A defining and haunting American impressionist oil on board by Henry James Soulen. This painting was created for use as an interior illustration in the February 15, 1919 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Illustrating the story “The Hippopotamus Parade,” the image shows the climactic moment in which a caravan of state-of-the-art motor trucks were able to save a California valley from destruction by a faulty dam. The artwork shows the tensions at work in the industrialization of the West, dramatically positioning automobile culture, industrial technology, and the life-and-death struggles of humanity in the raging waters of an unforgiving landscape. Known for his orientalist exotic aesthetic, Soulen was an early student of Howard Pyle. With Soulen’s signature heavy expressive brush strokes and impasto technique, this work was exhibited in 1983 at the Delaware Art Museum. This wonderful example confirms our suspicion that artists often created their finest work for the prestigious pages of The Saturday Evening Post. A complete copy of magazine where this illustration appears on page 16 is included in the sale.
In 1907 Soulen enrolled at The School of Art Institute in Chicago, and studied under Alphonse Mucha who was a guest instructor there in the spring of 1908. Soulen painted in the Howard Pyle tradition and believed in thorough research and historically accurate details in his work. Soulen suffered a stroke in 1963 and passed away in Mexico, in his long and prolific career he was said to have created over 2200 published illustrations.