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«Cape Cod Museum of Art May 27 - August 27, 2006 WILLIAM H. LITTLEFIELD 1902 - 1969 A RETROSPECTIVE Cape Cod Museum of Art May 27 - August 27, 2006 ...»

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1902 -1969

Cape Cod Museum of Art May 27 - August 27, 2006


1902 - 1969


Cape Cod Museum of Art May 27 - August 27, 2006


One of the dreams of every museum is to be able to mount an innovative exhibition of work that directly supports its mission. This first retrospective of William Littlefield’s work qualifies in every respect.

As a region, Cape Cod and the Islands, has a long tradition of being one of the richest artistic centers in the US. We are the only art museum that represents the entire Cape Cod and island region past and present. The museum’s mission is to collect, conserve, study, interpret and exhibit works by outstanding artists associated with Cape Cod and the Islands. Through its programs, the museum seeks to preserve the artistic heritage of the area and to foster artistic and cultural growth within the individual and the community.

Littlefield’s work reflects the influences of his time and makes clear the relationship between the art of Cape Cod and the larger world. James Bakker, as curator, has brought together representative examples of Littlefield’s work from diverse periods and, by his excellent scholarship, produced a catalogue which both illuminates Littlefield and establishes concrete links to other artists and movements during his lifetime.

We are indebted to the curator and the lenders to this exhibition for their contribution to the museum and to American art history.

Elizabeth Ives Hunter Executive Director

front and back cover illustrations :

In A Metaphysical Vein, January 11, 1956 mixed media on panel, 23 x 18 Signed and dated lower left and again on the reverse Private Collection In A Metaphysical Vein, reverse side

preceeding page illustration :

Rape of the Muse, 1934, pencil and wash on paper, 8 x 11 Signed, titled, and dated on the reverse Collection of the CCMA © 2006 JAMES R. BAKKER, all rights reserved PO Box 2034, Route 6A, Dennis, Massachusetts 02638


First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge Arthur Hughes, without whose steadfast devotion, research, and labor this exhibition would not have been possible. He and his wife, Lanie Fleischer were a constant source of inspiration for me throughout the project. Fred and Gloria McDarrah also shed much light on Bill, the man, in addition to Bill, the artist. Vince Grimaldi brought forth much new information about Bill, the student, teacher, and mentor. Judy Throm and Tessa Veazey provided great assistance while conducting my research at the Washington, D.C., offices of the Archives of American Art. Robert Edwards assisted me in that research and various other aspects of the development of the Littlefield exhibition. Edie Bruce, Chris Busa, Trevor Fairbrother, John Grillo, and Laura Reckford, gave generously of their time to speak with me and also brought forth various new information about the artist. Doug Ritter spent many hours organizing, reviewing, and preparing the catalogue text and illustrations.

From that wintry day in Provincetown when Elizabeth Ives Hunter and Michael Giaquinto first proposed this show, both have been encouraging and helpful at every step throughout the planning of this exhibition. Angela Bilski wrote and sent countless letters and emails to assure that all the loan agreements were in order. The staff of the Cape Cod Museum of Art made every detail seem easier to accomplish. As part of their 25th anniversary celebrations, it is fitting that the CCMA should organize the first major retrospective of William H. Littlefield, since his death in

1969. The Museum has extensive holdings of the artist’s work in their own permanent collection and has also borrowed from numerous institutions and private collections to give a greater perspective to the brilliant career of this often overlooked painter of Cape Cod.

I wish to thank Jennifer Gaines and Susan Witzell of the Woods Hole Historical Museum and Jill Tompkins of the Falmouth Artists Guild for spending time with me and arranging the loans from their collections. My thanks and sincere appreciation go to the individual lenders: Russell Bigelow, Reed Boland, Arthur Cohen and Daryl Otte, Tom Gregg, Hans Hoppenbrouwers and Daniel Petrucci, Arthur Hughes and Lanie Fleischer, Kent Karlock, Andrea and Donald Kline, Frederick Maddox, and those anonymous collectors for disrupting their decor and sharing their treasures. These important loans give us a clearer understanding of Littlefield’s artistic evolution, from his early figurative work to


expressionism spanning five decades.

Perhaps the greatest insight comes from Littlefield’s own correspondence, writings and the thoughtful documentation recorded on the reverse of most of his work. Many previously unknown works were discovered and are exhibited here for the first time. I am certain that the world has not seen or heard the last of William H. Littlefield and hope that this exhibition lays the ground work for future scholarship and discovery about this remarkable artist.

James R. Bakker Guest Curator Portrait of William Littlefield in Paris by Alexis Arapoff, circa 1928 watercolor on paper, 20 x 12 1/2 Inscribed lower left and inscribed “ Adressez-vous donc aux maitres, parlez-leur, ils vous repondron(t),...(Ingres)” Private Collection Willaim H. Littlefield by James R. Bakker

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In a letter dated November 24, 1924, William Zorach writes to the discouraged Littlefield suggesting he make contact with several American artists living in Paris at the time who might be of help to him, including Hunt Diederich, John Storrs, and George Ault of whom he warns that “ I hear that he is going to the dogs fast and furious.” Zorach also writes of Albert Gleizes, an important French modernist at the time. Littlefield shared a studio apartment at 23 Villa Chauvelot near the Gare Montparnasse in Paris with the influential Modernist printmaker Stanley William Hayter.

Although Bill had some success exhibiting his work with the Independents, he was unable to properly manage his finances and was dependent on the stipends sent from his parents, who grew increasingly impatient and annoyed with his progress and lifestyle. Littlefield spent much of his time and money traveling around the French countryside with a dancer Nicholas Podiapolski. Nicholas was the model in numerous drawings and oil Nicholas Dancing, 1928 paintings from this period including ink on paper, 15 x 11 1/2 Signed and dated upper right Nicholas Dancing and Bather in Blue. In Private Collection a letter dated June 10, 1928, his mother asks “ Who is this Nicholas– is he with you all the time?” and warns him that if he has to sell his “ books and furniture for ‘something to eat’ you had better sell them for your FARE and come home.” In the Spring of 1929, Littlefield received his first important commission when Editions des Quatre Chemins published a portfolio of six black-and-white lithographs of boxers. Many of the preparatory drawings for this series were exhibited and sold by the Weyhe Gallery in New York, who encouraged and first represented Littlefield in the United States. Mrs. John D. Rockefeller was among Littlefield’s first patrons. He also received encouragement from French artists Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac and Luc-Albert Moreau whom he met in St. Tropez where Littlefield created some of his finest work.

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the resident physician. It was not long after that he listed his address as 43 Binney Street in Boston where his mother ran the Longwood Riding Stable.

While Littlefield was in Paris his parents had purchased property in Falmouth, Massachusetts, at 29 Depot Avenue and Littlefield spent his first summer on Cape Cod. The barns were turned into Longwood Riding Stable, a summer counterpart of his mother’s Boston riding stable. The Cape Cod landscape and views of the Falmouth family property inspired much of his work from the early 1930’s. Littlefield writes, “ My work is of the Courbet, Corot,Cezanne line of descent of a constructed and balanced composition of two and three dimensional planes.” Littlefield demonstrates his bold new style with a looser brushwork and richer saturation of color in his 1930 View from the Cape Codder Hotel of the Saconnesset Hills and Falmouth and Farmhouse.

Falmouth (Farmhouse and Pastureland), 1932 oil on canvas, 20 x 36 Signed and dated lower left and titled and dated 1930 on the reverse Private Collection In 1931 the John Becker Galleries of New York mounted the first one-person show for Littlefield. Bill was a participant in the First Biennial at the Whitney Museum that opened in New York City in November of 1932. Lincoln Kirstein, who had commissioned a full-length portrait two years earlier, asked Bill to create stage sets for Serenade and Mozartiana, the American Ballet’s first production, performed at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.

Littlefield’s father died in the spring of 1933 followed by the suicide of his mother later that October, leaving the artist to fend for himself days before his thirty-first birthday. Littlefield was included in the 1936 Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition and illustrated in their publication, New Horizons in America.

Throughout the 1930’s, Littlefield continued to create many works based on Greek and Roman mythological themes including Dream of Adonis and Heracles and Lichas. In 1938 the artist had another one-person show at the Grace Horne Galleries in Boston.

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This panel, the first of several based on the garden statue of a young boy given him by his dealer and patron T. Gilbert Brouillette, represents the abandonment of his representational Statue (of a young boy), April 26, 1949 style for an abstract style Littlefield mixed media on panel, 10 1/2 x 9 Signed, dated, and titled on the reverse would further develop and experiment Private Collection with over the next twenty years.

Pavia in the formation of The Club, Littlefield rented a studio in lower another artist membership organization Manhattan and began his study made up of predominately fellow 10th with Morris Davidson in the fall Street artists, which became central in of 1951 and participated in an establishing the Abstract Expressionist exhibition of “Paintings by Pupils movement. Bill acted as “administrator” of Morris Davidson” at the Argent and “secretary treasurer” of The Club Galleries. Contemporary Arts, a until it dissolved in the early 1960’s. It non-profit membership organization was here that Littlefield socialized with incorporated in 1931 that encouraged Franz Kline, Fred McDarrah and others other artists including Mark Tobey, that would have a profound influence Mark Rothko, and Francis Criss, gave on his life and painting. Bill also studied Littlefield a one-person exhibition with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown in January of 1952. Later that year, during the Summer of 1952. Since Littlefield participated with Philip the Hofmann School was a non-credit school, the Veterans Administration denied the considerations given to accredited art schools. Littlefield was advised to transfer to another school after the close of the summer session.

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