“House in Sicily has esteemed family provenance: it comes from the collection of Jennie Ottinger, passed to her by her grandmother—Clark Hulings’ sister—Sue Ottinger.”
Picture it: Sicily, 1960. As Andy Warhol is still a couple of years away from the debut of his Campbell’s Soup Cans, Clark Hulings is traveling in the real world, beyond pop culture. He’s been on the road, on and off, for over two years. He’s relentlessly combing the European continent and dipping down to Northern Africa as he finds his signature subject matter. Hulings has mentally given notice on his commercial illustration career and is turning himself into the easel painter he’s always wanted to be. He’s been to Paris, Valencia, Hamburg, Cairo, and then lands once again in Southern Italy in July of that year.
House in Sicily is a 21 x 15” oil, and one of the five Hulings works featured at Scottsdale Art Auction April 8th-9th, 2022. It’s rustic, with broad brushstrokes that play with the idea of stucco and dappled light: on this summer afternoon, flowers and chickens, terracotta roof tiles and sky, and plants and plaster all live together in their own broad rhythm.
This work has esteemed family provenance: it comes from the collection of Jennie Ottinger, passed to her by her grandmother—Clark Hulings’ sister—Sue Ottinger. Sue and her husband Harry were based in Hamburg from 1958-61, and as one of the perks of Harry’s expat job with Esso, he was allowed to have rather a lot of stuff shipped back to the USA for free. Never one to miss an opportunity, Hulings would arrive for family visits in Germany with an inventory of bric-a-brac, or as they’d say in New York City, tchotchkes. Everything from a Syrian brassero—a stylish heater for outdoor dining—to bolts of fabric, to antiques, to his own completed paintings, including this House in Sicily. So it’s entirely possible this work made it into the Ottinger collection courtesy of Esso, and whether or not it was meant as a gift, it just stayed with Harry and Sue for the next fifty eight years until Sue’s death in 2018. Possession is nine-tenths of the law.
*UPDATE* Congrats to the lucky new owner who will be part of the next chapter of this painting’s story. House in Sicily had a successfully sale at the 2021 Scottsdale Art Auction