Lot 34
  • 34

Marvin Cone 1891-1965

120,000 - 180,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Marvin Cone
  • Stone City Landscape
  • signed MARVIN CONE (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 24 by 30 inches
  • (61 by 76.2 cm)
  • Painted in 1936.


Mr. and Mrs. John C. Reid
Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Fennell, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
The Estate of Gordon Fennell (sold: Chicago, Illinois, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, May 11, 1986, lot 163, illustrated) 
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale


Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Coe College, Stewart Memorial Art Library, Exhibition of Paintings by Marvin D. Cone, April-June 1936, no. 16
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Cedar Rapids Art Center; Mason City, Iowa, Charles H. MacNider Museum; Ames, Iowa, Iowa State University; Muscatine, Iowa, Muscatine Art Center; Davenport, Iowa, Davenport Art Gallery; Cedar Falls, Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Marvin D. Cone: A Retrospective Exhibition, November 1980-January 1981, no. 16 (Cedar Rapids only)


Joseph S. Czestochowski, Marvin D. Cone: Art as Self-Portrait, Cedar Rapids, 1989, no. 328, pp. 186, 200, 206, 232

Catalogue Note

Born in 1891, Marvin Cone spent the majority of his life living and working in his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was here that he established his lifelong friendship with Grant Wood, a fellow painter with whom he shared trips abroad and a shared interest in depicting the simple beauty of their local landscape. Wood, who would become recognized as an iconic American painter and the chief proponent of the aesthetic movement known as Regionalism, profoundly respected his friend's work, once observing: “[Cone is] still keeping his strong use of pattern and design, this past season of working so long and so directly from nature has given a certain depth and connection to his work. Happily, this added realism has in no way diminished the poetry that has always been so characteristic of Marvin Cone’s painting” (quoted in Joseph S. Czestochowski, Marvin D. Cone: An American Tradition, New York, 1985, p. 3).

Cone’s 1936 painting, Stone City Landscape, epitomizes the artist’s deeply personal version of the Regionalist aesthetic. Like such painters as Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Wood, Cone took his greatest inspiration from the pastoral imagery around him, believing that the American landscape was an essential component of the American identity. In the summers of 1932 and 1933, Cone and Wood were vital participants in the Stone City Art Colony, then an important hub for Regionalist painters. Despite the financial support of John C. Reid, a successful Cedar Rapids businessman and community activist, the colony closed in 1933. The Stone City area, however, continued to serve as the setting for many of Cone’s most important paintings throughout the 1930s, including the present work.

Stone City Landscape showcases Cone at the height of his artistic powers. Exhibiting his comprehensive understanding of compositional design as well as his unique vision of his native land, Cone deconstructs the landscape into layers of component parts in order to emphasize the complex formations of land and sky that were particular to this locale. Suffused with a subtle golden hue, the canvas beautifully captures the specific nuances of light as it bathes down on the rolling hills below. As in all of his landscapes, however, Cone primarily seeks to evoke the inherent yet intangible poetry of the Iowa countryside in Stone City Landscape, rather than to directly transcribe its physical properties: “The purpose of art is not to reproduce life,” he stated in 1939, “but to present an editorial, a comment on life…The artist does not set out to imitate nature. What would be the purpose of that?” (quoted in Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 19, 1938, p. 15). Here as Cone renders Stone City as an image of pastoral tranquility and limitless fecundity, his deep admiration for the natural beauty of his home undoubtedly shines through.