denouncement of Impressionism may also have led her to deny any acquaintance with the artist, who became a leading Impressionist.
56. Alberta McCloskey, "An Artist on Art Principles," LA Herald, May 13, 1894, p. 16, col. 1-3.
58. Alberta's talk before Friday Morning Club, LA Herald, Feb. 16, 1895, p. 7, col. 1-2.; William's comments in Oregonian (Portland), July 26, 1925.
59. Alberta praised, LA Herald, Jan. 26, 1885, p. 9, col. 4-5.
60. Nancy Moure's interview with Marshall Gretmore, May 25, 1993; In the Bay Area the couple stayed at the expensive and posh San Rafael and the Palace Hotels and probably lived similarly well when traveling to other locations; Alberta ultimately went through the couple's money with her high living. Daughter Eleanor recalls making yearly trips to San Francisco and staying in the San Rafael Hotel.
61. LA Herald, May 26, 1895, p. 7, col. 1.
62. "He painted a dollar bill on the floor [of his studio] and he'd watch the guy and see when he tried to pick up the bill. He was full of talk, talk, talk you know. He'd get closer and closer to a guy's face." When Gretmore was asked if his grandfather was hard of hearing, Gretmore responded, "It was everybody around him who got hard of hearing." William's feeling of responsibility to earn his keep while at his son-in-law's camp led him to hard physical effort. His grandson recalls him also saying, "the science of life is forgetting." Two interviews between Nancy Moure and Marshall Gretmore, May 25 and July 25, 1993.
63. McCloskeys leave Los Angeles for England to paint Lytton family, LA Herald, Jan. 26, 1895, p. 9, col. 4-5; off to Paris, Capital, July 6, 1895, p. 5, col. 1; all information on the Cotton States and International Exposition comes from Judy Larson, Curator of American Art, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia who is working on her dissertation for Emery University dealing with the fine arts exhibited at several Southern expositions; the Carnegie Hall archive earliest rental records are 1897-1900 and the McCloskey name does not appear on them -- the McCloskeys may have sublet; Interview conducted by Paul G. Chace of Bowers Museum with Eleanor McCloskey [Russell], 1969.
64. San Francisco Call, Dec. 19, 1897, p. 70, col. 4; painting portrait of Steele, San Francisco Chronicle, April 3, 1898, p. 25, col. 2-3; exh. portraits, Ellen Halteman Schwartz, Index to the San Francisco Art Association Exhibitions, Davis, Ca.: unpublished MS.
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