In 2014, the Ulrich Museum of Art curated an exhibition of twenty-eight original artworks by the well-regarded illustrator and American marine painter Frederick J. Waugh. These works comprised the complete published series of images which illustrated the visionary, expressionist, and haunting children’s book titled The Clan of Munes. The exhibition catalog tells the origin story of this experimental period of the artist’s career: “During an extended stay on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine, Waugh took breaks from sketching and painting to collect the gnarled roots and branches of spruce trees along the windswept shores. This small rocky island twelve miles off the Maine shore was a popular artists’ colony, and Waugh was a seasonal resident during the early part of the 1910s. Waugh turned these roots and branches into the central characters for a fairy tale, as amusement for his family during long summer evenings. The “munes” were created from dead tree stumps by a wizard from the north who wants to be a great Indian magician.”
The Clan of Munes was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1916 and debuted to critical acclaim, but as an art book for children it did not sell well. Waugh bought back the remaining copies from the publisher and as a result very few copies remain on the market today.
On offer here is an important avant-garde painting, acquired from the descendants of Waugh, which is stylistically in keeping with his work for The Clan Of Munes and appears to date to the same moment in the artist’s career. Using the same experimental techniques and playing with modernist abstraction, this eerie painting also hearkens back to Germanic fairy tales.
Painting is signed on the verso and handsomely silk matted and framed under glass.
About the artist Frederick Judd Waugh:
Frederick Judd Waugh was born in Bordentown, New Jersey on September 13, 1861. The son of portrait painter Samuel Waugh and Mary Elizabeth Young Waugh, a miniature painter. According to George Haven’s biography of the artist “Waugh once described himself as having many of the qualities of a dreamer both in early and later life. He took keen delight in going into the countryside observing plants, animals, snakes and insects.” At nineteen he became a student at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts studying with Thomas Eakins & Jerome Ferris. In 1883, Waugh studied at the Academie Julian in Paris with Adolphe Bouguereau and Robert-Fleury. After many trips to Europe he began marine painting on the island of Sark in the Channel Islands. Returning to America in 1907, the Waughs lived in Montclair Heights, NJ, Kent, Ct and Provincetown, MA. He established his reputation in the United States as the foremost marine painter.
Waugh first visited Monhegan Island, ME around 1911 at the age of 50. In 1914, he was inspired by the twisted fragments of ancient spruce trees on the island and began drawings for his children’s book The Clan of Munes.