A couple of Woolf hunters have offered a recently discovered painting by Roger Fry for sale.
Known as “Scene,” this untitled impressionist rendering of a farmhouse alongside a river was discovered to be a work of Fry when the painting was cleaned and repaired by a professional art restoration firm, according to an email the seller, Jon S Richardson Rare Books of Concord, Mass., sent Blogging Woolf.
About the Fry painting
The oil on canvas measures 20 inches by 24 inches, is circa 1913 to 1919 and has an original label from the Omega Workshops, 33 Fitzroy Square, on its reverse side. Dominant colors, which are mainly subdued, are green with brown-orange and blue-grey clouds. Fry’s signature appears in the lower left corner.
Research done by Richardson Rare Books includes the following facts to help date and locate the painting:
- in 1916 Roger Fry was writing Vanessa Bell that he had returned to landscapes free of “the impressionism you infected me with.” (RF Letters #381- Spalding, Roger Fry .., p. 186)
- In May, 1916, Fry was at Bo Peep Farm in Alciston (now a B&B near Berwick) painting landscapes (RF Letters #378), evidence that the painting is a Sussex scene and quite possibly a farmstead along the Cuckmere River.
About the painting’s history
The painting’s acquisition by the rare books company led it “to the informed speculation that the painting was one sold in New York City by Sunwise Turn, the Manhattan bookshop which dealt in Omega goods,” according to Richardson.
“While originally Sunwise was thought to deal in textiles only, from a photograph we handled several years ago advertising an Omega screen, it is clear they dealt in other Omega goods as well; any purchaser from Sunwise would have encountered the 1929 stock market crash followed by the Great Depression which no doubt caused the painting to be dispersed into the used goods market and lost in obscurity,” Richardson wrote.
“The signature, even on cleaning, is only visible with sharp light tightly focused, thus it does not show in a photograph with general flash nor upon routine visible inspection. Only upon cleaning did the signature achieve any visibility. Any Roger Fry oil painting from the Omega Period is rare and, with the Omega provenance, this is perhaps unique.”
About the Woolf hunters
According to “Woolf Hunters,” a 2010 article in the Harvard Magazine, Richardson founders Jon and Margaret Richardson have made hunting down the works of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group their mission since opening York Harbor Books in Maine more than 20 years ago.
Their focus has been successful, Jon Richardson explains in the article, “because Woolf and her companions are `still taught, still collected, and many of the people who study the group end up as collectors.’” So successful that the shop publishes a major printed catalog each summer.
To contact Jon S. Richardson Rare Books, email Yorkharborbooks@aol.com.