Oct 07, 2021 - Sale 2581

Sale 2581 - Lot 44

Price Realized: $ 665,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 250,000 - $ 350,000
HALE WOODRUFF (1900 - 1980)

Oil on linen canvas, circa 1958. 1029x1727 mm; 40 1/2x68 inches. Signed in oil, lower left recto. Signed and titled in oil across the verso.

Provenance: an esteemed private collection, Los Angeles.

Exhibited: Paintings by Hale Woodruff, Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York, September 15 - October 4, 1958; Beverly Sacks Fine Art, New York, with the gallery label on the frame back. This was the third of Woodruff's solo exhibitions at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery of the 1950s which established his New York career as a significant abstract artist.

With its gorgeous jewel-like colors and rich painterly passages, Carnival is an excellent and important example of Hale Woodruff's postwar abstraction, and his largest abstract canvas to come to auction. Carnival is part of Woodruff 1950s body of work in which describes landscape and natural phenomena within the idiom of Abstract Expressionism.

Not seen publicly in over seventy years, this striking canvas shows Woodruff's continued evolution as an abstract painter in the postwar period. By the late 1950s, now a Professor of art education at New York University and an important member of the New York School, Woodruff showed more freedom in his approach, in both color and brushwork. Carnival is related in palette and composition to another large, vertical canvas Blue Intrusion, 1958, in the collection of New York University and the smaller Red Landscape, 1957 (sold at Swann Galleries on Feb. 14, 2013) - both were included with Carnival in his 1958 solo exhibition at Bertha Schaefer Gallery. Dore Ashton in her New York Times review wrote: (Woodruff's) "large abstractions are often based on impressions of landscape. They are done with emphatic, broad strokes, and colors are bright and cleanly handled. The free swinging brush movements have enabled Woodruff to clarify his ideas of the implied movements of nature - hills, trees, sky." Additionally, Arts magazine review of his exhibition mentioned Carnival as one of his large paintings which engage on the level of its title "with an excitement, rhythm, progression of swift angular, broken shapes and beautiful color". Woodruff continued to use landscape as the structure of his abstract painting through the late 1960s - see in such later works as Primordial Landscape, 1967, (sold at Swann Galleries on April 22, 2021) with similar jewel-like colors.