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The Paintings Of C. Arnold Slade (American, 1882–1961)
at the Cape Museum of Fine Arts, Dennis, MA

The Worker
Signed lower right
Oil on canvas, 56 x 42 inches
Courtesy, Frank Hogan
"Among artists, few have given us visions as true and pure," remarked the Parisian magazine La Revue Moderne on the work of American impressionist C. Arnold Slade. In the first quarter of the 20th century, Slade's landscapes, portraits, genre, and biblical scenes inspired similar accolades from critics around the world as well as the admiration of the top collectors of the day, including Isabella Stewart Gardner and John Wanamaker. Slade's work was also well-known to the general public through his sold-out exhibitions, numerous reproductions of his paintings in popular magazines, and extensive coverage by the international press who praised him as one of the most promising artists to come out of America since Colonial portraitist Benjamin West. However, Slade's incredibly diverse body of work - from depictions of a soldier's final moments on a French battlefield to his oil studies of the autumnal hues of grassy Cape Cod dunes - has only recently been rediscovered with the emergence of the artist’s estate.

Born August 2, 1882 in Acushnet, Massachusetts, Caleb Arnold Slade was the only child of Abbie Jane Morse and Caleb Slade. His Quaker parents operated a corner grocery store in New Bedford where Slade attended the local public schools. Around the time Slade entered Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island the family relocated to nearby Attleboro, Massachusetts.

In 1904 Slade graduated from Brown and entered into business. Yet his destiny to be an artist was sealed when he accompanied his company's head salesman on a business trip to the Palisades above the Hudson River, the site of a thriving artist colony. Catching the spirit of the lively artists, Slade joined an art class and began sketching. He had never shown an interest in art before, but apparently his parents supported his sudden career change for they gave him the financial backing to study painting at prestigious academies in New York and Paris. Later in life Slade wrote a friend that his education, including eight years in Europe, had been very expensive, but he had recovered most of the expense by painting portraits so that his "parents were encouraged before their death because I had done fairly well."

"Ogonquit, Maine"
signed, C.A.Slade, lower right
oil on panel
8 1/2" x 10 3/4"
In fact Slade enjoyed enormous success as an artist very early on in his career. In 1906 he married Irene Elizabeth Wells who encouraged him to study in the academic tradition. Slade then began his formal art training at the Art Students' League in NYC under Louis Loeb and Frank Dumond in 1907. He went on to study anatomy at the elite Ecole des Beaux-Arts and by 1909 was enrolled at the more egalitarian Academie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens, Baschet and Schommer.

Slade and his bride settled into a tiny studio on the Left Bank. "We had little money," Slade recounted, "but we didn't need much. In those days $60 a month paid for rent and food; one could get soup, meat, two vegetables, half a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread for one franc-fifty." Slade maintained a studio in Paris during the winters for several more years before the "Great War"; summers were spent primarily in Normandy painting "peasant fishers" with trips to Brittany, Holland, Venice, and home to Attleboro.

Like the so many thousands of American artists in France who preceded him, as well as those who were also just emerging as artists, Slade's impressionistic style developed according to his academic training and the avant-garde movements surfacing in Paris at the time. Essentially, Slade was part of a second - maybe third - generation of American impressionists established in France. In Paris, Slade exhibited with the American Art Association along with Charles Hawthorne, founder of the Provincetown Art School, and John Noble, a future president of the Provincetown Art Association. Other artists with whom he exhibited in France, and who would later factor into the early Provincetown art scene and Slade's life on Cape Cod, included Max Bohm, George Oberteuffer, F.C. Frieseke, William L'Engle and Alfred Maurer.

Perhaps because of his piousness, Slade never painted the Paris cafe life. He depicted the Seine in early morning light, the humble fishing folk of Cameret and Moret in northern France, the Dutch countryside, and for two months in 1909 he painted Venetian canals 'en plein air' with "several foremost American artists." He painted prolifically in Venice to the delight of critics who praised his bold and sophisticated use of "pulsating, living, vital color."

"Rainy Day, Venice"
signed lower right
oil on board
8 1/2" x 10 3/4"
While he exhibited works at the Attleboro Public Library the year before, Slade's first major one-man show was held in Boston at the Charles Cobb Gallery in 1909. Several more one-man exhibitions, including three at Vose Galleries, followed and Slade continued to exhibit abroad in both London and Paris to critical acclaim.

In 1911 Slade returned to Venice to paint, but he then continued onto Palestine and Egypt. The trip inspired a series of biblical paintings for which Slade became known for his "daring realism" in depicting Christ. The Philadelphia collector, John Wanamaker, bought Slade's "Christ on the Mountain," and soon after Isabella Stewart Gardner, the venerable Boston collector of Renaissance art and patroness of John Singer Sargent, but very few other then-living artists, bought "Village of Etaples" from Slade's one-man show at Copley Hall. Before Mrs. Gardner's death in 1922, Slade fondly wrote her, "You were the first person to give me encouragement..." and of his success, "I want you to share any reflected credit."

On the eve of World War I, at a time when much of America was reeling from shock over the 1913 Armory Show of "modern" art, Slade's brilliantly colored landscapes, genre scenes, and biblical depictions were seen as "thoroughly sane and quite comprehensible." As Boston artist Philip Hale remarked, "One hears a good deal of the influence of Matisse on the younger American artists in Paris, but there is no hint of this in Slade's work. Rather, the things are done straight from the shoulder - very directly painted..."

While many ex-patriate artists returned to the U.S. at the onset of the First World War, Slade continued to paint in Paris and at his studio in Arras, France. His wife, Irene, volunteered at hospitals, and Slade, like Sargent, painted emphatic narrative canvasses of the human devastation of the war. Two of his works of this period, the symbolic "Come Unto Me" depicting Christ appearing to comfort a dying French soldier, and "His Comrade's Story (also called 'Letter From the Front')" depicting a family receiving the news of their loss, captured the public's attention. News agencies swarmed Slade's ship before it entered New York Harbor, eager to be the first to print his renditions of the front. Suddenly, Slade's paintings were reproduced on the covers of the major publications of the day - from The New York Times to the Woman's Home Companion.

"Barge On The Seine"
signed lower right
oil on board
8 3/4" x 10 3/4"
Slade returned to the front in 1917, but this time it was to paint camouflage for extensive areas. As a Captain in the U.S. Army of Engineers, Slade was stationed in France for 18 months. Several other artists were also developing the new art of camouflage, including Abbott Thayer. At the end of the war, Slade continued painting his familiar subjects with trips once again to Venice and the French countryside. He also painted the rugged coast of Maine, southeastern Massachusetts landscapes, and then ventured to North Africa. In 1921, the Slades stayed in Hammett, Tunisia for 3 months. Slade painted lively market scenes and "character studies" in Tunisia and Algeria of which art critic W.M. MacDonald commented, "Slade is evidently not content with color, with painting moods of nature and whims of light and shadow; he is after the big idea; he is striving to make human emotions speak from canvas."

Although the Slades spent a winter in Truro in 1914, and summered there sporadically from 1920, it wasn't until 1925 that Slade found his studio and made Cape Cod his home. That year he purchased Truro's first Methodist meeting house, built in 1826, and had it dismantled and reconstructed on "Savage Point" the blustery hilltop location of his compound of cottages in Truro. Positioned for the north light, the former church was fashioned into a studio and an exhibition space where Slade displayed copies of his well-known war paintings as well as current portraits and landscapes.

Slade's popular summer rental cottages, his red house called 'Roselea', and his quirky church-studio became known as "Sladeville." While nearby Provincetown thrived under Hawthorne's art school and the influx of art students and ex-patriate artists after the war, Slade preferred the quietude of his compound - only rarely exhibiting in Provincetown or associating with his former art comrades. However, his many friends, including numerous statesmen and dignitaries, as well as tourists curious to see Slade's work, made "Sladeville" a destination in Truro for many years. Dividing his time between Truro and Washington D.C., Slade re-invented himself as a painter of portraits in the 1930s and 40s. He was commissioned to paint dozens of portraits of senators, generals, and U.S. Presidents for colleges, hospitals, private collections, and even the White House. When Slade died in Pocasset in 1961, his widow sold "Sladeville" to another artist.
-Julie Carlson Eldred

This is an excerpt of the forthcoming catalog (with bibliography and endnotes) accompanying the exhibition “True Visions: The Paintings of C. Arnold Slade” scheduled at the Cape Museum of Fine Arts, Dennis, MA., November 18, 2001 through January 20, 2002, organized by Frank and Ruth Hogan.

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