Two Master Paintings by Clark Hulings Bookending 40 Years Will Be Auctioned Together at Prominent Coeur d’Alene Art Auction July 28
Marks first time ‘Grand Canyon’ (1970) and ‘Las Ramblas’ (2004) are viewed since their initial sales by the artist
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – Monday, July 9, 2018 – In 1967, the United States Department of the Interior commissioned paintings of all the National Parks. Clark Hulings landed one of the more spectacular assignments with the Grand Canyon. Impressed by the painting the artist did for the government, a collector asked Hulings to create a similar piece, which the artist so-named for this iconic national site.
Spending much of his early childhood in Valencia, Hulings returned to Spain many times throughout his sixty-year career. He was intrigued by the complexity and colorful variety in local markets, particularly produce and flowers. They provided the kinds of technical challenges that engaged him. One such market created the backdrop for a signature work, Las Ramblas.
These two important Hulings’ works are showcased side-by-side at the upcoming Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, Saturday, July 28, 2018 in Reno, Nevada. Auctioning two works of this caliber and size by this artist is unusual. These paintings are especially noteworthy for various reasons. The first is their sheer virtuosity: Grand Canyon and Las Ramblas are both expansive, complex compositions that show Hulings at the peak of his powers. Both paintings are considered to be among his very best work. They are separated chronologically by four decades, but the level at which Hulings was operating was equally high. Few artists have achieved that level of consistency. That he was able to produce top quality works for over forty years is astonishing. With each of his paintings, Hulings focused his gaze in a non-judgmental way, reflecting the art, thought and political movements of his time in subjects from around the world—providing a uniquely American perspective. A synthesist throughout his long career, he asked at every turn, with every painting, for us to see everyday reality and create meaning from it for ourselves as individuals, and as human beings. Grand Canyon and Las Ramblas radiate, respectively, every aspect of Hulings’ body of work as a consummate artist.
“My father would be happy to see these two particular paintings being shown outside of the private homes in which they have been living—he considered them among his best. To see them together at one of the most touted auctions in the U.S. is really fun. I expect it to be a very active and energetic event,” said Hulings’ daughter, Elizabeth.
Grand Canyon, oil on canvas, 22 x 44” 1970
This is a rare example of a commissioned Hulings work. Jack Parker loved the Grand Canyon painting Clark Hulings did for the government in 1967, and he begged to have something similar. After three years, Hulings acquiesced and this painting is the result. Set on the Southern Kaibab Trail, this sweeping landscape features a man with a cowboy hat riding up the trail on a brown mule, while the white mule behind carries the packs. The stunning composition shows alternating bands of light and shadow; the palette moves from an amber-brown in the foreground to deep purples in the distance, with a sun-soaked yellow tree connecting the two. Standard art conventions often encourage the eye to start at the top left of the canvas, but here there’s a strong gravitational pull to the bottom left, giving the Canyon a grounded quality. The overhanging branch on the top right corner is a delicate foreground frame.
Las Ramblas, oil on canvas, 24 x 46” 2004
In a career that includes so many masterful market paintings, Las Ramblas is an absolute standout. It’s crisp and high-contrast, befitting its sophisticated setting in Barcelona, Spain. The poet Lorca famously said Las Ramblas was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” The distinctive wave-striped pavement wraps around from the bottom left and swirls the viewer’s eye into the heart of the action. Hulings markets show a series of accomplished artistic choices about what to render in the most specific detail and what to allow to blend. The most vivid flower detail is on the stall with the white-shirted man in the foreground left, and from there, several other human and floral scenes unfold as we follow the shine in the centre of the pavement. In a move that is distinctly Hulings, you’ll see that the overhead leaves of the trees are loosely-rendered with visible brushwork texture, so they don’t distract from the rest of the scene. Ever-fascinated with people engaged in their daily lives, particularly farmers and merchants, Las Ramblas is a European slice of life that is both characteristic for the artist, yet very unique in the boldness of the palette.