Brock & Co.

Edward Middleton Manigault (1887 – 1922)
New York City Street Scene, 1908
Oil on academy board
6 x 8 inches
Signed at lower left: Manigault
Dated at lower right: 08
Period Thulin frame
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[Art Market, New York, New York]
Private dealer, Massachusetts

Edward Middleton Manigault defies categorization as an artist. He was constantly exploring different modes of painting during his all too brief lifetime, though all were in the Modernist mode. At various points in his career, Manigault explored Realism, post-Impressionism, Symbolism, and Cubism. An intensely creative soul, Manigault also executed etchings, vividly colored ceramics, wood frames, furniture, and interior decorations.

Manigault was born in London, Ontario, Canada, into a prominent, culturally aware family. An accomplished draftsman at an early age, he was asked to do line drawings of local buildings by the city of London, Ontario, when he was 18 years old. Soon after, in 1905, Manigault moved to New York City to seriously pursue his artistic career. He enrolled in the New York School of Art, where he took classes with legendary teachers Robert Henri and Kenneth Hayes Miller.

Reflecting the influence of Robert Henri’s Ashcan School of painting, Manigault’s earliest subjects were New York’s urban streets and structures, painted in a dark, tennebrist palette. Manigault already had practice in rendering buildings and perspective from his first commission in London, Ontario, though from Henri he learned to handle paint in a looser, more expressive manner.

The present work, a New York City street scene dated 1908, definitely reflects Manigault’s early teachings and proclivities. It is clearly related to a painting illustrated in Middleton Manigault: Visionary Modernist (2001, fig. 6). Though two years separate the two works, in both cases Manigault depicts the same wide avenue at a raking angle, with multistoried buildings forming a syncopated skyline. The streets are lined with bare trees, carriages, and pedestrians with umbrellas. The evocation of a chilly winter’s day in New York is complete.

In 1909, Manigault shifted away from a realist manner of painting, and began exploring a more personally expressive manner. As suggested by the wide range of styles and medium in which he worked, change became the norm for Manigault.
This kind of artistic exploration was accompanied by a fragile psychological nature. Manigault suffered his first nervous breakdown while serving under British forces during the First World War. He eventually wanted to attain higher mental states, starving himself like the ascetics in the hopes of achieving greater artistic clarity. Sadly, he went too far, and ended up dying of starvation in 1922 at the age of 35. His legacy, however, is secure in the remarkable range of paintings and crafts he left behind.