Lot 8
  • 8

Seymour Joseph Guy 1824-1910

300,000 - 500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Seymour Joseph Guy
  • Story of Golden Locks
  • signed S.J. Guy, l.l.
  • oil on canvas
  • 34 by 28 in.
  • (86.4 by 71.1 cm)
  • Painted circa 1870.


Continental Art Gallery, San Francisco, California
John C. R. Tompkins, Millbrook, New York, 1972
Tillou Gallery, Litchfield, Connecticut, 1972
Nathan Liverant and Son, Colchester, Connecticut
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1973
Acquired from the present owners from the above, 1973


Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Narrative Painting, October-November 1974, no. 58, pp. 116, 124, illustrated p. 125
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, An American Perspective: Nineteenth-Century Art from the Collection of Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr., October 1981-September 1982, pp. 57-58, illustrated p. 136


Martha Hutson, "American Narrative Painting, The Painter's America: Rural and Urban Life, 1810-1910, Exhibition Review," American Art Review, no. 1, November-December 1974, illustrated p. 99 and cover
The Magazine Antiques, v. CXXIII, March 1983, no. 3, pp. 612-613, illustrated
David Lubin, Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth- Century America, New Haven, Connecticut, 1994, pp. 209, 238-241, 246, illustrated in color p. 239
Ellen Handler Spitz, Inside Picture Books, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, illustrated in color on cover
Barbara Dayer Gallati, Great Expectations: John Singer Sargent Painting Children, New York, 2004, p. 69, illustrated


Very good condition; lined; under UV: a dime sized spot of inpainting in lower left corner, a few very minor fine lines of inpainting to craquelure in boys' hair, a few other very minor dots of retouching, particularly at top left edge, otherwise fine.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

One of the most successful genre painters of the late 19th century, Seymour J. Guy was born in Greenwich, England in 1824, and received his academic training with marine painter Thomas Buttersworth and portraitist Ambrose Jerome.  In 1854 he moved to New York and maintained a studio in the famous 10th Street Studio building alongside John George Brown. In 1865, he was elected to the National Academy and his work was exhibited widely. Guy specialized in portraits and genre paintings of women and children in domestic interiors. His paintings are often noted for their smooth, lacquered finish, a product of the artist's carefully layered glazes, a technique he developed painting portraits during his years in England.  He was also drawn to the use of dramatic lighting, which would produce stark contrasting effects in his interiors.  

Guy's genre paintings of children were popular with such eminent collectors as Samuel P. Avery, John M. Falconer, William H. Vanderbilt, Thomas B. Clarke and Jay Gould. His sentimental, often understated approach to his subjects appealed to a public with an undeniable  taste for pictures bathed in gentility and Victorian mores. Linda Ayres writes that in Guy's work, "the viewer is confronted with the Victorian glorification of childhood.  Artists and poets, Henry Tuckerman wrote in 1867, believe that the image of childhood is 'a redeeming presence, a harmonizing and hopeful element, the token of what we were, and prophecy of what we may be.'  As may be expected, these scenes of the hope, promise, and innocence of American's youth were especially prevalent following the devastation of the Civil War" (Linda Ayres, An American Perspective, 1981, pp. 56-57).

The post-Civil War interest in childhood brought with it a heightened focus on the trappings of middle-class family life. Guy's Story of Golden Locks, painted circa 1870, depicts a girl, probably the artist's daughter Edith, reading to her two young brothers (Charles and William). The scene is one of reassuring comfort and warmth;  the girl has reached the climax of The Story of the Three Bears when Golden Locks escapes out of a window after she is caught sleeping in their home. Her wide-eyed younger brothers lie tucked under their bedcovers, visibly frightened by the cautionary tale. She, on the other hand, plays her maternal role with perfect poise, a position she will one day assume with her own children and for which she will be well-prepared.