Property from the Seattle Art Museum, Sold to Benefit the Art Acquisition Fund
James Herbert FitzGerald (American, 1910-1973)
Potato Harvest oil on canvas laid down on panel 24 x 35in Painted by 1937
PROVENANCE: The artist Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1937
EXHIBITED: Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Paintings by James H. FitzGerald, January 8-February 2, 1941. Puyallup, Washington, Western Washington State Fair, Art Building, Contemporary American Painting, September 1941. Boise, Idaho, Boise Art Association, Northwest Artists, November 1941. Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Paintings and Ceramics by James H. FitzGerald, December 8- January 2, 1949 (as Missouri Landscape).
Prior to shifting towards abstract and surreal compositions, FitzGerald was involved in a number of governmental agencies producing murals and reliefs for public buidings in the nation's capital, California, Colorado and his home state of Washington. He received a degree in architecture from the University of Washington and also worked with Thomas Hart Benton at the Kansas City Art Institute. In 1938, he assisted Boardman Robinson with the tempera murals Great Events and Figures of Law at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. The following year FitzGerald was in New York working for the WPA alongside fellow artist Jackson Pollack among others. Perhaps he is best remembered in the state of Washington for his relief sculptures for the Lake Washington floating bridge (1940)-now the Lacey V. Morrow Memorial Bridge- and the IBM building in Seattle (1962). He was married to the artist Margaret Tomkins (1916-2002) and they were both influential educators at the Spokane Art Center. His work is represented in numerous museums, however much of he and his wife's early productions were lost in a fire that destroyed their home and studio in 1959.
In the mid 1930s, FitzGerald and another artist were selected by the Treasury Relief Arts Project (TRAP) and sent to Idaho and Washington to produce works of the American West. In a 1965 interview with the Archives of American Art he noted "We had letters that enabled us to live in Forest Service stations and C.C.C. camps, etc. I spent all summer hiking in northern Idaho from one mountain fire lookout to another." Potato Harvest was no doubt a production from this period of his career. In execution it certainly recalls the regionalist works of T.H. Benton and in subject it is likely to have been drawn from western Washington--naturally famous for their potatoes and scenic hilly terrain.