Selden Connor Gile (1877-1947) Quiet Cove (Belvedere) 28 x 30in (Painted in 1932.)

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Lot 21
Selden Connor Gile
Quiet Cove (Belvedere) 28 x 30in

Sold for US$ 312,575 inc. premium
Selden Connor Gile (1877-1947)
Quiet Cove (Belvedere)
signed and dated 'S C Gile 32' (lower right), titled on a label (on the stretcher bar)
oil on canvas
28 x 30in
Painted in 1932.


  • Provenance
    The artist.
    Louis Siegriest.
    By descent through the family to the present owner.
    Private collection, Northern California.

    At the core of an appreciation of Selden Gile's work is an understanding of the remarkable amalgamation of painting styles and influences that the Society of Six facilitated. Modeled in part off the Group of Seven in Canada, the Society of Six would spend over a decade in close contact and even longer sporadically. The gregarious Gile was the driving force behind the Society of Six. He set the aesthetic standards that espoused color and guided the group with the strength of his personality, physical energy, and warm hospitality. With his high-energy and a sturdy build, he had a capacity for long hiking trips and outdoor, plein-air painting that he pursued passionately. He shared his house with several aspiring artists (like August Gay) and held dinners in a raucous atmosphere. Liberally seasoned with garlic and lubricated with home-brewed beer and red wine, the group critiqued each other's work with a remarkable focus.

    Stylistically, the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) had a transformative influence on the Six. For Gile, there is a palpable shift in style from the early teens through his mature pictures. In The Society of Six: California Colorists, Nancy Boas explains that this shift was in part a reaction to seeing the PPIE works: "After [the exhibition], the Six began applying loose, expressive brushstrokes of varying sizes, using the stroke as an element in its own right...Thus they abandoned the careful finish encouraged in academic work and attempted to reveal their own individuality and spontaneity in the paint surface itself. Combined with heavy impasto in some places and with unpainted areas of the canvas showing through in others, these brushstrokes create a purposeful sketchiness. Now sketchiness became a means of capturing a fleeting moment." (Boas, pp. 80-81)

    While they gathered informally for years, they began exhibiting together in 1923. In Clapp's 1923 manifesto for the Society of Six exhibition he concludes in part: In other words, we are not trying to illustrate a thought or write a catalogue, but to produce a joy through the use of the eyes...we have felt, and desire that others may also feel. Clapp—the theorist of the group—would come in for some reproach from his rough-and-tumble friends, as recounted by Siegriest in a 1972 interview: What the hell you writing all this crap down for... Get to painting and quite friggin around. Despite their criticisms, Clapp was speaking truthfully about an underlying goal of the Six.

    Terry St. John observed in his 1972 book Society of Six that the turning point for Gile (and Von Eichman) was 1926 when they shifted away from the more geometric works to a more broadly Fauvist-influenced painting style. Gile's work would continue to evolve, not just over long spans of time, but from picture to picture as Gile's vision of the subject demanded. His palette was very flexible, and the very surface of his paintings differed radically over his career. He was conversant with both the palette knife and the brush for paint application. Richard Diebenkorn in a letter dated July 31, 1972 wrote:

    Gile's vision was direct, unsentimental, and perhaps existential in its attitude. The freshness of his painting beyond that which is perceived in its physical presence derives from a rare unencumbrance with the endless attachments to art. Gile wanted his paintings to be pure (with a small p) and pure it is for simply being in terms of itself.

    In 1927, Gile moved north to Tiburon and later to adjacent Belvedere Island, both of which were popular locations for his paintings. The houseboats and rickety shacks along the waterline, many on wooden pilings, provided a rich subject for Gile's explorations of surface and color. Quiet Cove (Belvedere) is a dazzling embodiment of his mastery of color and texture. In just the pilings, Gile uses peach, pale yellow, multiples shades of blue, white, maroon, red and green tones with a shockingly cohesive effect. There are layers upon layers of paint in the walls and roofs of the shacks, just like the shacks themselves. Similarly, one can read the deposits of yellows and pinks on the road as a rough surface which compositionally serves two purposes—one is the inversion of the peak upper right and the second is as a foil to the oversaturated structures and water in the foreground. In Quiet Cove, almost 90 years after it was painted, Gile gifts the viewer with both Diebenkorn's purity and Clapp's joy through the use of the eyes.
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