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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Have You Seen Me?

Portrait of America (detail), 1933
We’ve mentioned on this blog before how valuable the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection is to scholars and historians in their research. The Juley firm worked with artists and galleries throughout New York City and beyond, spanning several important decades in art history. Their tireless work has resulted in an archives collection rich in subject matter, and often times the images in the collection are the only documentation we may have of an artwork that has been lost, altered or destroyed.

While cataloging the collection, I’ve come across artworks that are easily confirmed destroyed, such as Diego Rivera’s mural, “Portrait of America." Originally installed in 1933 at the New Workers School in New York, in 1942 it was moved to Unity House in Forest Park, Pennsylvania. A fire broke out in the building in 1969, destroying all of the mural panels.

Unlike the Rivera mural, other artworks documented in the Juley Collection are not so easy to find. Information may not be readily available about where they may have ended up, or if they even still exist. Aside from those that are destroyed, works can disappear by becoming part of an unknown private collection, or simply by being forgotten about or packed away a la the recent story about several Arthur Pinajian paintings found in a Long Island garage.

So, in my research, I’ve certainly hit a few walls in trying to locate a painting or sculpture. Perhaps I can turn to our blog readers for help?

John Sloan, Movies, Five Cents, 1907
As an inaugural post for a semi-regular feature searching for unlocated artworks, and inspired by the life of great film critic Roger Ebert, I thought I’d post this John Sloan painting that depicts the popularity and fascination with the cinema and nickelodeons in the beginning of the 20th century (noted in Katherine Manthorne's, "John Sloan's Moving Picture Eye"). Entitled “Movies, Five Cents,” its last known location was in a private collection.

Any leads out there on the whereabouts of this painting? Let us know in the comments!

Rachel Brooks
Photograph Archives, Smithsonian American Art Museum

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