Scavengers, St. Ives, 1922 signed 'E.C. Fortune' (upper right) and titled and dated 'Scavengers / St. Ives 1922' (on the stretcher bar) oil on canvas board 12 x 16in overall: 17 1/2 x 21 1/2in
PROVENANCE: Acquired from the above and thence by descent Private collection, Nantucket, Massachusetts
EXHIBITED: The Western Association of Art Museum Directors, circulating exhibition, 1928
LITERATURE: Jo Farb Hernandez, Colors and Impressions: The Early Work of E.Charlton Fortune, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art Association, Monterey, California, 1990, pg. 22, fig. 20, Summer Morning, St. Ives (related work)
Scavengers, St. Ives, 1922 is very closely related to Fortune's most celebrated picture from this time period, Summer Morning St. Ives, 1923 which won a silver medal at the Salon des Artistes Francais in 1924. Fortune traveled to St. Ives, Cornwall and established a studio there in 1922. She described St. Ives in her letter from January 20, 1922:
This place would make a sick cat paint... the harbour, when the tide is in, is generally a sheet of melted silver, and all these figures of fishermen, girls, dogs children... the beauty of it all simply knocks you flat... The colour of it all is too amazing for words. When we first came here, everyone spoke of the grayness of St. Ives. It is like a Claude Monet but never gray...
Impressionism is largely concerned with movement: movement in the brushwork, layers and layers of strokes as well as movement from one color to another, even when right next to or even on top of one another. Fortune wrote about the movement of the gulls in St. Ives in poetic terms in a letter dated November 20 from the same year:
... gulls literally millions of them, looking like a snowstorm seen through a telescope hang in a dense cloud over the town, the whole harbour is dappled with the shadows of them, like the shadow of a tree in leaf, only all moving and wheeling so rapidly that the colors take on life."
Clearly, Fortune found the gulls a subject that inspired her to new artistic heights. Flickering wings and scintillating light are the basis of Scavengers, St Ives. The opalescence of the gulls almost fuses with the reflections on the water. Fortune addresses both the scale of the work and the quality in her November letter:
I have been doing mostly small stuff, - It is impossible to take large canvases out of doors here, as the light changes so rapidly, but I am doing some of the best stuff I have ever done now.