Landscape of a fishing village

Sol Wilson
(American, born in Polish Russia, 1896–1974)
Untitled (fishing village)
Gouache or casein on paper
Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1072 Society, 2012, in memory of Mrs. Dorry Ann Johnston Blackburn, Dr. Lucile McGehee Haynes, and Mrs. Jean Farr Henderson

Landscape of a fishing village

By Dennis Harper, curator of collections and exhibitions

Sol Wilson was one of forty-seven artists included in the original Advancing American Art exhibition organized by the U.S. State Department in 1946. Wilson’s painting Fisherman on a Wharf was reproduced for the cover of the catalogue prepared by the War Assets Administration that accompanied the auction to liquidate the collection. Until recently, that painting’s whereabouts had been lost to scholars researching Advancing American Art. It has since been located in a New York City public high school in Brooklyn. Although Wilson’s art is little known today by the general public, his painting in the State Department collection garnered the largest number of individual bidders at the dispersal in 1948, besting more well-known names such as Marin, O’Keeffe, and Shahn.

This untitled painting was likely painted at the same site as the work from Advancing American Art, and during the same period. In both cases, Wilson has captured the cold, harsh conditions of a maritime village. Threatening skies and opaque waters cast a slightly ominous mood to the deserted scene. The town’s scattered structures seem hewn from the same matter as the stony riprap along the rugged shoreline, all rendered by the artist in direct and forceful brushstrokes. Wilson aims his attention inland to represent the silence of village as its inhabitants are out to sea for their daily labors.

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