A JAPANESE VIEW WITH A DISTANT MOUNTAIN
Oil with pen & ink on card laid to board
41 x 50 cm
Anonymous Sale, Sotheby's, Paris, 20.10.2005, Lot 144 (as Ecole française de la fin du XIXeme siècle - Vue d'Orient)
Private Collection, U.K.
"Japanese paintings by Moore...at the press view Mr Watrous [Harry Wilson Watrous, the American artist] called attention to the influence the pictures had exercised over artists...The pictures nearly all are small in size, and have the jewel-like quality of colour which is the particular glory of the small painting, but although they are minute and precise in drawing and have this brilliancy of colour, they are neither meticulous nor overworked, but have the freedom and freshness of spontaneous workmanship" (1)
Please see the additional images above for comparisons with further works by Moore recently to have appeared at auction. The hallmarks of Moore's highly idiosyncratic style can all be found in the present work: his thickly layered foliage, likely created by pushing the paintbrush to the paper; the unusual use of ink for the finer details alongside the oils; the combination of almost impressionistic broad strokes for the background contrasting with the very finely rendered branches are emblematic of this distinctive artist's hand.
Moore was born in New York, the son of a wealthy shipbuilder who claimed descendance from the British Academician Ozias Humphry, and is believed to have gone deaf either in early childhood or have been born deaf. He was schooled in Hartford (Connecticut) at America's oldest school for deaf children, before transferring to similar schools in New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia. In the latter city he was enrolled at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and began his artistic studies under the American artist Samuel Bell Waugh. Through Waugh, Moore met Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins, under whom he also studied.
At Eakins' recommendation, Moore went to Paris (staying a while in Munich beforehand) and soon became a pupil of one of France's most renowned artists, Jean-Leon Gerome. He worked in Gerome's atelier alongside his friend Eakins for three years, making occasional trips abroad for further artistic inspiration (as his teacher so often did). In March 1867, Moore enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts, honing his draughtsmanship under Adolphe Yvon, among other French teachers.
On one of the young Moore's trips to Granada he was introduced to Spain's greatest Orientalist artist, Mariano Fortuny. While Eakins and Moore's other travelling companion William Sartain returned to Gerome's studio, Moore was clearly enamoured by the grandeur of Moorish Spain. He was to spend two years living there and in 1872 he married Isabella de Cistué y Nieto, of a prominent family in Zaragoza, who knew sign-language (because she had a childhood friend who was deaf). Together they moved to Morocco, where they stayed for almost two years. Moore, thanks to his wife's connections, was under the protection of the Grand Sharif and travelled freely around the country during this time.
The couple then moved to Rome for a year for Moore to practice his watercolour painting under his friend Mariano Fortuny. The Spanish artis had set up a lavish studio there and held a sort of artistic court as one of Europe's highest paid and most famous artists. Moore also encountered Ignacio Leon Y Escosura (a fellow pupil of Gerome), José Villegas Cordero and other likeminded genre artists who were drawn to exotic scenes and subjects in the Italian capital. By the time Moore left Europe, he had made a significant name for himself, having earned praise from Gerome, Bonnat, Fortuny and being likened to Meissonier in the French critical press.
Moore and his wife returned to New York in 1874, opening a studio on East 14th Street, where he would remain until 1880. He participated in exhibitions at the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He also had two solo showings, in San Francisco where he lived for a time convalescing from a throat condition, at the Snow & May Gallery and the august Bohemian Club (of which he was a member). It was there he met Katherine Birdsall Johnson (1834-1893), a philanthropist and art collector, who invited Moore and his wife to accompany her on a trip to Japan in 1880.
The trip was a formative episode in Moore's life, and the last time that he would produce such impressive and finely worked views and genre scenes. Overall it is believed that he made around 60 paintings of Japan, including views of Tea Houses, Geishas, Japanese cityscapes and landscapes. He exhibited these scenes of Japan at the Union League Club (1919) and the Architectural League of New York (1920). Intriguingly, he is believed not to have actually sold any of his works: he had lost his collection of his own paintings in a warehouse fire in 1881, and consequently clung to his Japanese works dearly, giving only a few to very close friends. The New York times recorded his trip (in 1893) thus:
"...the Moores sailed for Yokohama. After a sojourn there, as headquarters, branching off and travelling about in all direction, until neither country, town, nor people ave any mystery for the artist, he brought back invaluable sketches, drawings, oils, watercolours and highly-finished paintings, creating a sensation at home among discriminating amateurs, and continuing its delight here in Paris, where Mr Moore soon after brought his household gods. This is the love labor of the artist, and he has persistently refused all tempting offers of purchase...He is now contemplating its sale to several New York amateurs, who purpose giving the ensemble to the metropolitan Museum as a particular class of work, a novel picture of one kind of art entirely unknown, I think, to the ouevre of any other American painter." (2)
When Moore moved to Paris, he kept these paintings in his large studio under a curious shroud, showing them only to a small number of his clients. When his finances began to worsen in his seventies, it is believed that he sought to sell the entire group for a then-astronomical sum in New York; however he was unsuccesful in the end and died before they entered the public art market. His wife protected them from the Gestapo during WWII, undergoing harsh punishment for concealing them; and eventually managed to bring them to America for an exhibition in Jersey City in 1948.
The present work is believed to be one of the sixty or so Japanese views which were in Paris during the War, and remained there afterwards. A photograph of the 'Japanese Collection' (see third image), published in 1950 (see bibliography), shows a number of these paintings; however the quality is sadly too poor to distinguish any but the very largest work in the shot (which was sold at Brunk Auctions, N.C., 27.01.2018, Lot 797). Ackerman wrote of this group, "Paintings by Moore, both oriental and Japanese, appear now and then on the market, but they are rare. The best are very tightly drawn and bright in colour" (3)
(1) The New York Times, reproduced in Harry H. Moore: American 19th Century, arr. Eugene H. Hajdel, Jersey City (1950), p.17
(2) L.K., A POPULAR PARIS ARTIST; HUMPHREY MOORE OF NEW-YORK AND HIS TRAVELS ABROAD, The New York Times, July 23rd 1893
(3) Gerald Ackerman, American Orientalists, ACR Editions (1995), p.138