David Ericson (1869 - 1946)
Playmates, Provincetown, n.d.
Oil on board
9 ¾ x 12 ¾ inches
Signed and inscribed verso: DAVID ERICSON. / PROVINCETOWN. / CAPE COD. / MASS.
Buffalo Society of Artists, Albright Art Gallery (label verso)
Born in Sweden, David Ericson was brought to Duluth, Minnesota, as a boy and grew up on Park Point. He dabbled in watercolors while bedridden with an ailment that resulted in the amputation of his leg; by the age of sixteen he won a gold medal in the Minnesota State Fair’s Fine Art Exhibition for a genre painting called “Salting the Sheep.” Duluth patrons sent Ericson to New York for studies at the Art Students League, the preeminent professional school of the day. By 1900 he was in Paris, refining his art in the ateliers of French masters and finally that of James McNeill Whistler, whose pearl-toned reveries gave Ericson a lifelong aesthetic for his preferred themes of seaside vistas, quiet villages, and pensive sitters. Plein-air work in the south of France heated Ericson’s style to a boldness of palette and touch that was a veritable homage to French Impressionism; by the final decade of his life he had perfected a process of thickly worked surfaces glazed with transparent colors to achieve what he characterized as “a dreamlike quality.”
Ericson spent nearly twenty years of his life in Europe: living in France, traveling across the continent, painting in Venice. He owned a home in the Cape Cod artist’s colony of Provincetown, Massachusetts, and exhibited his paintings nationally to some critical acclaim. Ericson adopted the imperious Whistler’s style but not his attitudes: alongside his master, Ericson must have seemed utterly bourgeois. In Provincetown he seems not to have moved in the colony’s more adventurous circles, either artistically or socially. He preferred a quiet salon of music and conversation at home with his wife and son, and selected guests.
An exhibition of his work was held at the Tweed Museum of Art at University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2005. David Ericson, Always Returning: The Life and Work of a Duluth Cultural Icon unfolded the stylistic development of a painter who largely ignored modernist fashions once he had found his direction.