Sunday, July 8, 2012

WPA Baltimore Cityscape?

I picked up this original framed artwork from a yard sale recently and it's got me stumped. The owner purchased it from some women's charity sale and paid a pretty good amount for it (more than I like to pay, anyway). It is a detailed panoramic view of an industrial city scape and it looks like it was done using pastels.
Here's where the mystery begins. Who did it? The artist's signature is pretty indecipherable but I think it says 'Sutton' or 'Sulton.' -Haven't been able to find out anything about that name. The second question is the age. The style is that of WPA or Mid century itinerant artists and the subject matter definitely looks like 1930s or 1940s. Could it have been done much more recently by some art student in the style of the WPA period?

I don't think so because the foreground looks so authentically 1940s, it would be difficult to fake in my opinion. And look at the mid foreground. That mist seems like the sinking, heavy mist from smoke stacks. That looks authentic to me. Would an artist from our time think to put that in? I don't think so. -Not unless that person's quite good.
And the background waterfront is permeated with old, industrial images. The simmering, languid haze of the harbor almost looks impressionist in execution. Monet-like, even.
And that leaves the final question. What city does this scene depict? It seems clear from the number of smoke stacks, the early 20th Century building types and the activity on the streets, the time period is from a long-ago Northeastern city. But which one? My guess is Baltimore. The brick tower on the left of the picture bears an uncanny resemblance to The Bromoseltzer Tower in downtown Baltimore. The positioning of the brick tower and commercial district as it relates to the harbor also point to the picture depicting Baltimore. It's very plausible that the distant harbor structures represent beloved symbols of Baltimore's past like the Pratt Street Power Station and the Dominoe Sugar plant.
One more thing. The frame looks old to me. It seems to have 'old wear' and the style of the frame and paper backing look like what was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, not something framed in the 1990s or today. So, I think that it's likely a very nicely executed 1940s Baltimore city scape. What do you think?


John Galt said...

I believe that Howard Roark might have painted that.

The Russian Picker said...

That is definitely Магнитогóрск in springtime. I will pay you $17 for painting and let you do guest appearance on new reality show "Russian Picker" on the RT Cable Channel.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand humor, who would have ever seen that coming...yawn.

Trailer Trad said...

Anon 7:23,

If only that were true...It would be even better if it was signed 'Gary Cooper' (Howard Roark in the movie).

Russian Trader,

I thought the busy harbor in the background reminded me more of Владивосто́к. -But what do I know?

Anon. 12:04,

I remember, long ago, at the Montpelier Races, referring to Ayn Rand as 'Annie Rand.' -That was my last, lame attempt at Ayn Rand humor