Apr 07, 2016 - Sale 2409

Sale 2409 - Lot 11

Price Realized: $ 27,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 10,000 - $ 15,000
ROBERT NEAL (1916 - 1989)
Untitled (Fisherman's House at River's Edge).

Oil on linen canvas, circa 1939. 508x660 mm; 20x26 inches. Signed in oil, upper right recto. Signed in oil, center verso.

Provenance: acquired from family descendants of the artist, Colorado; private collection, Colorado.

This outstanding 1930s painting is a wonderful discovery - the first artwork by this painter and muralist to come to auction. A native of Atlanta, Robert Neal was a student of Hale Woodruff's and became his studio assistant at Spelman College, working on the Talladega College Amistad murals in 1939. Neal transferred Woodruff's drawings to the canvas, and then installed the canvases to the walls after Woodruff had fallen ill. Neal's signature was even recently found on the verso of the mural canvas Repatriation of the Freed Captives, when it was recently restored for the museum exhibtion Rising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals at Talladega College.

Robert Neal exhibited his own paintings at the same time. His work was included in two of the most celebrated national exhibtions of African-American Fine Art - the 1939 Baltimore Museum of Art's Contemporary Negro Art, the first museum group exhibiton of African-American artists, and the 1940 Exhibition of the Art of the American Negro (1851-1940) at the Tanner Galleries in Chicago, the largest survey of African-American art at the time. Neal is also mentioned in two seminal art histories - Alain Locke's 1940 The Negro in Art: A Pictorial Record of The Negro Artist and of The Negro Theme In Art, and James A. Porter's 1943 Modern Negro Art. Like Frederick Flemister and Albert Wells, Neal was clearly a disciple of Hale Woodruff - his influence on Neal's approach and style is immediately apparent in this painting. The landscape is a Georgian rural scene outside Atlanta with the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. Neal moved to Dayton, Ohio in the 1940s, and little is known about his later career. Heydt pp. 80, 132.