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American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: Charles Courtney Curran, American, 1861–1942

At the Sculpture Exhibition

1895

Oil on canvas

18 × 22 in. (45.7 × 55.9 cm)
Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903, Fund
1973.103

This painting is an almost documentary account of the National Sculpture Society’s Second Annual Exhibition of 1895, held in the American Fine Arts Society Building in New York City. The National Sculpture Society was founded in 1893 to encourage the appreciation and sale of work by American sculptors. Critics had often compared the United States unfavorably to France, where sculpture, as a highly regarded art form, enjoyed significant government patronage. Standing to the left of Auguste Rodin’s Head of St. John the Baptist is Charles Courtney Curran himself, and his wife, Grace Wickham Curran, sits on the pouf holding a guidebook. The man seated at the left is probably the contemporary painter and critic Kenyon Cox, who considered Rodin to be the greatest nineteenth-century sculptor. Curran was studying at the Art Students League at the same time that Cox was presiding over the antique classes.

The correct date for this painting is 1895, not the 1893 that can be seen inscribed at its lower right. When exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1896, At the Sculpture Exhibition received the prestigious first place Hallgarten Prize, an award reserved for artists under the age of thirty-five. Because Curran celebrated his thirty-ffith birthday during the course of the exhibition, the coveted prize was revoked. He was deeply disappointed, so much so that when the National Sculpture Society asked him to restore the painting in 1938, Curran used the opportunity to give it an earlier date, one that would, in theory, legitimize his claim to the prize.

Geography: 
Made in United States
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
19th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Provenance: 

Acquired in 1973 from Vose Galleries, 238 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116

Bibliography: 

Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 6, 7, 352–53, no. 229, ill.

Jane Ward Faquin and Maia Jalenak, Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal, exh. cat. (Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 2014), 81.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.