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The Oil Paintings of Russell Cowles

September 20, 2013

Equipped with the discipline of a scholar and a vast painting vocabulary, American painter Russell Cowles (1887-1979) produced brilliant landscapes in oil and watercolor. Less than a month away, the October 13, 2013 Modern Art & Design Auction will feature two oil paintings by Cowles, both of which come from the Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield.

Russell Cowles (1887-1979), Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield

Originally from Iowa, Cowles studied painting in Paris and Rome, and upon returning to the United States in 1920, he exhibited his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Cowles had a deep respect for the French masters Cézanne and Gauguin, though he filtered what he learned in Europe through a modern intelligence for color and form.

Canoncito (1935), Russell Cowles, Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield

Canoncito (1935) label, Russell Cowles, Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield

Eager to expand his artistic knowledge, he traveled to Asia where he studied traditional Chinese painting with a Chinese master, and in Bali, he experimented with semi-abstract compositions. He eventually settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he completed some landscapes of the Southwest, “painted with a profound appreciation of the exciting architectural aspects and exhilarating color of the country itself.”

Nova Scotia Morning (1939), Russell Cowles, Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield

Wherever he traveled, Cowles demonstrated his technical prowess combined with patience for the subject: “When an artist sees something he wants to paint, his first step should be to look – to look long and sensitively – to feel what nature has to say.” The painting Nova Scotia Morning (1948), which was featured in the 1948 issue of LIFE magazine, portrays the daily routine of vacationers and locals, rendered in the delicate and capricious light of the eastern seaboard.

LIFE Magazine, Feb. 9, 1948

Lot Information:

Lot 320
Russell Cowles
Canoncito
1935
Oil on canvas
Signed “Cowles” lower left; retains Dalzell Hatfield Galleries label verso
Canvas: 35.5″ x 28″; Frame: 43″ x 35″
Together with photograph by Dalzell Hatfield of the artist
Provenance: The Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield, Los Angeles, California; Thence by descent
Exhibited: “Russell Cowles,” Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, Los Angeles, 1946
Literature: Bear, Donald. Russell Cowles. Los Angeles: Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, 1946. np.
Estimate: $8,000 – 12,000

Lot 321
Russell Cowles
Nova Scotia Morning
1939
Oil on canvas
Signed “Russell Cowles” lower left; retains Kraushaar Gallery label verso; inscribed in pencil on upper canvas stretcher verso “Nova Scotia Morning/Russell Cowles/c/o Kraushaar 32 E. 57th NYC”
Canvas: 40″ x 50″; Frame: 51″ x 61″
Together with copy of LIFE from February 1948
Provenance: The Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield, Los Angeles, California; Thence by descent
Exhibited: “Golden Gate International Exhibition: Contemporary Art,” San Francisco Bay Exposition, February 18-October 29, 1939; “Russell Cowles,” Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, Los Angeles, 1946
Illustrated: “Russell Cowles,” LIFE Magazine Feb. 9, 1948: p 77; Literature: Golden Gate International Exposition: Contemporary Art Official Catalog. San Francisco: San Francisco Bay Exposition Company, 1939. p 36, #87; Bear, Donald. Russell Cowles. Los Angeles: Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, 1946. np.
Estimate: $18,000 – 25,000

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