SOLD TO A PRIVATE COLLECTION, LONDON
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)
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 became a pupil of 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. Moore spent two years there and, in 1872, he married Isabella de Cistué y Nieto, who knew sign-language. Together they moved to Morocco, where they stayed for almost two years. The couple then moved to Rome for a year for Moore to practice his watercolour painting under his friend Mariano Fortuny. 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 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 have 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. 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. 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.13