Object of the Week: Easter Twilight–5th Avenue at Plaza by F. Usher DeVoll
Posted on: 2019-07-30 16:30:01
Frederick Usher DeVoll (1873-1941) was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1896 at the age of twenty-three and left Providence for New York City, where he studied with some of the most important American artists of his time, including William Merritt Chase [LINK], Charles Hawthorne, and Robert Henri. Chase and Hawthorne were accomplished portrait painters, both influenced by Impressionism. Henri was also influenced by Impressionism, but in the 1890s and early 1900s, when DeVoll likely was his student, Henri began exploring a new style that eventually became known as the Ashcan School. Ashcan School artists focused on painting the gritty scenes of everyday life in new York City and typically painted residents of the city’s poorer neighborhoods. Henri’s teachings, which centered on painting from life as often as possible, influenced DeVoll’s work for the rest of his life.
In 1906 or 1907, DeVoll left America for a trip to Europe, and he briefly studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. When DeVoll returned from Europe later in 1907, he settled back in Providence, but frequently traveled all over New England to work and show his art. Notices in the American Art News (a popular weekly art magazine) describe him working in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, exhibiting in Boston, and spending time painting landscapes throughout Connecticut. He also routinely traveled to New York City, and it is the paintings and pastel drawings he made of New York City streets and harbors that DeVoll is remembered most for today.
In 1929, DeVoll had a solo exhibition at the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts (today the Everson Museum), Exhibition of Pastels of New York Street and Harbor Subjects by F. Usher DeVoll. The exhibition included thirty-six works, all for sale for either $50 or $75. The Museum purchased four works from the exhibition for its collection, including Easter Twilight–5th Avenue at Plaza, for the discounted price of $150 for the set.
Easter Twilight–5th Avenue at Plaza is currently on view in Time Returns: A Continuous Now through August 4, 2019.
-Steffi Chappell, Assistant Curator
Image caption: F. Usher DeVoll, Easter Twilight–5th Avenue at Plaza, pastel on paper, Museum purchase from the artist, 30.154.4