Apr 02, 2015 - Sale 2378

Sale 2378 - Lot 31

Estimate: $ 20,000 - $ 30,000
SARGENT JOHNSON (1888 - 1967)
Three drawing studies for sculptures.

Burro and Baby. 555x619 mm; 21 7/8x24 3/8 inches * Baby Elephant. 485x635 mm; 19 1/8x25 inches. Titled in pencil, lower right * Grasshopper, 495x617 mm; 19 1/2x24 1/4 inches (sheet). Each charcoal, pencil and conté crayon on cream wove paper, 1942. Each signed and dated in brown ink, lower left, and inscribed "1/2 SCALE" in brown pencil, lower left.

Provenance: private collection, New York.

These drawings are apparent studies for or after the group of sculptures Johnson created for the Sunnydale Housing Projects in San Francisco. Evangeline Montgomery writes that Johnson was commissioned in 1939 under the Federal Art Project to create seven animals in cast green and gray terrazzo for a childcare center's playground. He made a camel, a burro, a grasshopper, a duck, a hippopotamus, an elephant and a squirrel.

The commission may not have been realized until later as these scale drawings are dated three years later. The sculptures no longer exist - apart from these drawings, only two small cast ceramics models for the elephant and the burro have survived. Johnson's mentor Beniamino Bufano was also commissioned to create similar animal sculptures for the Sunnydale Housing Projects - some of his works survive there today. Montgomery notes that Johnson was careful to chose different animals to distinguish his work from Bufano's. Montgomery p. 20.