Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858–1925)
Green Idleness, 1911
Oil on canvas, 26 ¼ x 29 ¼ in.
Signed lower right: W. L. Metcalf
Old label on verso inscribed: Green Idleness 602. / W. L. Metcalf
Provenance: the artist to Nicholas Biddle, May 24, 1913; with Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1983; Manoogian Collection, Taylor, Michigan, 1983–2011
Exhibited: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Ten American Painters, April–May 1912, no. 8; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, Winter’s Promise: Willard Metcalf in Cornish, New Hampshire 1909-1920, January–March 1999, no. 7; Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Georgia, Nature’s Banquet: American Paintings from the Manoogian Collection, January–March 2010 (illustrated in catalogue, fig. 13); Vero Beach Museum of Art, Florida, Impressions: Selections from the Manoogian Collection, February–May 2011, no 8.
Literature: L. Merrick, “Exhibitions Now On: Metcalf at Montross’s,” American Art News 10, no. 13 (January 6, 1912), 2; American Art Notes (Copley Gallery, 1912), illustrated on cover; Elizabeth de Veer, “Willard Metcalf in Cornish, New Hampshire,” The Magazine Antiques 126, no. 5 (November 1984), 1210, fig. 3; Barbara J. MacAdam, Winter’s Promise: Willard Metcalf in Cornish, New Hampshire 1909-1920, exh. cat. (Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 1998), 50, 51 (illustrated); William H. Gerdts et al., Ten American Painters, exh. cat. (New York: Spanierman Gallery, 1990), 55, 182.
Related work: Le Sillon, 1911, oil on canvas, 26 x 29 in. (Muskegon Museum of Art, Michigan).
During the 1910s, the area around Cornish, New Hampshire, became Willard Metcalf’s favorite place to paint. Cornish had flourished as an artists’ colony beginning in the 1880s and 1890s, when sophisticated men like Thomas Wilmer Dewing and Augustus Saint-Gaudens settled there. As these figures moved on or passed away, they were replaced after 1900 by a group of writers, and President Woodrow Wilson had a “summer White House” there from 1913 to 1915 as well. Although one would expect Metcalf to have visited Cornish earlier, when many of his colleagues were active there, it was through the second generation of literary colonists that Metcalf came to know the place.
Brought to Cornish by the dramatist Louis Shipman and his wife Ellen for the winter of 1909, Metcalf painted the first of a series of highly accomplished and well-received snowy landscapes. Metcalf returned to Cornish in the winter of 1911 with his new bride, Henrietta, working productively and with success, and returned for the summer, staying at the Davidge mill in nearby Plainfield. During this very happy time of his life, Metcalf socialized with Homer Saint-Gaudens, the son of the sculptor, and Maxfield Parrish, and painted his only summer views of the Cornish area.
Metcalf often used a stream in the foreground to lead the viewer’s eye into his compositions; in Green Idleness, that stream is Blow-Me-Down Brook, which lies to the east of Plainfield. He had discovered the brook in 1909—it appears in two of his well-known canvases from that year, Icebound (Art Institute of Chicago) and The Frozen Pool, March (private West Coast collection)—and he continued to depict it throughout his time in Cornish. As an Impressionist committed to the methods of Monet, Metcalf would have painted Green Idleness largely on the spot, especially since the brook was a short walk from the Davidge mill.