From an exhibition review by Tim Higgins of: A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America,
published in The Morning Call: "Watermelon
Wedges on a White Cloth" by Daniel
McDowell is one of the artist's two known
existing still lifes’. It portrays watermelon
slices, as realistically rendered as possible,
arranged on a lustrous white tablecloth. It's a
beautiful work, all the more astonishing as McDowell
wasn't known as an artist, but as a furniture maker.
This still life is shrouded with an air of stillness as the vivid, sharply delineated watermelon
slices emerge from a dark background. This, the third known version of the artist’s watermelon
still life is unsigned, it shares almost identical dimensions and composition to the masterpiece in
the Barbara Gordon Collection, exhibited and published in A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in
America (Art Services International, Skira Rizzoli Publishing, 2014, pp.136, 137, 138, 139).
McDowell earned his living as a maker and painter of furniture, which is evidenced in the
sculptural contours of the scalloped platter holding the watermelon in the second version, and
the tablecloth folds in both the Gordon and the current versions. The dots ornamenting the
tablecloth are placed with a precise and steady hand as are the neatly grouped watermelon
seeds embedded in the pink flesh. The tablecloth folds are rendered with cast shadows, a
sophisticated element not expected from a so-called primitive painter. The solidity of the cloth’s
folds recalls the carved wood drapery from horse drawn hearses of the period. The overlap of
the watermelon slices is done with exquisite precision yet the seeds lying on the tray and table
and the small watermelon rind display a random placement. McDowell demonstrates an
intriguing mix of formal painting ability with primitive/untrained qualities: the scalloped tray in the
non-Gordon painting tilts up rather than receding as does the tabletop in the two other versions,
showing the artist’s inability to use one-point perspective. Perhaps this, the simpler tray version
is earlier than the other two, which are so close in their composition and forms, as they show
only slight differences in seed placement, tablecloth folds, and proportions of solid forms to
The composition has a striking modernist/abstract appearance, recalling the works of early
twentieth-century American artists who collected and/or were influenced by primitive/folk art, like
Charles Sheeler, Marsden Hartley, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi.
Condition: near original, no restoration or cleaning [as found] some minor lifting of canvas from
hardboard support at corner, layer of dirt/grime. The work is mounted within a period gilt frame;
canvas is mounted on early hardboard, likely in the 1920s. This painting was inspected by
paintings conservator Tom Yost in December 2019, he stated that because of the application of
“sparkle” (likely mica dust?) to the watermelon, it is not advisable to clean the painting as it
would result in either removal of that original application or if he cleaned around it, a difference
in color value between the watermelon and the rest of the painting. The painting displays well
The work is mounted within a period gilt frame and features an eglomise mat; material is evenly toned and displays good color; not examined out of frame; originality of frame unknown. (Frame: 22 by 19"; view: 19.75 by 16.75")
This composition, a bounty of fruits, berries, foliage and tendrils arranged within a wonderful woven basket with fancifully scrolled handles rests on a leafy matt and is mounted within a gilt frame. (Typical and good condition commensurate with age, not examined out of frame; frame: 16.75 by 14.5", sight-size: 12.75 by 10.5")
Within the wonderful yellow basket displayed on a blue and green featherlike tablemat is a composition of fruits, foliage and tendrils done freehand and with stencil. This composition remains in bright; paper mounted on backboard with typical toning to background. (Overall 19 by 16.5")
As depicted, basket of peaches set upon grasses and fine wildflowers. This picture mounted within carved frame and having a pine stretcher should be cleaned, otherwise excellent.
Dimensions: 23.25 by 19.25" frame, 19.5 by 15.5" sight-size.
An expressive still life with a wealthy abundance of mature and exotic fruits, vegetables, flowers, and a spaniel, neatly arranged on a marble table centered by drapery opened to a column on plinth before a beautiful blue sky featuring a sunrise palate. The scale, color, light and contrast are splendid. Relined and mounted on strainer, some in-painting and current minor imperfections.
(View area: 35 by 48; overall: 44 by 55")
Oil on canvas still life of fruit - peaches, grapes, cantaloupe, plums, etc - in a wicker basket and on plates, glass of water, atop a marble topped table, in a gilt and gesso frame, patch on the reverse, some minor scattered in-painting. (31 ¾" x 27" framed, 27 ¼" x 23" view.)
Neatly rendered yet unconstrained compositions featuring fluted blue compote and a basket on grassy green matt, each holding lovely flowers and plant materials. The handling of the work including plant selection, placement of flowers, foliage; detail, and imagery combine to produce a highly individualized, semiformal arrangement. The works are mounted within matching painted frames of the period. Foxing, toning, and water stains as shown.
(Frame: 14.25 by 11.25”, sight-size: 11.5 by 8.75”)
1079-5 - SOLD
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