Douglas Gorsline (1913-1985)
Street of Dreams
Oil on canvas, 44 x 31 inches. Signed "GORSLINE" and titled on small section of original stretcher attached to backing. Relined, remounted on new stretcher.
Douglas Gorsline: Paintings, Prints & Drawings, Babcock Galleries, New York, NY, March 12-31, 1945, no. 13; The American Style: Paintings and Drawings of the 30s and 40s at The William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs, CT, June 13 - August 15, 1999; Enduring America: Selections from the Collection of Art and Peggy Hittner, Northern Arizona University Art Museum, April 7 - May 29, 2015.
Enduring America (catalogue).
Junker, Patricia, "The Narrative Art of Douglas Gorsline: The Early Years," in The Art of Douglas Gorsline (exhibition brochure, Memorial Art Gallery, 1990); Via, Marie, essay on Gorsline's "Bar Scene" in Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (Memorial Art Gallery, 2006), pp. 249-53.
Babcock Gallery, New York, NY, 1945; Janet Marqusee Fine Arts Ltd., New York, NY; Mr. and Mrs. David Loeb; acquired December 5, 2000 through Sotheby’s, New York, NY (lot 2X3V, Sothebys.com).
Fine (probably later) 4 1/2-inch molded gold leaf frame with mounted tablet.
Fig. 1 - Douglas Gorsline, Where Next?, 1946. Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches, Collection of Mobile Museum of Art, P84.10.03, Museum Purchase Fund © Courtesy of the Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, Alabama.
Douglas Warner Gorsline was a highly regarded teacher, writer, printmaker and illustrator as well as a painter. A native of Rochester, New York, he began his art studies in that city at the Memorial Art Gallery and at the Mechanics Institute (now the Rochester Institute of Technology), before progressing to the Yale University School of Fine Arts. After only a year at Yale, Gorsline moved to New York City where he enrolled at the Art Students League (1931-36). There, under the tutelage of his instructor and mentor Kenneth Hayes Miller (1876-1952), he began to record life at the nightclubs, restaurants, subways and streetcorners of New York City in a spirited series of paintings and lithographs featuring fashionable young women who "are at once stylish manikins frozen in place and time and universal emblems of modern culture." Like the women painted by Miller, "Gorsline's women are monumental and full-bodied, modeled through strong contours that illustrate the artist's skills as a draughtsman."* One observer has noted Gorsline's "penchant for the far-away gaze" in his depiction of women: "[s]eldom do his models make eye contact with the viewer, effectively distancing themselves behind an invisible barrier."**
Gorsline received considerable attention and critical acclaim early in his career, exhibiting repeatedly at the Whitney, Carnegie Institute, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and National Academy of Design before his thirtieth birthday. In the 1940s, he achieved major recognition as an illustrator, receiving a prize for his graphic work for The Compleat Angler. By the 1950s, Gorsline became disenchanted with his purely representational oeuvre and began a period of exploration and introspection which culminated in a complete transformation of his artistic vision by the early 1960s. What emerged was a kind of fragmented reality in which splintered and overlapping forms gave the subject of his art a sense of movement not present in his earlier work.
Street of Dreams is surely among the largest and most ambitious works of Gorsline's early career. An attractive, well-dressed young lady gazes toward, but not quite at, the viewer. In contrast to the other couples in the background, she is alone. Her look is wistful, if not somewhat expectant, but the subtext of the scene remains largely a mystery. Like many of Gorsline's women, she is at once both independent and vulnerable. When it was first exhibited at his one-man show at New York’s Babcock Gallery in 1945, critic Margaret Bruening of The Art Digest singled out Street of Dreams, “in which the partly-turned figure of a girl is placed in a soft radiance against a lighted background of open street and strolling figures,” for particularly favorable notice, describing it as “invested with a feeling of atmosphere.”*** Although the location depicted in the painting has not been confirmed,**** its title suggests that it may be Broadway. A related painting (Where Next?, 1946) is in the collection of the Mobile Museum of Art (see Fig. 1).
In 1965, Gorsline left the New York art scene for the countryside in the Burgundy region of France with his third wife, Marie, who later established and continues to operate in Bussy-le-Grand a museum dedicated to the artist's lifetime achievements.
* Junker, Patricia, "The Narrative Art of Douglas Gorsline: The Early Years" (essay in brochure for the exhibition The Art of Douglas Gorsline, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY, June 9 - July 22, 1990).
** Via, Marie, catalogue entry for Douglas Gorsline's Bar Scene (1942), in Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture From the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (University of Rochester Press, 2006), p. 249.
*** Art Digest, March 15, 1945, p. 16.
**** Signs for the Welcome Inn appear in the background of both Street of Dreams and another Gorsline oil entitled Where Next? Although an advertisement from 1936 has been located referring to a Welcome Inn Dining Room, Bar and Grill at 432 Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, neither the building (which still stands) nor the immediate surroundings appear architecturally consistent with the scenes depicted in the paintings.
Also in the Collection:
Douglas Gorsline, Express Stop, etching, 6 1/2 x 5 7/8 inches, pencil signed, lower right ("Douglas W. Gorsline"), Society of American Etchers, 1948.