October 12, 2014


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Lot 311: Lowell Nesbitt

Lot 311: Lowell Nesbitt

Belle Grove Plantation

Oil on canvas
Signed, dated, titled, and inscribed "Belle Grove Plantation/(Burned to the Ground-1952)/65" x 85" L. Nesbitt" verso
Canvas: 65" x 85";
Frame: 66.25" x 86.25"
Exhibited: "Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture," Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, March 5-April 9, 1967
Illustrated: Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture. Exhibition Catalogue. Urbana: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 1967. p 151, #71.
Estimate: $7,000 - $9,000
Price Realized: $10,000
Inventory Id: 16311

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Throughout his career, Lowell Nesbitt (1933-1993) approached a variety of subject matter using the format of a series, but he is most well-known for his large, seductive flower paintings. His flowers reached a populist zenith in the 1980s when the United States Postal Service issued a set of four stamps with Nesbitt's designs. However, Nesbitt's lush, emotive flower paintings belie their complicated theoretical basis and the formal, architectonic qualities of their making. Working off of images found in seed catalogues, Nesbitt created an initial sketch, and then plotted out the enlarged image onto the canvas using a grid system. To achieve the natural, soft form of the flower, he counterintuitively painted using geometric shapes while alternating the softness and hardness of line.

At the outset, Anemone '64 (1964) looks strikingly photorealistic, but closer inspection reveals subtle abstractions and alluring artistic liberties. The edges of the anemone petals oscillate with accents of red and blue. The petals curve sumptuously inward, culminating in an amber and gold crown of stamens that surround a highlighted gray mound of pistils. It is no wonder that Nesbitt's paintings are often thought of as sensual and alluding to the body. Surprisingly, Nesbitt had a different theory, comparing his serial flower paintings to Robert Rauschenberg's Factum I and Factum II of 1957, in which the latter artist created one work in the manner of a tempestuous action painting by Jackson Pollock, then followed it up by attempting to mimic the unrepeatable, spontaneous process. It is this complex foundation under an undeniable aesthetic beauty that fueled Nesbitt's popularity both in and out of the art world.

Lowell Nesbitt: The Flower Series 1964-1973. Washington, DC: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1973. Print.
Smith, Roberta. "Lowell Nesbitt, a Realist Painter of Flowers, is Found Dead at 59." NYTimes.com. The New York Times. Web. 21 Aug. 2014.