Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858-1925)
Green Idleness
signed 'W.L. Metcalf' (lower right)
oil on canvas
26 x 29 in. (66 x 73.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1911.
The artist.
Nicholas Biddle, acquired from the above, 1913.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York.
The Manoogian Collection, Michigan, acquired from the above, 1983.
Godel & Co., Inc., New York, aquired from the above, 2011.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 2012.
Copley Gallery, American Art Notes, Boston, Massachusetts, 1912, cover illustration.
L. Merrick, "Exhibitions Now One: Metcalf at Montross's," American Art News, January 6, 1912.
(Possibly) Christian Science Monitor, January 8, 1912.
Sunday Journal, Providence, Rhode Island, April 21, 1912.
E. de Veer, "Willard Metcalf in Cornish, New Hampshire," The Magazine Antiques, November 1984, pp. 1210, 1213, fig. 3, illustrated.
(Possibly) Boston, Massachusetts, Copley Gallery, January 1912.
New York, Montross Gallery, Pictures by Willard Metcalf, January 1912.
Providence, Rhode Island, Rhode Island School of Design, Ten American Painters, April 17-May 1, 1912, n.p., no. 8.
Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, Hood Museum of Art, Winter’s Promise: Willard Metcalf in Cornish New Hampshire, 1909-1920, January 9-March 14, 1999, p. 50, no. 7, illustrated.
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Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Willard Leroy Metcalf Catalogue Raisonné Project Inc., under the direction of Betty Krulik.

The present work depicts Blow-Me-Down Brook in Plainfield, New Hampshire, where Metcalf lived from the late spring to early fall of 1911. Given the varying tones of green suggesting the seasonal transition from spring into summer, Green Idleness is likely one of the earliest works Metcalf completed after his arrival to the area in May.

Bonnie MacAdam writes of the present work, "Aptly titled, Green Idleness embodies the idyllic, leisurely qualities popularly associated with such pastoral settings. The gently ambling stream and mildly stirring clouds provide only the slightest suggestion of movement, and grazing cows offer but an indirect reference to agrarian labor. This composition exemplifies Metcalf's particular skill and interest in producing soothing, tranquil representations of New England's gentle terrain—images that present no hint of arduous work required to sustain a livelihood in such rural locales....In its fair, contemplative subject, as well as in its composition, Green Idleness invokes the time-honored pastoral-landscape tradition that extends back to the early nineteenth-century British painter John Constable and the seventeenth-century Frechman Claude Lorrain. While relying on such classical Claudian elements as framing trees and a central body of water, Metcalf reveals even more contemporary influences in his use of a nearly square format, for instance, and a bright, Impressionistic palette.

"While such a luminescent landscape would certainly have widespread appeal, the image may have held personal significance for its first owner, Nicholas Biddle. An office manager for the Astor estate's vast property holdings in New York, Biddle was the brother of Ellen Biddle Shipman, who lived not far from this spot in Plainfield and was Metcalf's first host in the region. As a compatriot of Metcalf and Charles Platt, Biddle almost certainly found his way to New Hampshire on occasion. Green Idleness, thus, likely recalled for him the region's sylvan landscape." (Winter's Promise: Willard Metcalf in Cornish, New Hampshire, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1999, p. 50)
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