An enigmatic figure, Middleton Manigault was born in London, Ontario to a prominent and cultured family whose heritage can be traced to Charleston, South Carolina. Little is known of his early life. In 1905, he moved to New York to enroll in the New York School of Art, studying with Robert Henri and Kenneth Hayes Miller; his fellow students included George Bellows, Glenn O. Coleman, Guy Pène du Bois, and Edward Hopper. Initially interested in illustration, Manigault briefly turned to painting landscapes before launching an extended aesthetic exploration of modernist strategies.
In 1909, Manigault's work shifted abruptly from realism. Beginning that year, he experimented with widely varied approaches, and his work reveals the influences of symbolism, post-impressionism, expressionism, and cubism. His first solo exhibition was held in 1909 in New York at the Haas Galleries; additional shows there followed in 1910 and 1911. He traveled in 1912 to England and France, where he studied the Old Masters and also began painting landscapes with nudes and working in the medium of watercolor. Manigault participated in the 1910 Exhibition of Independent Artists and in the 1913 Armory Show. An acquaintance with Charles Daniel-proprietor of the Daniel Gallery, one of the notable venues for exhibiting American art in New York-led to representation by that gallery.
Grazing is executed in a more traditional vein than the artist's best-known, highly decorative style, though he makes use of ornamental patterning that animates the interpretation of the landscape. A versatile technician in fine arts as well as crafts, he produced work in oil, watercolor, and ceramics, and also executed murals and interior design projects. In 1916, Manigault began to frequent locales in New England and in the Oneida community of New York. Three years later, he moved to Los Angeles and then, in 1921, to San Francisco, which effectively removed him from the hub of the New York art world.
Plagued by instability and depression, Manigault apparently destroyed many of his works and also undertook an extended fast that resulted in his premature death. A prolific and frequent exhibitor who received critical acclaim during a large part of his active career, Manigault was relegated to obscurity until a relatively recent rediscovery and reappraisal of his work.
Brewer, Philip L., M.D., Spot: Southern Works on Paper (2008; Charleston: Hicklin Galleries, LLC/The Charleston Renaissance Gallery), 148, illustrated page 88.
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