Saturday, October 31, 2015

Notre Dame's Snite Museum Shares Image of Francis Quirk Painting

After lengthy discussions with the  University of Notre Dame's Art Museum, we were able to get an image of their painting by Francis J. Quirk.

The painting was acquired by the Snite Museum in 1971 and was painted by Quirk in 1968. It is a monochromatic work entitled "Old Artist" and appears to be a self portrait.

We would share the painting with you, however, the Museum has a strict policy against publishing images without permission from the artist or the artist's estate. Our best efforts to find a person who might hold the rights to Quirk's paintings have been futile.

We know Quirk died in 1974.  We don't know where. We have not been able to find a death certificate.  We have not been able to find an obituary. 

We don't believe he had any children... The last census we found had him and his wife childless when he was 32. 

We cannot find the death certificate for his wife Anna or her obituary...  

We attempted to convince the University that this blog should be allowed to publish the painting under the safe harbor of "Fair Use."

"Fair Use" allows for the sharing of images for scholarly or criticism purposes. Here is the definition from Wikipedia.

Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.

While this blog is not Sister Wendy or the Arts Section of the New York Times, it does provide commentary, criticism, research and scholarship.

The Canton Art Museum, The Georgia State Museum and Lehigh University's Art Department have all graciously made images of works available.

If you would like to see this painting while you are on the campus dominated by the Golden Dome, you can visit the Museum and ask to see it.

University of Notre Dame's Golden Dome
Statue of Mary on the University of Notre Dame's Golden Dome.
We do thank the staff of the Snite Museum for being open to our entreaties and sharing an image on a limited basis.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Francis Quirk in Provincetown Mass

In our ongoing quest to learn more about Francis J. Quirk and his artwork, we cane across his name in an exhibition catalog of the Provincetown Art Association from 1932.

The Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) was established in 1914 by prominent artists Charles Hawthorne, Oscar Gieberich, William Halsall, Gerrit Beneker, E. Ambrose Webster and several local business men and women. The donation of works by the organizing artists and two juried exhibitions mounted in the summer of 1915 began PAAM’s traditions of collecting and exhibiting the work of the local community of artists. By then, the art community at the tip of Cape Cod had become the refuge of artists and expatriates returned from war-torn Europe, and Provincetown was firmly established as “The Biggest Art Colony in the World” (Boston Globe, 8/8/1916). PAAM consolidated its role as the anchor of that colony through the purchase and refurbishing of its present building in 1919.
Exhibition Catolog Cover 1932

At this time, young Francis was turning 25 and seeking to make his mark in the art world after his graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design. The times must have been tough as the great depression was in full swing following the stock market crash of 1929. This was a turbulent time for the art world and Provincetown was caught up in the moiling change with the emergence of the modernist movement.

In the ’20s and ’30s, the philosophical wars being waged throughout the art world were also fought within the Association. Its artist founders had come out of the Impressionist tradition, and although a variety of styles had been represented in members’ exhibitions since the inception, PAAM’s “establishment” did not readily incorporate the contemporary modernist movement. Faced with aesthetic differences among its artist membership, PAAM maintained a balance. True to its mission, the organization represented both sides of the artistic argument, mounting separate “Modern” and “Regular” summer exhibitions between 1927 and 1937. Still, the conciliation reached in 1937 was only partial; instead of separate exhibitions, separate juries installed concurrent exhibitions on opposite gallery walls, with a coin-flip deciding that the modernists’ work hung on the left. Throughout this period, much of the artistic argument took place in forums and discussions organized at PAAM by one side or the other.

Page with listing of Francis J. Quirk's painting.
Painting number 99 is listed as "Fred Fisher's Place". We have not yet been able to find out more about the work. 

A search for Fred Fisher in Provincetown identified a gentleman by that name born in 1866. There also was a man of the same name active in the town earlier that century.  He designed two cold storage plants and was married to Sarah Fisher who was one of the founders of the town's Universalist Church, which was built in 1847.

Provincetown's Universalist Church was built in in1847.

We have now found several references to paintings by Francis Quirk, but do not have images to match. We can only wonder what became of them. Do they hang in a cherished place? Or are they forgotten in some old barn waiting to be discovered?  We will keep on looking.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Is This Painting by Francis Quirk? We think... No...

Painting signed T. Quirk '94.

In the Summer of 2015, this beautiful golden landscape painting went up for sale in Vermont. We were intrigued because the painting was well executed, located in New England and had the name Quirk associated with it. We know that Francis Quirk summered in Maine and planned to spend a good deal of time there painting after retiring from teaching at Lehigh University. The Quirk name is not common, however there are a few other painters with the name in the listings. Artnet lists seven Quirks and there is a Danny Quirk who paints some interesting anatomical paintings.

Circumstances did not allow us to attend the preview or the auction. But there has been that nagging feeling that perhaps this actually may have been a work by Francis. Whatever the case, digging into it has been an interesting journey. 

While we had never seen a pastoral landscape by Quirk, we had seen his tremendous versatility with works in oil, pastel, and watercolor. He also was not afraid to take on a variety of subjects including portraits, animals, marine paintings and even figure studies. Francis J. Quirk could paint almost anything.

The subject matter implies that the painting is older as the farmers collecting the hay use a horse drawn wagon and stacks,not rows, of hay are drying in the golden field. According to a History of Hay Farm Equipment on the website tractors did not begin replacing horses until the 1930's. But we doubt that there were many still farming this way in the 1970's. Even in the communes of Vermont.

The detail is commendable with shadows of trees and haystack highlights well executed. The background hills, fences and workmen also exhibit the skill of a talented hand. The workers move the hay manually. 

The Elm trees also are a sign that this painting is either drawn from imagination or comes from a period before Dutch Elm Disease wiped out the mature trees in the U.S. This disease came to the U.S. in 1928 through a shipment of elm wood from the Netherlands. The disease was contained fairly well,but broke out in World War II and effectively eliminated the natural cathedrals along our streets by 1989. It is possible that if a painter in 1974 could have been painting healthy Elm Trees, but not likely.

The Featherduster Elm of Wolfeboro, NH died in 1986 from Dutch elm Disease. The Main Street landmark was the tallest in New England and 217 years old.

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire’s Featherduster elm tree once was a famous landmark marking the entrance to town. Note the enormous size of the elm in the painting. It is 3 feet in diameter. 

There may be chestnut trees in the background as well. Chestnut was once the most prominent tree in the forests of the East Coast, but they were logged for construction materials and many a colonial barn timbers are made of the fire resistant wood. But the trees that the loggers did not get were finished off by a blight that came to the country in 1904 from Japan.

Chestnur Trees with Loggers Photo couresy of Forest History Society

If this was painted by Francis Quirk, then it had to be painted by imagination; perhaps as a favor for someone or an illustration.

Close up of signature

Without seeing the painting and checking the back for other clues, this brings it down to the signature. The signature clearly says “T. Quirk”. The signature is executed with some care with emphasis on the vertical lines on the Q and the lower tail of the K.  But when comparing that to the signatures of the known Quirk works, we can see that there are some similarities.  The first letter is canted to the right with the top cross stroke sometimes executed like a T and the lower cross stroke de-emphasized. 

The middle letters in Quirk are similar in execution with a tail on the u and a higher dot on the i. Finally, the finishing K is  given greater emphasis.  Note how the upper right portion of the letter is lengthened in both the lower right signatures. 

The date also adds an element of mystery. It follows the same format of all the works we have seen dated by Quirk with an apostrophe and two digits. The numeral four is formed in the same classic style as that of the top Summer Preacher painting of 1944.  

But the first digit remains an enigma. If it is a 9, then the painting is not by Quirk as he was born in 1907 and died in 1974. On the other hand, if it is a 7, then it could have been painted in the last year of his life. But if it was the 1874 or 1894, then Francis was not yet even born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The 1870’s was a time of healing after the Civil War when people were seeking a more peaceful time. While 19th century's foremost painter Winslow Homer executed some wonderful paintings during the war such as "The Sharpshooter" His painting of innocence such as “Snap the Whip” are perhaps well remembered and a salve for a country violently ripped apart. At this time the country was industrializing and the little red school houses were becoming a thing of the past. The exuberant boys have the bare feet of youth and the suspenders of mature men at labor. Like the nation, they are struggling to stay united.

Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer  Metropolitan Museum of Art

November 15, 2016 update. 

After seeing many of Quirk's paintings in the Maine estate sale, we have come to the conclusion that this painting is not by Francis Quirk. We come to this conclusion based on three reasons.

1. The signature is not typical. We have never seen him sign his work with an initial and the last name. Every other signature spells out his full first name and frequently includes his middle initial. 

2. The signature is T. Quirk. It is unlike Francis to make such a sloppy error of leaving off the middle cross mark of an 'F' particularly in such a carefully executed signature. 

3.The painting style is not in keeping with his oeuvre.  

It is a nice painting, but not by Francis Quirk.   

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Painter Francis Quirk Exhibited at De Sales University in 1973

In our ongoing quest to track down the career and works of Francis Quirk, we have found people to be immensely helpful.

Our research identified information about a 1973 exhibition at Allentown College of Saint Francis de Sales, which has been renamed the De Sales University. We reached out to the institution and a part-time researcher went back into their archives to find the attached invitation. Alas, it contains no painting images, but it does give us a date. 
DeSales University Art Exhibit of Francis J. Quirk Paintings Invitation
Invitation for 1973 Exhibition of the Work of Francis J. Quirk at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales

We are reaching out to the University’s newspaper, The Minstrel that has archives going back to the 1970’s. We hope that there is an article discussing the opening that we can tap into for information and to help build our image library.