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2011 Catalog > 8. Paul Wescott. “The Schooner” or “Victory Chimes”



8. Paul Wescott. “The Schooner” or “Victory Chimes,” 1967. Oil on canvas board, 16 x 20." Frame: 21 3/4 x 25 3/4." Signed, titled, and inscribed by artist on verso, u.l.: PAUL WESCOTT; “THE SCHOONER” [crossed out]; N.F.S. Also inscribed by Alison Wescott, u.r.: “VICTORY CHIMES” 1967 by PAUL WESCOTT N.A. (19041970); (The last 3 masted schooner on the Maine Coast); Verified by Alison F. Wescott (Mrs. Paul Wescott). Old label on frame verso from Newman Galleries, Philadelphia. Excellent.

SOLD.

Alison Wescott promoted the exhibition of her husband’s work after his death in 1970. And so it was likely in the early 1970s (before her death in 1973) that she decided to effectively rename this painting by adding her own inscription to the back of the canvas board. Fortunately for us, “The Schooner” was thus identified as the historic Victory Chimes. It may be that Paul Wescott extended his essentialist aesthetic sensibilities in the naming of this painting, by simply calling it “The Schooner,” rather than attaching the romance that accompanies the name of the antique vessel it portrays. (Built in 1900, the Victory Chimes is the “only surviving example of the Chesapeake Ram type schooner in existence today,” according to Live Yachting.) In any case, the artist certainly had a fondness for the work as revealed through his marking it “N.F.S.” (not for sale), and retaining it in his private collection.

Victory Chimes is a superb example of Wescott’s ability to create a pervasive mood that extends well beyond the picture frame. As critic Dorothy Grafly described his work in the 1960s,

Paul Wescott brings to canvas a sense of quiet seldom found in painting these days. He has the enviable ability to slough off the ferment of present-day living and concentrate on the peace of the sea, sky, and land. These classic concepts are . . . painted in rich, low keyed, and subtle tones. . . through quiet, controlled, and yet dramatic simplification.

As a student, Wescott would have been exposed to modernist influences both at the Academy and in his studies abroad. While Wescott ultimately chose to focus on landscape painting, he adopted certain modernist qualities of abstraction and made them his own. In the painting Victory Chimes, the land and sea occupy a narrow band at the bottom of the canvas, while the expansive cloud-filled sky seems to bring other elements closer to us. The lines of the schooner and another vessel conjoin with those of the distant shore in a subtle abstract play of simplified forms. When asked how he works, Wescott replied “ . . . to set objects in space with great clarity, simplicity, and understanding. The subject is of least importance, but it so happens that I prefer the sea.”

Paul Wescott (1904-1970) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended the Art Institute of Chicago. He continued his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he was awarded the prestigious Cresson Scholarship in 1930 for travel and study in Europe. Wescott’s early landscapes were drawn from the rural environs of Chester Springs, where the academy held its summer school. When he and his wife Alison began to summer in coastal New Brunswick (1934-39), Wescott introduced marine subjects to his work. Later the Wescotts spent their summers in Maine, where they bought a house on Friendship Long Island in 1946. In 1952, Wescott left teaching and devoted himself to painting. The Wescotts continued to divide their time between their homes in Maine and West Chester, Pennsylvania. Wescott exhibited his paintings regularly and widely, most notably at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the National Academy of Design, and the Farnsworth Art Museum. His prizes included the National Academy of Design’s Edwin Palmer Prize and Benjamin Altman Prize. Paul Wescott’s paintings are held in a number of important permanent collections including the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Butler Institute of American Art, the University of Delaware, and the Delaware Art Museum.

Refs.: Pamela J. Belanger, Maine in America: American Art at The Farnsworth Art Museum (Farnsworth Art Museum, 1999); Stark Whiteley, Paul Wescott: Landscape and Marine Painter (Brandywine River Museum, 1989).

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