Paintings of James Britton
Back on View at the Nabi
Landscapes and portraits by James Britton (1878-1936), a noteworthy American painter whose work has been regaining critical favor, were featured in a one-artist show in the spring of 2006 and remain available for viewing on request.
Well-known in his time both as an artist and a critic, Britton lived and worked in Connecticut, New York City, and Sag Harbor, L.I. Born in Hartford, he moved to New York at age 17 to apprentice as an illustrator at Scribner’s Magazine and to study at the Art Students League. Later, while living in Greenwich Village, he organized a group of painters and sculptors known as The Eclectics (including Maurice Prendergast, George Luks, Guy Pene du Bois, and Philip Hale) with whom he exhibited regularly. As a critic for American Art News, he reviewed contemporary events such as the Armory Show of 1913.
Bay with Sailboat, Sag Harbor, oil on panel, 15x24, 1925
Britton was a compulsive painter of landscapes, often revisiting the same scene over and over to study the changing effects of light and cloud. Chronically short of funds with which to buy materials, he painted on whatever came to hand, including cereal boxes and, in one piece on display, both sides of the same panel. These works convey a spontaneity and a delight in color and texture that make them seem still fresh today.
Autumn Foliage, Waterbury, on reverse of same panel, 1926
The Nabi exhibit includes a variety of landscapes that Britton produced in Sag Harbor and later in Connecticut, where he returned toward the end of his life. Along with small pieces on board or panel, there are several rare landscapes on canvas, a group of portraits (including one of Britton’s teacher Charles Noel Flagg), and a sampling of woodblock prints and drawings.
Portrait of Charles Noel Flagg, oil on canvas, 38x31, 1908
Aside from a 1936 memorial exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Britton’s work was seldom seen in the decades following his death—until his granddaughters Ursula and Barbara took up his cause in the 1990s, attracting renewed attention from critics and curators. There followed a series of events at museums in Connecticut and California, culminating last summer in James Britton: Connecticut Artist at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London.
Rosalie, oil on canvas, 26x21, 1921
The work was brought to the Nabi Gallery’s attention in 1998 by the late critic Ronald Pisano, who noted its stylistic match with the gallery’s more recent inventory. At that time the Nabi occupied space in Sag Harbor—in, as it turned out, the same building where Britton had rented a studio 75 years earlier.
Sag Harbor Studio, oil on canvas, 24x36, 1925
(Including portraits of the artist and of his wife Caroline)
In subsequent years the gallery included his work in three Sag Harbor shows and two more following our move to Chelsea in 2004. James Britton: Landscapes and Portraits, opening here March 16, is the artist’s first one-man show in New York City since 1924.
Self-Portrait, Sag Harbor, oil on canvas, 12x9, 1923
Click here to view more images from this exhibit.
For images from earlier Britton shows, click here and follow the links at the bottom of the page.
The Nabi Gallery mounted another Britton show in 2007, which you can view here.
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