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Early Oil Sketch
Glackens Masterpiece: The Soda Fountain, 1935
CONTINUED: We offer the Study
for William Glackens' late
portrait of a "Girl in Peasant
Blouse"--number 458 in Ira
Glackens' card catalogue of his
father's works and inscribed
accordingly on the stretcher
(twice) with a cross reference
label (verso) in the hand of
Antoinette Kraushaar to number
226, which is the larger finished
work. See below for more details
of the Glackens catalogue.
Source: Smithsonian Archives
of American Art.
William Glackens
Oil on Canvas
(ca. 15 X 18)
(Call 646-239-6142)
William Glackens, PAGE TWO
Early Study
Barnes & Glackens, ca.1920
Glackens died suddenly during a visit to Charles Prendergast in Westport in the spring of 1938. But he
was already suffering from the effects of his unknown brain aneurysm, with headaches and
deteriorating vision. He had been saddened by the deaths of Maurice Prendergast, Henri, Luks, and
Lawson. He had only just visited John Sloan. Although his paintings had received gold medals from
annual exhibitions at PAFA in 1933 and again in 1936, his work was deteriorating, and he was capable of
only smaller and smaller floral still-life as his field of vision narrowed to a single flower only. This was
the time of his Quimper pitcher paintings. His last masterpiece was certainly "The Soda Fountain" of
1935. Here we see his brilliant focus on women and their costume and their interior as exposed within a
defined setting. Color can work two ways as Glackens clearly understood as he contrasts exterior
setting with costume to open up the woman's emotional resonance. Of interest is the fact that son Ira
Glackens modeled for the role of soda jerk. We show this masterpiece below along with two earlier
studies--making the point that studies generally exist for all of Glackens major works, and that these
help us to understand what the painter wanted us to know. Ira claims the last thing he painted was an
almost squeezed out tube of paint lying near to his easel. Forbes Watson asserted that Glackens
focused on strong color effects, above all else, because "the color of the world makes him thoroughly
happy and to express that happiness in color has become his first and most natural impulse." It is
absolutely true that his paintings are "haunted by the specter of happiness, [because he was] obsessed
with the contemplation of joy." After all, all he did was paint lifelong--that was his joy.
Owing to son Ira Glackens, the country's largest collection of the painter's art is housed at the Fort
Lauderdale Museum of Art, Nova University, Florida, which holds approximately 500 Glackens paintings
in its permanent collection, filling an entire wing dedicated to his works, and including a replica of the
living room of Glackens' Washington Square townhouse. Ira is also the source of a rich and funny
memoir of his father that shows his dedication, and he was responsible for the management of the
huge horde of paintings Glackens left behind, mostly warehoused in Portland. From his estate in
Shepardstown, working with Antoinette Kraushaar, for over thirty years he helped sell his father's
works earning some $50,000 and more on average per year. Payments in 1968 totaled $96,865.32, for
example, supplementing his inheritance, investments and his own earnings. A handwritten list headed
"Kraushaar Payments" on Ira Glackens stationery in the Smithsonian Archives of American Arts reads:
1969 ($76,317.66), 1970 (52,599.97), 1971 (blank), 1972 (63,203.67), 1973 (59,000.00), 1974 (blank), 1975
(37,016.66), 1976 (blank), 1977(63,888.33)--for example. Ira and Antoinette Kraushaar corresponded
frequently regarding these sales, sales conducted through a private foundation, and donations--at
times he is anxious to receive payment in order to invest in a rising stock market. Both his college
(Dartmouth) and his wife Nancy's (Smith) hold important Glackens pieces received as gifts.

Ira as defender of the canon tried manfully to rule out forgeries, as in the following letter, written to the
Director of a major New York Gallery and also from the Smithsonian Archives of American art: "28 April
1984  / Dear Mr. F...: This is a difficult letter to write. My questioning of the little drawing alleged to be by
Wm. Glackens is not because someone else questioned it. When my attention was drawn to it I saw at
once that it was not the work of Wm. Glackens. It is not in the least in his style. Perhaps you are not
familiar enough with his graphics, for if you were I should think you would see this too. Nor is there any
composition. Spatial relationship is absent. The artist was a good one, but not W.G. Father's drawings
are always immediately recognizable because of an indefinable something that is uniquely his--in his
manner--or, as I said, style. Your little drawing lacks this entirely. The provenance seems fishy to me
too. Father did not give his old illustrations away--he didn't suppose anyone would want them. He had
very few, in an old portfolio covered with dust. Nowadays every work of art must have a "history", and
histories are very easy to make up. What distressed me is seeing works attributed to father that are
obviously wrong attributions or obvious fakes. More and more of both these sorts are appearing on the
market. In my opinion your drawing, which belongs of course in the first category, is just one more, and
you [Mr. F...] have been sold "a bill of goods." I am sorry. Yours sincerely." Ira's papers are full of
requests for verification and his frequent denials, but there is also no mistaking his joy when a genuine
discovery is brought to him.

But organizing the huge legacy of paintings eventually proved too difficult for Ira Glackens and
Kraushaar. Ira produced a huge card catalogue of over 800 numbered entries and these numbers are
found on the stretchers of many of the respective works. In our case the number 226 matches the
finished painting and 458 is twice inscribed on the stretcher of the study matching Ira's card. A hand
written label on the study cross references the matching number of the finished painting. (The finished
painting was put up for auction at Sotheby’s in 2006 and again at Freeman’s in 2010—with a highest
estimate of $250,000.) But examples of mis-numbering are frequent and Ira's system is unclear since he
deliberately skips numbers without explanation. Jorge Santis (writing in W.H. Gerdts, “William
Glackens,” Abbeville,1996, p. 189), indicates that Ira’s wife Nancy also worked on the cataloguing and
that she focused mainly on oils on canvas, omitting oils on board and watercolors. We see the
catalogue at times shifting to the next higher round 100 number when the medium changes. And while
Kraushaar started out by using these numbers in lists and on invoices--their practice was inconsistent
and soon lapsed. Ira's terminology is also unclear since he refers to finished works as unfinished at
times--sometimes he means unvarnished, but this is not clear. He is effective when it comes to size,
and in our case the size numbers are correct.

Then there are occasional annotations by Ira on individual cards. For example, on one card we find
penciled in the hard-to-make out word "Grafin" a puzzle until we read in Ira's memoir, "William Glackens
and the Ash Can Group" (NY, 1957) reissued as "William Glackens and The Eight" (NY, 1990): "Leopold
Stokowski was often at the Barneses', and time was spent looking at pictures, with which the walls were
hung and closets crowded. A canvas by William, a portrait of the model Zenka Stein, known as "Old
Stein," who posed for all the artists of her day--for she was peculiarly paintable--fascinated him. Again
and again he returned to it, shaking his head and saying, "The Grӓfin!"And so the painting is known
today as: The Grӓfin S.," though Stein was from Bohemia, and certainly no Grӓfin [Countess]."

The card catalogue remains the best source of provenance for Glackens, but it clearly has its faults. Ira  
was overwhelmed by assigned titles--there are just so many "portraits of a lady" and so many ladies.
Remember that Glackens was less prone to use professional models and more attracted to relatives,
friends, visitors, servants and their friends. The problem is manifest in a note by him on a list of
paintings delivered to Kraushaar dated August 21, 1961 (again from the Smithsonian Archives of
American Art): "The last item is about the only Bellport type picture left. Have no idea where it was
painted. The cliff is probably a sand dune and the thing done on Long Island. Wish I could think of a
better title for Head of a Young Woman, which is not very distinctive; there are so many. How about
calling her Miriam or something like that? She looks as if her name ought to be Miriam." His memory
just gave out and names are confused throughout. His identification of the subject in the study we offer
as Natalie is probably random and creates confusion with a more well-known Natalie--the subject of a
work now in the Tacoma art museum--but the finished painting is catalogued only as "Girl Wearing a
Peasant Blouse." We feel certain it was the embroidery on the blouse that caught Glackens' eye. While
the 1936 date on both cards suggests composition in the two months Glackens was in Paris that year, it
is also possible that the work is earlier than 1936 and was done in Cannes in 1934. But this is less
important than the opportunity provided by the study to once again see just how Glackens goes about
transforming the image into a masterpiece of color and feminine insight.
We think the same model
for "Girl in Peasant
Blouse" is seen on the
left in No. 601 "Head of a
Woman with Fur Collar."
On the right is the better
known Natalie of No. 314
"Natalie with Blue Skirt"
now in the Tacoma Art
Back to Glackens, P. 1
Next Catalogue Page (Goodwin)
"Woman in Green" study and final portrait by Glackens show similar pose.