Selden Connor Gile (1877-1947) Fall's Beginning 30 1/4 x 36in (Painted in 1927.)

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Lot 146
Selden Connor Gile
Fall's Beginning 30 1/4 x 36in

Sold for US$ 187,575 inc. premium
Selden Connor Gile (1877-1947)
Fall's Beginning
signed and dated 'S.C. Gile 27' (lower right), titled (on the stretcher bar)
oil on canvas
30 1/4 x 36in
Painted in 1927.


  • Provenance
    Private collection, Florida.
    Denenberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles, California.
    Collection of Robert H. Aichele, Sacramento, 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.'

    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 Bernard 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 differ radically over his career. He was conversant with both the palette knife and the brush for the 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.'

    Gile seems to have been quite enamored with the subject for this work, as at least three paintings are known by the same title. The other examples are variations on the same theme but this work proclaims a passion for color unmatched. The blues, reds and yellows are Gile at his boldest. The textures vary from small dabs of Pointillist overlay of blues in the hills and in the sky to broader Fauvist strokes in the trees. The cows nestled in the shade of the stand of trees blend into the composition. Gile's commitment to the exploration of Fall's palette is so deep there are passages on the verge of abstraction. Indeed, his mastery of color allows him to contrast primary tones almost kaleidoscopically while still depicting the California landscape he so lovingly painted.
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