Alson Skinner Clark (1876-1949) The Passing of the Pony Express; Arrival of the First Passenger Train at Truckee, May 11, 1869 45 x 70in
Lot 67
Alson Skinner Clark (1876-1949) The passing of the Pony Express, Arrival of the first passenger train at Truckee, May 11, 1869 45 x 70in
Sold for US$ 92,500 inc. premium

Lot Details
Alson Skinner Clark (1876-1949)
The passing of the Pony Express, Arrival of the first passenger train at Truckee, May 11, 1869
signed 'Alson Clark' (lower right) and inscribed 'Carthay Circle' on the stretcher bar along with theater hanging instructions
oil on canvas
45 x 70in
overall: 55 x 80in

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Commissioned from the artist by J. Harvey McCarthy, 1925 - 26
    Carthay Circle Theater, Los Angeles, 1926 (closed and demolished in 1969)
    Donated to World Wide Missions, Culver City, California, 1969 - 70
    Acquired by the grandfather of the present owner from the above, 1971 (photocopy of check and original receipt available)
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    EXHIBITED:
    Los Angeles, California, Carthay Circle Theater, 1926 - 1969.

    LITERATURE:
    Artland Magazine, August, 1926, California History Embodied in Art of New Theatre, Carolyn Pearson, illustrated page 9-11
    American Magazine of Art, January, 1927, illustrated


    This painting Passing of the Pony Express is one of a series of works commissioned in 1926 by J. Harvey McCarthy for the lobby and mezzanine of the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, one of the most famous Hollywood movie palaces of the Golden Age. They were to commemorate the early history of California in seven large oil paintings. Frank Tenney Johnson was commissioned to paint the main curtain of the theater. The theater was a hugely successful venue in the 1920's and 30's. Several articles were written, not only about the performances, but the theater and it's interior as well. In 1926, Caroline Pearson wrote, "J. Harvey McCarthy...has turned a barley field into one of the most beautiful sections of the city and built a theatre which is a model of artistry. The rich and romantic history of California is very dear to Mr. McCarthy, as his father was one of the early settlers, and he longed for many years to create something which would endure as an everlasting tribute to the brave pioneer men and women who faced untold hardships to found this golden state. The final inspiration came to him one afternoon while seated in a theatre with his wife. Turning to her he said: I'm going to build a theatre and decorate it with the history of California. It shall be representative of the finest things in art."

    The illustration of the paintings in American Magazine of Art in 1927 brought them national attention and acclaim.

    Demand for Alson Clark's work was strong in Southern California, attested by numerous other commissioned projects completed by the artist in the 1920's; large paintings for the Pasadena Community Playhouse and the Pasadena Junior College Theater and murals for the First National Bank of Pasadena and the California Club in downtown Los Angeles.
    Clark used perspective in his paintings to great advantage. His paintings often draw the viewer into the distance with a dramatic sweeping element that takes the audience on a journey to the far reaches of the composition. This effect was used extensively in Clark's paintings of the Panama Canal construction of 1913-14.

    In The Passing of the Pony Express, the viewer takes a visual journey down the sides of the town's main street along the way to the center of activity, which celebrates the arrival of the first passenger train at Truckee in 1869. Along the way the townsfolk can be seen going about their daily routines; two Chinese men walking along the right side, as are a man and a woman having what we assume to be a flirtatious conversation. Meanwhile, an old dog meanders into the scene from the left. The smoke coming off the train's stack and a rearing horse creates a well balanced focal point and ties the scene's composition together into a perfectly balanced setting. The tree line, overall design and the bold palette of the painting identifies and reflects Clark's success as an established plein air painter. The Passing of the Pony Express has a remarkable feel and impression to the point that suggests a near contemporaneous sense that Truckee could have still retained some of these similarities through to the time when the painting was created.
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