Monday, January 01, 2007

Frederick Polley: "Twin Barns"

For Christmas this year, my brother and I purchased this oil painting by Frederick Polley to give to my mother. My brother did all of the heavy lifting on this one, handling the live auction by phone and paying the great majority of the actual cost. He paid a handsome sum for this little gem, more by several hundred dollars, than any of us have paid to date for a Polley work. But the oils are fairly rare, and this is a very nice one.

A small piece, 9.25 x 11.25 inches, it is nevertheless a beautiful example of Polley's affection for the rural setting. We have no provenance to prove it, but this scene looks very much like it could have been from his Brown County years in the early 1940's in which he lived and worked in the artist community around Nashville, Indiana. One the back of the canvas board, handwritten, it says "Twin Barns - $20", which we all found ruefully amusing since the winning bid was for $1000, plus fees. Uncle Fred, a man of modest temperament, would be pleased and shocked, no doubt, at the way his art continues to increase in value. My grandmother never fails to mention how very, very pleased he would be, too, if he knew that his family valued and collected his works.

This piece is seemingly more impressionistic than some. There are portions of the foreground that are finely detailed and other sections, like the misty ridge in the background that are more suggestive. There are a lot of pinkish hues at work in the barn and on the rough, dirt road, but the effect is pleasing and suggests that there may have been some atypical lighting available that day. It is common, in this part of the country, to see two such barns of different design and vintage to be huddled together thus. They share a relationship not unlike that of the two finely drawn trees in the foreground. It is interesting though, that Polley titled the work "Twin Barns", if indeed that title is of his choosing, since they are not, in fact, twins at all.

My mom was very pleased with this and I am proud of my brother for making this happen. Her life is full right now, but I continue to encourage her to work on her biography of Frederick Polley. I have voluteered to help, too. Maybe 2007 will be the year.


Listening: "Samson" by Regina Spektor from her recent album Begin To Hope. JP gave me this album for my birthday and it is very good. There are some superficial similarities to Tori Amos, but Spektor really has some interesting, non-formulaic, compositional ideas. And she is an excellent, unusual vocalist. Check her can find her on Youtube, iTunes, and all of the ususal places.


Sharon said...

It's a beautiful, very restful painting. What a lovely and thoughtful gift!

Marcy said...

Are you related to him ? He is my cousin and we have some of his works and we lost alot in the fire!

Anonymous said...

I'm doing a family genogram and just discovered Polley is my great great grandfather. My father has at least one of his paintings that I'm aware of. Family history is so interesting!

david said...

The Yolo County Historical Museum in Woodland California has a Watercolor on paper 17" x 20" that they are putting on e-bay. It is call Casading Rapids Framed and signed by Frederick Polley.

Barry Pike said...

Thanks, David, I really appreciate knowing this. I'm interested in seeing this painting and will keep my eye open for the auction.