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Georgia (Live Oak at Sunset), circa 1907
William de Leftwich Dodge (1867-1935)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
40 x 30 inches
Signature Details: W, de L Dodge
Status: The Cloister, Sea Island, Georgia

Born in Bedford,Virginia, William de Leftwich Dodge was raised in Europe, where his mother had moved in 1879 to study painting. Living first in Munich, then in Paris, he followed her example, studying briefly in Munich, and from 1885 to 1889 in Paris, under Jean Léon Gérôme at the École des Beaux Arts. This solid academic training resulted in Dodge’s mastery of the techniques required for handling various media, and the ability to work on a large scale.

On his return to the United States, he settled in New York City and established himself as a mural painter, while also producing plein-air landscapes. Dodge’s interest in outdoor painting was advanced in 1898, when he spent the first of three consecutive summers at Giverny, France, where a number of American Impressionist painters had formed an art colony. Dodge never abandoned this practice, composing luminous impressionist works throughout his career, in both oil and watercolor.

Like most of his colleagues, Dodge was an astute observer of the natural world, and approached his subjects in all kinds of weather and at various times of day. This evocative portrayal of a live oak at sunset was painted on one of the trips that he and his wife made to Georgia between 1905 and 1907 to visit friends Lily Livingston and Pierre Lorillard at Harris Neck, about fifty miles south of Savannah. Dodge must have been intrigued by the painterly possibilities of the moss, for he portrayed the same tree bathed in moonlight, titled Spanish Moss, and produced at least two other examples of the subject, Summer Day under Spanish Moss (Greenville County Museum of Art) and Woods with Hanging Moss, a watercolor.  

The abstracted design and poetic mood make this work surprisingly modern in feeling. Dodge must have been pleased with it, for he showed Georgia (Live Oak at Sunset) at the Pennsylvania Academy’s annual exhibition in 1907. The painting was also exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1907 under the title Souvenir de Georgia.

Nancy Rivard Shaw 2003

Ronald Pisano, “William de Leftwich Dodge,” exhibition catalogue. New York: Beacon Hill Fine Art, 1996.


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