Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830-1902)
Signed and dated "Albert Bierstadt/May 29/90" l.r.
Oil and pencil on paper, sight size 6 1/4 x 7 3/4 in. (15.8 x 19.7 cm), matted, framed.
Condition: Sheet laid down on mat, deckled upper edge, vertical crease to center (as part of the artist's process), discoloration to center possibly due to oils in paint soaking into paper, rippling to right edge, small dog-ear fold to u.r. corner, toning, foxing, scattered stains, scattered minor handling creases.
Provenance: Gift from the artist to Paul A. Putzki; by descent to Dr. Paul S. Putzki, Washington, DC, circa 1936; by descent to Pauletta Putzki Evans, circa 1970; by descent to Susan Evans Middleton and Eleanor Evans, 2015.
N.B. Bierstadt often gifted friends and acquaintances with small artworks made on the spot, like this butterfly. In 1892, a journalist from the Detroit Free Press was invited to the artist's studio with a select group. She reported: "We women were so glad we were women that afternoon, for Mr. Bierstadt presented each lady with a souvenir. This is how he made them. We all clustered about the table and he took out a palette, a knife and some large slips of cartridge paper. Two or three daubs of pigment on the paper, a quick fold, and holding it still folded against a pane of glass, he made two or three strokes of that wizard-like palette knife on the outside, and hey, presto! a wonderful Brazilian butterfly or moth, even the veining on the wings complete! A pencil touch added the antennae, that artist's autograph was added to the corner, and now we each of us own a painting by Bierstadt." (Gordon Hendricks, Albert Bierstadt: Painter of the American West [New York: Abrams, 1974], pp. 302-3).
Bierstadt painted this butterfly in the Washington, DC, studio of fellow German-American artist Paul A. Putzki (1859-1936) on May 29, 1890. Putzki had come to Washington at the request of First Lady Caroline Harrison, who had studied watercolor and china painting with Putzki in Indianapolis and wished Putzki to teach classes at the White House. Putzki's floral studies, many of which were painted in the White House conservatories while the orchids were in bloom, met with particular success in Washington.
Craquelure with scattered losses in the dark blue pigment at the top edge of the wings near the center, the losses are more concentrated on the right wing.
Sheet size 6 3/8 x 8 inches. Cardboard support measures 12 5/8 x 13 5/8 in.
Framed dimensions: 13 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.
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