gold_fishpacking.jpg

Albert Gold (1916-2006)
Fish Packing
possibly 1938

Watercolor on paper, 13 x 18 1/4 inches. Signed lower left: "Albert Gold."  Inscribed "Fish Packing" in ink on verso.

Reproduced:

Albert Gold: American Scene Artist of the 1930s and 1940s (D. Wigmore Fine Art, 1991), p. 12.

References:

Coming Home: American Paintings, 1930-1950, from the Schoen Collection, pp. 148-151; Albert Gold: American Scene Artist of the 1930s and 1940s (D. Wigmore Fine Art, 1991); Looking at Life: Albert Gold (Philadelphia Art Alliance, 1996); Friedman, Marvin, "Family Matters: Good as Gold," Hadassah Magazine, March, 2008.

Provenance:

The artist; consigned to D. Wigmore Fine Art, New York, NY, sometime between 1981 and 1991; acquired by private Georgia collector, 2001; D. Wigmore Fine Art; consigned by foregoing to Swann Auction Galleries, New York, NY from which acquired on January 27, 2022 (lot 86, as "Fish Packing, Crisfield, MD").

Notes:

Recent 3 1/4-inch gold leaf frame by Lowy.

     Albert Gold traveled to seaport village of Crisfield, at the southernmost tip of Maryland, finding fertile subject matter in the historic Chesapeake Bay community’s fishing and crabbing industry.  Fish Packing is a masterfully and sensitively rendered watercolor of a fish packer engaged in the inspection and packing of fish for distribution to seafood purveyors and restaurants.  Once hailed as the “Seafood Capital of the World,” Crisfield declined steadily over the last century, although the nation’s oldest seafood processing company continues to operate there.*

    As Gold was drawn repeatedly to the Black community of Philadelphia for his subjects, it is not surprising that he would turn his attention to an African-American laborer in racially divided Crisfield, where the fishermen were predominantly white and the fish packers mostly Black. His portrayal, however, is highly respectful: though the job may be unenviable, it is still honest labor proudly and responsibly performed. The artist employs a limited palette (shades of brown, black, white and muted blues), articulating the figure more delicately than his surrounding workplace.

 

    The date of execution of this work is uncertain.  While the New York dealer who represented the artist beginning in the 1980s has previously ascribed a 1938 date,** there is no inscription or other documentary evidence to support it. And while the artist may have traveled to Crisfield earlier, his widow recalls him visiting that community in the 1950s, probably to do illustrations commissioned by Ford Times magazine.*** While the work bears a stylistic resemblance to other Gold watercolors from the late Thirties and early Forties, the artist’s family suggests the 1940s as a more plausible date.  

________________

* Handy Seafood, established in Crisfield in 1894.

** The dealer, D. Wigmore Fine Art, did not assign a date to the painting in its 1991 catalogue of the artist's work.

*** A pair of watercolors in the collection of the artist’s family include “Crisfield” in their inscriptions.  At least one appears to date from the 1950s.