An inspirational and spiritual large male nude oil painting by the well-listed New Rochelle based illustrator and artist Walter Beach Humphrey. This new to the market prize-winning ‘Rock of Ages’ scene belonged for many years by the artist’s daughter, Constance June Humphrey.
As a young child in the late 1920s, Constance was a favored model of her father’s friend Norman Rockwell. Humphrey and Rockwell shared a New Rochelle hayloft when they were both starting out. A photocopied letter handwritten by Constance discussing this special relationship is pictured below.
The exceptional provenance and history of the painting evokes the spirit of when it was painted and the special talents and life of the painter.
A Norman Rockwell postcard featuring Connie on the cover of the Post is included in sale, as is a September 3, 1952 newspaper clipping from the New Rochelle Standard, which shows first prize winner Walter Beach Humphrey posed in front of this work.
The lyrical newspaper text reads: “What is man that though art mindful of him, a thought provoking study in oils won for Walter Beach Humphrey the first prize in the oil painting division of the art exhibit of the Woman’s Club of New Rochelle.
Mr Humphrey’s painting, that of a nude man seated on a rock with eyes uplifted and palms turned upward personifies the eternal quest of mankind, his yearning of understanding the questioning of man about man, and his relationship to God. The blues of the background and the faint rock formations intensify the beseeching figure. The work is done with admirable strength and delicacy.”
The painting comes with original handcrafted modernist art deco soft pine hand titled frame (as seen in photo of Humphrey).
Some additional information on the artist
Known as an historical illustrator and muralist, Walter Humphrey often received commissions for text book and magazine illustrations. World Book Encyclopedia, Liberty, Colliers, and the Saturday Evening Post, for whom he often did covers, were among his clients. He had a particular focus on Colonial America and the war for independence.
He initially studied at Dartmouth College and then went to the Art Students League of New York. In 1939, as an established painter and illustrator, he returned to Dartmouth to do a series of murals for the student cafeteria. The work became quite controversial in the 1970s when the first Indians were admitted as students because the murals depicted white cheerleaders in Native American war bonnets and Native Americans demonstrating against the college drinking song. As a result, the administration hid the murals.