Lot 17
  • 17


250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Niles Spencer
  • In Fairmont
  • signed NILES SPENCER - © (lower right); also signed again, dated '51 and titled IN FAIRMONT (on the reverse upper tacking edge)
  • oil on canvas
  • 65 1/2 by 41 1/2 inches
  • (166.3 by 105.4 cm)


The Downtown Gallery, New York
Edward Joseph Gallagher Jr., Baltimore, Maryland
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1956 (gift from the above as the Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection; sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 17, 2012, lot 33)
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2012


Champaign, Illinois, University of Illinois, Contemporary American Painting, March-April 1952, no. 125, p. 233, illustrated pl. 33
New York, The Downtown Gallery, Niles Spencer: Paintings, October-November 1952, no. 10, n.p., cover illustration
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Akron, Ohio, Akron Art Institute; Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum; Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Gallery of Art, Niles Spencer: A Retrospective Exhibition, June-August 1954
Paris, France, Musée d'Art Moderne, 50 ans d'art aux États-Unis, March-May 1955, no. 33, p. 37, illustrated pl. 10
Zürich, Switzerland, Kunsthaus; Barcelona, Spain, Palacio de la Virreina & Museo de Arte Moderno; Frankfurt, Germany, Haus des Deutschen Kunsthandwerks; London, Tate Gallery; The Hague, Netherlands, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag; Vienna, Austria, Secession Galerie; Belgrade, Serbia, Kalemegdan Pavilion, Modern Art in the U.S.A., July 1955-August 1956, no. 33 (London catalogue: pp. 17, 31, illustrated pl. 11)
New York, The Downtown Gallery, New Art in America, October-November 1957
Moscow, Russia, American National Exhibition, July-August 1959
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Paintings and Sculpture from the American National Exhibition in Moscow, October-November 1959
Lexington, Kentucky, University of Kentucky Art Gallery; Utica, New York, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute; Portland, Maine, Portland Museum; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Allentown, Pennsylvania, Allentown Art Museum; Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Gallery of Art; Providence, Rhode Island, Rhode Island School of Design; East Hampton, New York, Guild Hall, Niles Spencer, October 1965-August 1966, no. 120, pp. 16, 36, cover illustration
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Art of the United States 1670-1966, September-November 1966, no. 262, p. 154
Katonah, New York, The Katonah Gallery, The American Scene and New Formations of Modernism 1935-1954, January-March 1976, no. 63, illustrated
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art at the Equitable Center, Niles Spencer, April-June 1990, p. 15


The Museum of Modern Art, Painting and Sculpture in The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1958, p. 57 (also included in later editions)
Edwin L. Dale Jr., "Gray Flannel Bosses: Industrialism and Industrial Man," The New York Times Book Review, October 1960, p. BR46, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1951 at the height of his career and technical mastery, In Fairmont exemplifies Niles Spencer's lifelong fascination with industrial imagery. Based on sketches and studies of a large ventilator at the glass works in Fairmont, West Virginia, this is the larger of two canvases dedicated to the subject. Noted for its highly-refined geometric aesthetic with a focus on simplification of form, flattened perspective, and muted tones, the present oil is among the masterworks of the artist's oeuvre.

In Fairmont appeared on the cover of Spencer's first major retrospective in 1965. In his description of these mature compositions, the scholar Richard B. Freeman writes: "The paintings ... became increasingly daring and monumental. Shapes settled elegantly and irrevocably into convincing positions. The colors sang in a muted rich baritone chorus of tans, greys, rusts and greens, with occasional vivid greys and blacks giving structural drama. An almost suppressed excitement invaded what had been the lyric calm of his classicism" (Niles Spencer, Lexington, Kentucky, 1965, p.16).