Oil on canvas. Painted before 1911. Signed lower left. "Uncle Jesse" written on back of canvas. Gilt & black frame. 49 3/4" x 30 3/8" ; frame, 60 1/2" x 41 1/4."
Lucy May Stanton was an important American Impressionist best-known for her fine miniatures; her later landscapes, still lifes & portraits would beautifully represent her Southern heritage in exquisite detail. Her works may be seen in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the United States House of Representatives, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Georgia Museum of Art.
The date of "Uncle Jesse" is not known, but in Stanton's notes, under the heading "Exhibitions for 1910-11," she lists it as being shown at the Paris Salon. The painting was discovered years after her death in a roll stored beneath a cabin in Andrews, North Carolina. In 2001 it underwent extensive restoration, which included the painstaking removal of the canvas from the plywood board to which it had been glued. The conservator found "Uncle Jesse" written on the back of the canvas in what appears to be the artist's hand.
In the painting, a grizzled old man, somewhat stooped and dressed in heavy clothing, stands with his knees slightly bent, in three-quarter view facing his left. He holds a cap in his hands. He stares out over the wire-rim glasses that rest low on his nose. His countenance is dignified, yet an air of mystery surrounds him. Indeed, he does not seem as comfortable a model as most of the African Americans whom Stanton painted despite his being identified as "uncle," which would imply a close relationship. One source said that Uncle Jesse was a gravedigger in Athens, Georgia who performed this final service without charge for his fellow African Americans.
-Above information courtesy of "The Art of Lucy May Stanton," 2002, Georgia Museum of Art & University of Georgia. Restored in 2001, which included removal of the canvas from a plywood board onto a waxy canvas. Provenance:
Dr. Marion Garber, great-niece of the artist.