"EARLY MAY - STOCKTON"
Signed 'Daniel Garber' bottom center left; also titled and signed verso, oil on composition board
20 1/2 x 18 5/8 in. (52.1 x 47.3cm)
In a Harer Frame.
Executed in 1949.
Acquired directly from the above.
Bertha Clark, Newton, Pennsylvania.
Bequeathed from the above.
Private Collection, Pennsylvania.
The Artist's Record Book, I, p. 74, lines 7-8.
Lance Humphries, Daniel Garber: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume II,New York: Hollis Taggart Galleries, 2006, p. 287, cat. P 840 (illustrated).
"Early May - Stockton" is the last representation of the Berean Baptist Church by Daniel Garber. Indeed, although the artist had no known affiliation with the church, the building seemed to have entranced the artist as he painted four other views of it between 1931 and 1939. Dedicated in 1861, the church stood on the edge of Stockton, New Jersey, a small village across the Delaware River and opposite Centre Bridge, Pennsylvania. Here, the building is seen from the top of a hill at the edge of town.
Garber was fundamentally attracted to the elegant architecture of the church, especially to its highly decorative multi-tiered steeple. The present work is illustrative of such a fascination, as Garber only depicts the steeple of the church, and purposely omits the last third of the building. As in his other views of Stockton, the church completely dominates the composition. Through his particular arrangement of the trees in the foreground, and the woods in the background, Garber gives the impression of an isolated church in a bucolic setting, similar to the barns he depicted in his Lone Farm series. By doing so, Garber suggests a country church, while in reality the town of Stockton lies directly behind the building. None of Garber's views directly depict the front of Stockton church, perhaps because its tall arched windows looked too Victorian for the artist, who essentially wanted his viewer to believe that the building was from an earlier, simpler period. As Lance Humphries points out, the church is seen from a direction that allows the full side of the steeple to be depicted, "its weathered and mottled stucco providing interesting texture and the appearance of age, as in many of Garber's paintings of old mills and houses".
The landscape is completely immersed in sunlight. The contrast between dark and light shades (most notably on the church's roof) evokes the effects of the direct sunlight as it falls through the trees, while the bright green and orange hues of the hill prefigure the artist's boldly colored works of the 1940s. Contrary to "Sunday at Stockton" or "Stockton Church", Garber does not draw the viewer's eye into the painting via a narrow road. Instead, he creates several layers of colors and shades, from bottom to top, so as to echo the height of the steeple. According to Kathleen Foster, "most frequently, (...) [Garber's] landscapes divide into horizontal bands, sharply setting off foreground, middle ground (often the Delaware River) and distance. (...) Garber counselled [sic] his students to see the landscape in planes like 'curtains,' and this is exactly the 'decorative' effect his paintings produced." The artist's classic tapestry-like effect is visible in the foreground field and in the background foliage, as he weaves together precise brushstrokes of varied, vibrant colors which all indicate a burst in nature, slowly transitioning from spring to summer.
The Berean Baptist Church has since been renamed Wesleyan. Unfortunately, the steeple lost the decorative woodwork, which the artist fondly admired.
Sold for $106,250 (buyer's premium included)