John La Farge (American, 1835-1910)
A Torii on Lake Chuzenji, Japan
Titled and inscribed on the frame backing paper, with a Doll & Richards label numbered "A 36145" affixed to the frame backing paper.
Watercolor on paper mounted to paperboard, 8 5/8 x 11 1/16 in. (21.7 x 28.0 cm), framed.
Condition: Pencil lines framing the perimeter on three sides, gentle toning.
Provenance: Susan Channing Cabot Lyman (Mrs. Arthur T. Lyman, Jr.), by descent to Susan Channing Lyman Wearn c. 1934, by gift to Susan Lyman Wearn Drew (Brooklin, Maine), by descent to the current owner.
Literature: James L. Yarnall, Recreation and Idleness: The Pacific Travels of John La Farge (New York: Vance Jordan Fine Art, Inc., 1998), p. 37, color illustration fig. 59, p. 38.
N.B. John La Farge travelled with his longtime friend Henry Adams (1835-1915) to Japan in 1886, both men seeking fresh starts. The two travelling companions were in the area of Nikko in July of that year to escape an epidemic of cholera that had broken out in Tokyo and Yokohama. As James Yarnall details in his book John La Farge, A Biographical and Critical Study, of the over thirty watercolors, two oils, and handful of drawings with Nikko subject matter, La Farge painted only a small percentage during the trip. Most were painted between 1887 and 1889 when La Farge reworked his journals for travel articles for Century Magazine (1). One reason for this was that La Farge often found the weather too difficult to paint from nature in Nikko due to the oppressive heat and inordinately wet summer. He would work from photographs taken on site and painted at their lodging in the coolness of the early morning or late evening. La Farge recorded that the mountains near Nikko were often shrouded in mist, as is the mountain shown here, which is probably the holy mountain Mt. Nantai. James Yarnall described this watercolor in his exhibition catalog essay "Recreation and Idleness: The Pacific Travels of John La Farge" as an exquisite picture and one which Yarnall believed may have been painted at least in part "on-the-spot." (2)
1) James L. Yarnall, John La Farge, A Biographical and Critical Study (Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 142-143.
2) James L. Yarnall, Recreation and Idleness: The Pacific Travels of John La Farge (New York: Vance Jordan Fine Art, Inc., 1998), p. 37.
The Doll & Richards number "A 36145" references a work order for framing at Doll & Richards placed by Mrs. Arthur T. Lyman, Waltham, dated December 16, 1935. A scan of the original work order has been provided courtesy of the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, which is the custodian of the Doll & Richards archives.
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