Friday, December 23, 2016

Twenty Five Year Old Francis Quirk Honored With Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in 1932

The biographies of Francis Quirk list him as having had a Tiffany Foundation Fellowship, but we wondered ‘what did this mean exactly?’ As we looked into it we were more and more impressed with this accomplishment.  

After some hunting, we learned that some of the Foundation’s papers were at the Archives of American Art near the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. When we visited the facility a lovely young woman, Meghan from West Virginia was extremely helpful in providing the microfilm and teaching how to use the machine. Even with her expert guidance, the process of scrolling through the microfilm was headache inducing, but ultimately well worth the effort.
Lousi Comfort Tiffany Supporter of Francis J. Quirk
Louis Comfort Tiffany- Creator of the Foundation


The famous glassmaker and pioneer in decorative arts, Louis Comfort Tiffany established the Tiffany Foundation in 1919. The idea behind it was that it would help young artisans of talent by giving them the opportunity to hone their craft at his 80 acre estate Laurelton Hall in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. In 1932 he would add a gallery at 65 -67 East 56th Street in New York City to display and sell their works. The combination would hopefully accelerate their careers.
Concord Minuteman Statue by Daniel Chester French who selected Tiffany Fellow Francis Quirk
Concord Minuteman Statue by Daniel Chester French

Abraham Lincoln Sculpture by Daniel Chester French who selected Tiffany Fellow Francis J. Quirk
Abraham Lincoln Sculpture by Daniel Chester French


The Fellowships were open only to men older than 20 and younger than 30. These talented artisans were selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants by a panel of experts that included luminaries such as Daniel Chester French who sculpted sitting Abe in the Lincoln Memorial and impressionist painter Childe Hassam

Rainy Day Boston by Childe Hassam who awarded Francis J. Quirk a Tiffany Fellowship
Rainy Day Boston by Childe Hassam Toledo Museum of Art

Fellows were admitted in two groups of five who were at Laurelton for a 3 month periods; either May to July or August through October. They were provided with meals and had full access to the facilities including the tennis, bowling and squash court. There were restrictions on what they could paint or sculpt in that they were to focus on “landscape and decorative composition” as Tiffany felt they could learn more in this fashion “than by working from the human figure.”

In scrolling through the documents there were numerous pages of minutes from Board meetings. Interestingly, during the intervening century the nature of minutes has not changed that much. They were strikingly similar to the minutes of companies and non-profits that I am involved with today. One fascinating aside was the companies that the foundation was invested in- they included the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and American Tobacco.

But the minutes contained no references to our man Francis Quirk. But then eventually we came to pamphlets about the program and they listed the awardees. After looking through about 10 of the pamphlets- Eureka! There was Francis J. Quirk on the Fellows list in 1932. He would have been 25 years old and on his way! Beyond that mention, we found no other references to the Mid-Century Master.

The research made one thing clear- that Francis Quirk had received a significant honor in winning the Tiffany Fellowship. The reviewers look at thousands of paintings from hundreds of candidates each year.

There was one additional find in the microfilm in a document that was marked “Confidential” It appears that the Tiffany Foundation was contracted in World War 2 to develop Camouflage technology. The contract ran from 1942-1948.


You can learn more about the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation here. You also can see many items from Laurelton Hall at the wonderful Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Portrait of Woman in Turquoise by Francis J. Quirk Emerges in Chula Vista California

There has been a striking amount of activity around the work of Francis Quirk in the last few months. We do not know the reason for it, but it certainly is keeping this blog busy.  

The beautiful portrait below is for sale through EBay from a firm in Chula Vista, California. The oil on canvas measures 30"x25" and is signed Francis J. Quirk in a script signature and dated 1944. He would have been 37 at the time it was painted. 

The woman is impeccable groomed in an aqua dress, sitting in a yellow upholstered chair with a vase full of beautiful peonies blooming beside her. This portrait is one of softer tones with the pale blue background and lavender tint to the peonies. There is nothing jarring or popping at the eye. 


Francis J. Quirk Oil Portrait  Artist Francis Quirk
Woman in Turquoise by Francis J. Quirk 1944

This woman is no shrinking violet. She is firmly holding our gaze with those bright green eyes.  But, let us examine some of the wonderful details that show she is a woman of some means. Look at the jewelry, the pearl earrings are substantial. There is a significant diamond broach at her conservative neckline.  Yet there is even more.

Francis J. Quirk  Famous Pennsylvania Artist
Woman in Turquoise by Francis J. Quirk 1944

On her left and there is a substantial diamond on her ring finger along with a watch. Hidden in the shadows of the right hand appears to be a significant emerald on the smallest finger. And of course the nails are beautifully manicured. Not only are they painted red, but also they glisten and shine, like the blood in Eakins Gross Clinic. 

The color also tells us something about the woman sitting for the portrait. She chose red. Not pink. Not plain, Not clear. But bright red.

Yet there is one more significant detail in the book. If you look closely at the finish of the pages it is in the color gold. This is no cheap paperback she is reading. Nor is it a nice hardcover novel. She is reading a book that was prepared to be seen on a bookshelf in a library;bound and finished so that it denotes quality. 

Francis Quirk Famous Pennsylvania Artist Hands Close up
Close up of hands of portrait in Woman in Turquoise by Francis J. Quirk 1944

The close up below shows one of the subtle but attractive elements of this painting in the reflection of the vase in the table's wood surface. Even though it is a decorative element, it gets the full attention of the painter. The painting of the leaves is exquisite as well.
Famous Pennsylvania Artist Francis J. Quirk Close up of hands and vase
Close up of lower left hand corner of portrait in Woman in Turquoise by Francis J. Quirk 1944

We end with one more image. The signature of Francis J. Quirk executed in script with the date 1944. He too is not shy about his signature signing in a bold blue script that blends with the colors of the painting. 


Francis J. Quirk Famous Pennsylvania Artist
Signature of Francis J. Quirk 1944


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Francis Quirk Maritime Oil Painting and Seaside Family to be Auctioned January 1

Two Quirk paintings will find lucky new owners on January 1, at Robert L. Fosters Auction House in Newcastle Maine. In scrolling through the on-line images there is an eclectic mix of paintings of interest. Coastal Maine was once a major summer getaway for artists and the legacies of that annual migration remain as inventory for auctioneers to resell in estate sales and a vibrant arts community today.

The fist painting is an oil on board measuring 23 ½”x17 ½" of a three masted schooner sailing past a dramatic coast. We have not examined this painting in person. 

The painting certainly is dramatic with the use of a dark blue pallet and the reflection of moonlight on the water. The sails have some wind in them, but several are still furled. Perhaps the captain is sailing slowly and more carefully to avoid the rocky hazards that are all along the Maine Seaboard. It appears that the ship is paying respect to the foreboding granite shore.
Artist Quirk, Painter Quirk, Maine Painter Francis J. Quirk
Three Masted Schooner by Francis J. Quirk

We have a number of other maritime watercolor images in our archive which will eventually work there way into blog posts. We have also previously posted images of ships in the Lehigh University Collection, Link 1, Link 2) a water color of a battleship, and an oil of a ship under sail.

The second painting is an oil on canvas of a family at the shore measuring 30”x25”. It contains five figures on a rocky outcrop with three standing with bent fishing rods and two sitting in the foreground. In the background is the spray from a crashing wave and a cloudy sky with patches of light blue poking through. There is a hint of green coastline in the background and we suspect that this may be Kinney Shores in Saco where Quirk maintained a Summer Home he called 'Peterspen North.'
Oil Painting of a Family at the Shore by Francis J. Quirk


There is an interesting contrast among the figures as the standing fishers are taught and straining against there rods. The viewers eye is naturally drawn to the boy in the red overalls in the center and then moves through each standing figure in turn. After working standing bodies it then travels along the rod and down the line. But alas we cannot see the excitement on the other end. The feeling of activity is heightened by the wave action.

On the other hand. the sitters are calmly focused on a rod and taking in the scene. They are in a different placid world. Perhaps they are a couple pondering other things or enjoying a quiet moment while others are caught up in a storm of activity.

Like many of Quirk's paintings with people he has been aware of the importance of color and dressed the figures in a variety to add visual interest. It is not as finished as some Quirk paintings.

We also have another image of the painting we had obtained from other sources earlier that does not have the label. In that view, one can see how the rocky coast adds another element.

Quirk Painting,  Francis Quirk Maine Painter,  Francis J. Quirk
Painting of Figures at the Shore by Francis Quirk




Friday, December 16, 2016

Three Quirk Watercolors Coming up For Auction

Through our friend Richard, we have become aware of three Francis Quirk watercolors coming up for auction. Two are signed and dated 1965. All of them contain numerous figures engaged in sporting activities. The first has figures active at the shore theme, the second a general sports theme and the final has a sports figures in white theme. (Clicking on the links will take you to the auction page.)

Quirk Artist Quirk Painter Quirk Painting Shore Scene
Watercolor of figures at the shore by Francis J. Quirk  

'Quirk Artist" "Quirk Painter" "Quirk Painting" "Quirk Watercolor" Quirk
Watercolor of Sporting Figures signed by Francis J. Quirk 1965

'Quirk Artist" "Quirk Painter" "Quirk Painting" "Quirk Watercolor" Quirk
Watercolor of Sporting Figures in White signed by Francis J. Quirk 1965
This brings up the question as to the purpose of the works. He put considerable effort into getting the figures right and the background effects. They are more than just extensive collections of figure studies. Could they have been produced for illustrative purposes? Or was this produced for commercial sale? Professor Quirk had homes in Prescott, Arizona, Saco, Maine as well as Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Selling art would have been helpful to support this real estate empire and raising two children. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Quirk Paintings of the Newspaper Business

Among the many types and styles of work, we were intrigued by some Newspaper related works by Francis Quirk. The first two watercolors appear to be of the same man- an Editor or publisher of a paper. The oil painting of the young man typing recently was offered for auction on line and that spurred us to moving forward with this post. 
Quirk "Quirk Painting"   "Quirk Watercolor"  "Quirk Portrait"  "Francis Quirk  Maine Artist"
Francis J. Quirk Watercolor of a man in the Newspaper trade.
The painting above has some interesting subtle features. Note the window with the birch trees and reflection of the man.  The desk is littered with papers, cokes and a thermos (of coffee?) His tie is down and his sleeves are rolled up. With two phones, this is a man with an active day. 
Quirk "Quirk Painting"   "Quirk Watercolor"  "Quirk Portrait"  "Francis Quirk  Maine Artist"
Francis J. Quirk Watercolor of a man in the Newspaper trade.
This watercolor of the man standing is showing him in a commanding presence. The man in the background is almost in a deferential pose. The tools of his craft are prominently displayed- the black rotary phone, typewriter and in-out baskets. There is no email here!




Francis J. Quirk Oil painting of a man at a typewriter (possibly in the Newspaper trade.)
This painting recently came up for auction and we have included it in the Newspaper post.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Two Great Quirk Paintings

We recently cleaned and framed two paintings by Francis Quirk. They turned out very nicely. The first is believed to be a painting of his daughter Ada-Lee. Judging by her tan, we suspect it was painted in Maine for a milestone birthday. It is hard to believe that the young vital person in this image might now look differently. It matches a painting of a young man whom we believe was his son James.  In a future post we will include all the images that we believe are of James.

One aspect of this fine painting that is particularly striking is the use of colors in the pink dress that includes turquoise and greens. 
Quirk Artist, Quirk Painter, Female portrait Francis Quirk
Portrait of Ada-Lee Quirk (?) by Francis Quirk
The second painting is a self portrait, we suspect that the hand behind the back was hiding the brush. We have multiple self portrait images and will be combining them in to a single blog post at a later date.

Quirk Artist, Quirk painter, Francis J. Quirk, Famous Pennsylvania Artist
Self Portrait by Francis J. Quirk

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Francis Quirk and the Deco Style

While there is no question that Quirk was a great talent with a brush and that he painted beautifully, he is less recognized for his versatility. One example of this is his brief foray into the  Art Deco style. This linear modern style was popular in the 1920's and into the 30's. The term is an abbreviation of the name of a pivotal exhibition the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts that took place in 1925.

Below are two pastels executed by Quirk in the Art Deco style. The use of color is striking. We captured these images when we examined the folio at the 2016 Maine Auction. As to their purpose we can only guess. Could they be Adam and Eve first in the presence of God and then later, being banished from Eden? Or were they executed to illustrate a science fiction story? 


Quirk Artist  Pastel Two figures Adam and Eve
Art Deco Pastel by Francis Quirk

Quirk Artists Pastel  Quirk Drawing  Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden
Art Deco Pastel by Francis Quirk