Lyell Carr (1857-1912)
Tolbert Plantation, Summer , 1891
Oil on canvas
23 1/2 x 17 5/8 inches
Signed lower right : Lyell Carr
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Chicago native Lyell Carr earned glowing accolades for paintings that accurately and charmingly portrayed life in the South at the close of the nineteenth century. Several works, including Opossum Snout, Plantation Picked, The Cracker's Daughter, and A Shower in the Blue Ridge, are the product of Carr’s extended visits to rural Georgia, centering around the town of Tallapoosa. These scenes gained national recognition when praised in an 1894 article in The Quarterly Illustrator as being the logical—and perhaps sole—successor to the Southern genre paintings of Eastman Johnson and Winslow Homer. A related work, The Cotton Broker, elicited an enthusiastic review from the critic for the Times after it was exhibited in New York that same year: “The Cotton Broker, by Lyell Carr, is so exceptional as to form an oasis for those who are not interested in experiments and studio clevernesses, but ask that a picture shall tell them a nice little story.”

After briefly operating a studio in his hometown, Carr moved to New York in the early 1880s. In 1884, he sojourned to Europe, studying at Paris’s Academie Julian and Ecole des Beaux-Arts under J. J. Lefebvre and Gustave Boulanger. These French classicists emphasized the importance of drawing to exceptional painting. Their influence on Carr’s style can be seen in the artist’s firm definition of form and a realistic handling of space.

Returning to New York, Carr plied the trades of decorator and artist. He provided interior decorations for the townhouse of Thomas Ryan, while regularly exhibiting his paintings in large annuals at the National Academy of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Boston Art Club. His paintings entered many fine collections. A Ride Home at Sunset (1891) was purchased from Carr by Thomas B. Clarke of New York, who was at that time the leading patron of contemporary American artists. In the Clarke home, Carr's painting hung with those of Winslow Homer, Frederic E. Church, and Thomas Moran.

Carr was at the height of his popularity when he died quite suddenly in his studio on February 17, 1912.

 

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