Grant T. Reynard (1887-1968)
Oil on Masonite panel, 10 3/4 x 10 inches. Signed lower left: "Reynard" and "BARBER SHOP" in pencil on verso, above what appears to read "2/22." Also inscribed in pencil on bottom, verso: "oil on masonite by/ GRANT REYNARD/ of LEONIA, NJ/ about 1950/ purchased by/ Marcia Wilson/ at Womans/ Club sale/ abt [?] 1990/ from/ estate/ of/ Dudley/ Allen/ whose/ wife/ WILMA/ collected art by/ LEONIA ARTISTS."
Knautz, Harlan E., Grant Reynard, N.A.: An American Painter (Baldwin-Wallace College, 1974). A watercolor with the same title is listed in the Compendium of Works by Grant Reynard, dated as c. 1933.
Wilma Allen, probably Leonia, NJ; by descent to her husband, Dudley Allen (former mayor of Leonia); purchased from estate of the foregoing by Marcia Wilson, probably Leonia, NJ, about 1990 from a Women's Club sale; acquired from eBay seller "the-art-movements" on October 27, 2022.
Original simple one-inch frame in gold. On verso is a preliminary outline for another work, likely the watercolor "At the Piano" formerly in the collection of Baldwin-Wallace College, which is dated by Knautz as "late 1940's" in the Compendium referenced above (see Figs. 1, 2).
Fig. 1 - Sketch, verso, of woman playing a piano.
Prosaic, perhaps, but this simple little oil of a barber shop by Grant T. Reynard perfectly captures the rhythms of ordinary life in mid-century suburban America. “Reynard obviously paints for the love of painting,” wrote The New York Times critic Howard Devree in a review of the artist’s solo exhibition at New York’s Associated American Artists Gallery in 1943. “Reynard’s work is down-to-earth, forthright and genial,” he gushed, admiring the broad range of his subject matter.*
A native of Grand Island, Nebraska, the artist began by copying “Gibson girls out of the magazines up at the Elks Club” and drawing local merchants and “town characters” while “hid[ing] behind posts and crates.”** After investing $60 for a twelve-lesson correspondence course which promised to make him a famous illustrator, he sought more formal training at The Art Institute of Chicago beginning in 1906. Reynard returned to Grand Island the next year, accumulating savings by working in his father’s music store and as a pianist in dance halls through 1908 before returning to the Art Institute in 1909 to complete his art education.
In 1914, Reynard moved east (to Leonia, New Jersey) to attend the Harvey Dunn School of Illustration. For the next decade and a half, he created illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, Redbook, Country Gentleman, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Hearst’s International Magazine, Collier’s, McCall’s, Woman’s Home Companion, Liberty and Scribner’s Magazine. By mid-century, he had increasingly abandoned illustration in favor of teaching, traveling (including regular summer pilgrimages to Nebraska) and his own creative work. A gifted etcher and lithographer, Reynard was elected to full membership in the National Academy of Design in 1963.
Likely executed around 1950, Barber Shop celebrates a timeless ritual in an evocative manner, elevating the experience over the identity of its participants, who are portrayed from behind, surrounded by an array of tonics and familiar barbershop fixtures. The casual but painterly brushwork emphasizes the equally casual atmosphere of this small but satisfying depiction of everyday life.
* Devree, Howard, “From a Reviewer’s Notebook,” The New York Times, June 6, 1943.
**Artist quotes retrieved from website of the Museum of Nebraska Art at https://mona.unk.edu/mona/grant-reynard/ (source identified as A Measure of Vision, May, 1966).
Fig. 2 - Grant T. Reynard, At the Piano, watercolor on paper, late 1940s, present location unknown.