George Newcomb (late 19th – early 20th c.), American
“North Moat from River Road”, 1910
oil on artist’s board, 16 in. x 12 in.
(framed dimensions: 23 3/8 in. x 19 3/8 in.)
signed lower left: “Geo Newcomb 1910”
A nicely painted view of North Moat Mountain in North Conway, New Hampshire on a clear day in early autumn. The painting is directly painted onto the board employing the wet-in-wet technique to apply a multitude of separate brushstrokes of thick, buttery paint. The colors range from warm ochers and umbers in the dirt road, to an array of olive greens and viridian in the middle ground trees, to hints of autumn in reds and oranges moving up the slope of North Moat and finally the rich cerulean blues of the New Hampshire sky. The paint surface has a delightful sculptural quality, which, as the impastoed paint surface catches the light, imparts a three-dimensional effect when viewed at certain angles.
There is scant biographical information to currently be found on this artist. He is listed on the White Mountain Art & Artists website with biographical information linking him to the Keene, New Hampshire area, but I am not certain that person is the artist. What we do know is that an artist named George Newcomb exhibited a number of works in the 1870’s related to the Conway, New Hampshire area. In 1874, Newcomb exhibited “Autumn at Diana’s Bath, North Conway” at the Charitable Mechanics Exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts, along with other local landscape artists of the time such as John J. Enneking.
George Newcomb also exhibited at the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts, apparently his hometown, in 1875. The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System lists several known works from the 1870s with titles such as “View in Conway, N.H. near Artist’s Mill”, “Kiarsarge Brook, Conway”, “Artist’s Brook, Conway” and “Sketch in Conway”.
There are a few tantalizing items to be found in the archives of The Boston Globe such as these:
Jul. 21, 1873 (Salem): “A FINE PICTURE.- A charming little oil painting of the valley of the Saco river, with the White mountains rising in the distance, is on exhibition in the window of Daniel T. Smith’s store [my note: a watchmaker & jeweler], on the corner of Essex and Washington streets. It was executed by Mr. George Newcomb, an amateur artist of this city, and all who are familiar with the scenery of North Conway pronounce the study a very fine one.”
Aug. 14, 1874 (Art Notes): “Mr. George Newcomb of Salem, a pupil of Virgil Williams, is acquiring a good reputation as a landscape painter. His pictures are occasionally seen in our art galleries, and always find a ready sale. A recent production of his brush, ‘Autumn on the Saco’, which has been on exhibition in Salem, has received several merited notices in the papers, as has his ‘White Mountains from the Intervale’, a North Conway study. Mr. Newcomb goes to North Conway again, in a few days, and more of his lovely studies in this picturesque town may be looked for.”
The painting offered here is dated 1910 and being thirty-six years later there is no guarantee it is by the same person. Surely, it seems to be painted by the hand of an experienced artist. The paint surface also bears comparison to the mature work of John Enneking, a contemporary of the aforementioned George Newcomb of the 1870’s. There are a number of George Newcombs who lived in the region at that time. One who may be of interest is George F. Newcomb. He was born in Salem in 1858 and his listed occupation was printer in that city’s 1877 directory, living at “5 Cross-st. court”. It was reported in the Boston Globe that in Salem on April 17, 1879: “A slight fire occurred at the house of George Newcomb, No. 5 Cross street court, at about 1 o’clock this morning. It was supposed to have been originated from the combustion of painters’ articles.” It is not clear if said articles were artist’s materials. That particular George went to become a partner in the Newcomb and Gauss printing firm in 1918. He later passed away in Salem in 1939. Admittedly, this George would be fairly young in 1873, just fifteen.
The painting bears a past gallery label from the Gralyn Galleries of North Conway, New Hampshire. Specializing in 19th century American paintings, the gallery was operated by Bob and Dorothy Goldberg. Bob, born in North Conway and also a longtime resident, was a major 20th century dealer of White Mountain art who was passionate about the region and its paintings. In 2013, the Museum of the White Mountains held an exhibition “Through the Eyes of the Dealers: Bob and Dot Goldberg” composed of paintings from the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College where Bob and Dorothy bequeathed their extensive collection.
The painting is in excellent condition. There are no paint losses, no inpainting under UV light and virtually no craquelure. I see exceedingly minute, stable craquelure in the lighter blue of the sky which I only noticed in the up-close photographs. It is not at all visible under normal viewing and is basically irrelevant. The artist’s direct method of applying the paint has contributed to the painting’s surviving in such great condition. The paint surface is clean, and the colors are vivid. The Arts & Crafts fumed oak molded frame is in excellent condition as well, with minor expected wear at the corners and has a pleasing matte surface and its darkness nicely sets off the bright scene depicted in the painting.
George Newcomb, "North Moat From River Road", White Mountains oil painting on board