“George Walter Dawson to Amy & Thornton Oakley,” reads the inscription across the top of Dawson’s 1912 watercolor, White Water Lily. At first glance the inscription is a fairly innocuous textual anomaly: an addition made by the artist on the occasion of the painting’s transfer to his friends, the Oakleys. Yet, when one pauses to consider the sentiment behind this exchange—that White Water Lily had been a gift from Dawson to his friends—the painting takes on new meaning. Thornton and Amy Oakley were artists and book illustrators who most likely met George Walter Dawson through the Philadelphia Water Color Club. As they shared social circles, artistic inclinations, and mutual affinity for such a nuanced medium, the Oakleys no doubt saw the gesture implicit in Dawson’s meaningful gift. Beyond the painted surface of White Water Lily lies a heartfelt indication of friendship, endowing the work with a symbolic significance beyond its intrinsic value.
Dawson was not the only nineteenth century artist to gift his paintings to friends, nor was he the only one to inscribe them so. Many nineteenth century American artists engaged in this artistic exchange with friends and family on notable occasions—such as marriages, births—or, sometimes (and perhaps most sweetly) for no particular reason at all. Hudson River School artists, in particular, exercised an artistic practice so detailed, nuanced and full of grace that their gifted paintings carry not only the sentiment with which they were given, but also the weight of their ultimate devotion to the craft. Wrought as they are with sentimental meaning, these gifted paintings are often passed down through the generations to become family heirlooms: truly, a joy forever.
Hawthorne Fine Art has brought together some of the finest works in its collection for an exhibition that celebrates the painting as gift. Whether it is with exaltation of America’s sublime beauty—as in Charles H. Chapin’s Waterfall in the Adirondacks, or Paul Weber’s Cattle Watering; in an homage to travel, such as John Williamson’s Venetian Sunset; or in the winter scenes by Douglas Arthur Teed and Frank S. Herrmann that capture the true spirit of the season, A Joy Forever highlights works especially fit for giving, as we invite you share a timeless painting with a loved one.
To view the exhibition, click here.
Over 40 works priced at or under $7,500. Priced as marked.
All works subject to prior sale.
Hawthorne Fine Art is open by appointment and is located at 12 East 86th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. We welcome your visit and wish you joy this holiday season!