Edgar Corbridge Precisionist Watercolor of Depot P734

Edgar Corbridge began painting after observing a friend work and believes that his lack of formal training while young had a beneficial effect on his work. Corbridge felt his art, “should influence the daily lives of all people not just the habitual gallery-goers.” Corbridge began to exhibit regularly throughout the 1940s and 1950s in such places as Boston, New York, Providence and Washington D.C. He was an active member of the influential Provincetown Art Association, and a window dresser by profession.

Corbridge painted during the Modernist period of the late 1930s and early 1940s, and shares the precise, linear style of Charles Sheeler. In a 1947 review “The Boston Herald” stated, ‘We are vaguely reminded of Charles Sheeler, except that Sheeler often paints as though for architectural drawings, whereas the Fall River [Corbridge] artist has the poets touch as well as the precisionist’s.’ Corbridge tended towards industrial scenes and architectural forms, resulting in compositions that are simple, geometric, and emphasize pure, clean lines. He uses broadly washed planes of color in the picture and then clusters groups of strong masses like a farmhouse or factory building to balance the painting.  In 1942, Providence Journal writer B.F. Swain said of Corbridge’s work, “Just what it is that raises (his) watercolors above the ordinary is rather difficult to define, for they obviously skirt all sorts of dangers.”  Art 11 x 14, Framed 21 x 24.

Working and living amongst Provincetown Modernist painters, Edgar Corbridge drew from these artists, while developing a style uniquely his own. His paintings range from industrial landscapes to the Cape’s natural environment, and exhibit a masterful grasp of his craft. Along with steely structures, there will be a selection of water colors which capture the simplicity of farms and cottages that dotted the dunes in the 1950’s.

The artists who came to be known as the Precisionists never formally organized themselves as a group or issued a manifesto; instead, they were associated through their common style and subjects. Around 1920, a number of artists in the United States began experimenting with a highly controlled approach to technique and form. They consistently reduced their compositions to simple shapes and underlying geometrical structures, with clear outlines, minimal detail, and smooth handling of surfaces. Their paintings, drawings, and prints also showed the influence of recent work by American photographers, such as Paul Strand, who were utilizing sharp focus and lighting, unexpected viewpoints and cropping, and emphasis on the abstract form of the subject.

The Precisionists borrowed freely from recent movements in European art, including Purism’s call to visual order and clarity and Futurism’s celebration of technology and expression of speed through dynamic compositions. Charles Demuth adapted Cubism’s  geometric simplifications and faceted, overlapping planes, while Morton Schamberg can be linked to Dada through his use of machinery as nontraditional subject matter.

In other respects, however, the Precisionists defined themselves as distinctively American artists. Artists such as Charles Sheeler, Elsie Driggs, Ralston Crawford, and Louis Lozowick, as well as Demuth, distanced themselves from European influences by selecting subjects from the American landscape and regional American culture. These subjects included elements unique to early twentieth-century life, including urban settings (particularly the dramatic engineering advances of skyscrapers and suspension bridges) and the sprawling industrial locales of steel mills, coalmines, and factory complexes. Many of the same artists also applied their new, hard-edged style to long-familiar American scenes, such as agricultural structures or local crafts and domestic architecture. Even such conventional motifs as a still life of fruit or flowers were treated to a fresh assessment in the Precisionist style.

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