Oct 18, 2012 - Sale 2290

Sale 2290 - Lot 31

Price Realized: $ 5,520
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 8,000 - $ 12,000
Untitled (Young Woman with Arms Raised).

Oil on canvas, 1945. 558x356 mm; 22x14 inches. Signed and dated in oil, upper right recto. Signed and inscribed with an indistinct address in pencil on the stretcher bars, verso.

Provenance: private New Jersey collection.

This dramatic work is only the second painting by this accomplished, but greatly overlooked artist to come to auction. William Thomas Blackburn, or 'Billy,' grew up in a small town in Catawba County, NC. After graduating from Hickory High School, he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia where he studied for a year before moving to the Grand Central Art School in New York City. In the 1930s, Blackburn also studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, and later had an eight-month scholarship at Florence's National Academy.

Blackburn's painting was clearly affected by the influence of Regionalism and the work of Thomas Hart Benton. While traveling across America in the late 1930s and early 1940s painting scenes of rural life, he always returned to North Carolina, where he had set up a studio. In the mid-1940s, Blackburn moved to California to work at United Artists Studios' art department, building and painting backgrounds for movies. The lighting of this work and works like Man with Seaweed, circa 1943, have a staged, cinematic quality. In October 1945, he joined the art department of Bullocks Wilshire department store, becoming chief designer for windows and displays until retiring in the mid-1970s. Blackburn was the subject of a retrospective at the Hickory Museum in 2006--these biographical notes come from the article by the guest curator Barry G. Huffman, "William Thomas Blackburn: An Artist Comes Home," published in American Art Review, April 2006.