- Stanton Macdonald-Wright
- signed S. Macdonald-Wright and titled Persimmons on an old exhibition label affixed to the backing
- oil on masonite
- 13 1/4 by 19 1/2 in.
- 33.7 by 49.5 cm.
Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired directly from the artist)
By descent from the above, grandparents of the present owner
Stanton Macdonald-Wright painted still life consistently throughout his career: among his earliest Synchromist abstractions dating from 1911-12 are table-top paintings based on the example of Cézanne, and a late-Synchromist still life sat upon his easel at the time of his death. In the decades in between, many of Macdonald-Wright's most significant paintings included a still life component, including his monumental Synchromy No. 3 of 1917 (Lowenthal Collection, Brooklyn Museum of Art). Persimmons relates specifically, though, to the more figurative work Macdonald-Wright was engaged in at mid-century, including The Jade Flute No. 2 (Weatherspoon Art Museum) of 1941, which compositionally includes the same angle of view as Persimmons with the sharp-edged corner of the table appearing near the upper edge of the image.
Like Macdonald-Wright's Jade Flute, Persimmons includes references to Asian culture, in this instance the subtly discernible design on the white cloth which shows hints of a traditional Oriental calligraphic style. The Persimmons themselves are painted in a startling red, made all the more brilliant via their juxtaposition alternately with the violet cloth and then stark white of the table itself. Always attuned to the symbolic content of his work, Macdonald-Wright was well aware that in Buddhism the persimmon was a symbol of transformation—when young the fruit is bitter and inedible, but as it ages it becomes sweet and beneficial to humankind. Thus, the persimmons here were a kind of self-portrait of the artist, just turning fifty years old at the time of this painting.
The present painting was acquired in Los Angeles during the 1940 National Art Week, which occurred November 25 – December 1, 1940. The event, which was proclaimed by President Roosevelt, grew out of the WPA Art Program. It consisted of art exhibitions, studio visits and art demonstrations and was organized locally by councils formed in communities all over the country. The intention was to encourage American citizens to buy works of art and thereby support artists, whose ranks swelled because of the WPA, and who were generating thousands of works of art. In all, as many as 130,000 works were offered in over 1,600 venues in all 48 states and the District of Columbia.
We are grateful to Will South for his help in the cataloguing of this lot.