The Passion of Collecting Academic Nudes

Join me as we explore my collection of Academic Nudes from the 18th, 19th, and Early 20th Centuries and serendipitous finds in the Museum, Art Auction, and Gallery world......examples from the Golden Age of the European Academie

Saturday, October 30, 2010

John Barnard Whittaker (1836-1926) Nude Boy By A Stream

John Barnard Whittaker was born at Templemore, Tipperary County, Ireland on August 16, 1836. The great famine and rebellion forced the family to emigrate and they arrived in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1848. John attended Public School No. 1 for a few months before, at the tender age of twelve, he went to work assisting his father, Benjamin, a decorator, grainer, and watercolorist, who taught him how to paint. Afterwards he studied at the National Academy of Design for a short while under Thomas Seir Cummings. In 1863 he attended classes at the Graham Art School in Brooklyn. Between 1859 and 1892, seventy-eight of Whittaker's paintings were exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association. By 1866 Whittaker was teaching at the Graham Art School. He was instrumental in organizing the Brooklyn Academy of Design. In 1875 Whittaker became the director of the Art department at the Adelphi Academy where he held the position for forty-one years, until his retirement in 1916 at the age of eighty. Whittaker was very active in the Brooklyn art community and was one of the founders of the Brooklyn Sketch Club (1857), the Brooklyn Art Social (1859), and the Brooklyn Academy of design (1867). In the summer of 1887 he visited Paris and Munich. He was amongst a group that promoted the creation of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. After his retirement he devoted his time to painting and did so until his death on September 24, 1926 at the age of ninety. His works are in the collections of several Museums, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
While doing some research on Whittaker this morning, I discovered that this particular painting was part of the Collection of Dr. Clark S. Marlor, Professor Adelphi University and was sold at auction by Christies in 1995. Marlor, from my research, was the author of "A History of the Brooklyn Art Association" (1970) and penned a Biography of John B. Whittaker under that title. I bought this painting at auction several years ago. I did not pay much attention to the measurements on the auction site and got the shock of my life when I had to make arrangements to have it shipped. I had placed what I thought was a fair bid and literally forgot about it until the email arrived advising me that I had taken the auction. It arrived in a sixteen wheeler and took me an hour to unpack. Next time I buy something this large, it measures 42 inches by 62 inches with the frame and takes up one wall all to itself, I promise to pay more attention to the size listed in the description before jumping off the bridge. Truly a nice example of Whittaker's painting talents.
Bathing Boys as subject matter in Art
I have previously mentioned in past posts the use of the nude boy, nude youth, or nude ephebe in art and this is a prime example of the phenomenon of "Bathing Boys" as subject matter and symbol in art. I think I will go back into my image files and pull out some additional examples of this popular subject matter. I think you will be astounded at the vast quantity of paintings, drawings, and prints featuring the nude boy swimming, playing, and bathing. If I can find my copy of Germaine Greer's book... The Beautiful Boy, I'll do some research and see if we can make some sense out of why boys play such a prominent role in artistic studies, especially in the late 19th century. I have seen volumes on "The Female Nude" but for the life of me I don't think I have ever seen a serious academic work on the nude girl. We will explore this further in later posts.

Caption: Nude Boy by a Stream
Artist: John Barnard Whittaker (1836-1926)
Medium: Oils on Canvas
Dated: Circa 1865-1890

Here are a few of Whittaker's mature works:

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