Mar 10, 2020 - Sale 2533

Sale 2533 - Lot 19

Price Realized: $ 2,125
Show Hammer Price?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,200 - $ 1,800
(ART.) Sketchbook of eccentric outsider and occult art kept by a working-class New Hampshire teen. [103] manuscript pages. Folio, 13 1/4 x 7 1/2 inches, original 1/4 calf, worn; pencil drawings and notes drawn in the remnants of an old industrial notebook, numerous pages torn out; several pages signed with various names. Hudson, NH, 1903-05

Additional Details

The pages of this notebook are filled with art, which grows increasingly bizarre: a pentagrammed hat over a broom titled "Witchcraft" (page 81); Jesus on the cross captioned "Names, Magii, Magic, wisdom or wisemen, the same who found Christ" (106); a suite of drawings of circus freaks including Siamese twins, Elephant Boy, a legless horse and a sword swallower (pages 110-119); gartered legs and women's heads which appear to be intended as tattoo art (129); the psychedelic masterwork, "Ancient Mode of Worship" (134); a virgin having her heart ripped out with a sword in a Mexican occult ceremony (136); dozens of souls being burned inside a demonic creature called "Wicker Man . . . in time of druids in England" (137); and finally two pages of tortures inspired by the Spanish Inquisition (138-9).
The drawings are interspersed with occasional textual passages. An incoherent manuscript note reads "What has and does rule the world: mesmerism, clariavoiancy, hynatism, fire, fear, farce, and the mighty gold dollar." 6 pages are devoted to horoscopes (122-6). Among the more staid artistic compositions (most of them earlier in the volume) are a sign for the artist's father's (imaginary?) business, "Deerfield Farm, O.D. Philbrick & Sons"; a full-page landscape featuring the school in Hudson, NH; three fire engines titled "Philbrick Fire Co."; a crowded car on the Nashua & Lowell Rail Road; a Jewish junk dealer; men in military uniforms; an "American school teacher"; a naval vessel titled the USS Maybrick; Masonic emblems; Black Heart, chief of the Apaches; and a whaling scene.
Two names appear repeatedly throughout this album. The main artist appears to be Ren W. Philbrick (1888-1953). Philbrick was aged about 16 when he made these drawings. His father Orrin D. Philbrick was a teamster and farm laborer. Ren would be married by 1910 and never had children, working on odd jobs ranging from farm laborer to railroad shop repairman to brush burner on a reforestation project. The other name which appears repeatedly in the album is Charles H.F. Daigneault, which appears completely untraceable, though Daigneault is a fairly common French-Canadian surname in northern New England. It may well have been a fictional persona adopted by Philbrick.
We cannot fully explain this volume. We suspect Ren Philbrick himself could not explain it to our satisfaction.