JAMES BOLIVAR NEEDHAM (1850 - 1931) Untitled (Chicago River Scene).
Oil on linen canvas, mounted on wood panel, 1905. 191x254 mm; 7 1/2x10 inches. Signed in oil, lower right recto. Inscribed within a diamond "7 1/2x10 inches" and "55" and "1905" in blue paint on burlap mounted on the verso.
Provenance: the Center for African American Decorative Arts, Atlanta; private collection, New York.
This charming nautical scene is a wonderful and scarce example of the painting of early Chicago artist James Bolivar Needham. Painted on the scene, these small paintings are Needham's immediate observations from the city's lakeside docks. Needham was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, a terminus point of the Underground Railroad. He left at the age of 14 and worked his way to Chicago on lumber schooners, via Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. His brother Will Needham recalled that he spent some time at the Chicago Art Institute - yet there are no records to support this claim. Needham has only had one documented exhibition - in a Central Art Association show in 1895. He worked in obscurity throughout his lifetime. A retrospective was held at Robert Henry Adams Fine Art, Chicago, February 28 - March 20, 1998, and several of his paintings from the collection of the Chicago Historical Society were included in the 2004 exhibition Chicago Modern 1893 - 1945 at the Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago. Schulman pp. 132-34.