Clarence Holbrook Carter, William Stolte, Ex-Councilman (1932), oil on canvas, 50″ x 35-1/2″; courtesy Hirschl & Adler Galleries
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A friend and I were wending through Hirschl & Adler’s stately new digs, on the way to see John Moore‘s astringent meditations on (per Wallace Stevens) “the past and to live and to be/In the present”, when we happened upon William Stolte, Ex-Councilman (1932), an oil on canvas portrait by Clarence Holbrook Carter (1904-2000). It’s featured in an array of artworks from the gallery’s inventory.
Clarence Holbrook who? Right, I’d never hear of him either. A cursory Google search reveals Carter to have been a former student of Hans Hoffman, a short-term employee of the W.P.A. and a Regionalist painter of some renown. From all accounts, Carter’s work would take on a Surrealist bent later in life, a tendency already in full, if somewhat sneaky, effect in this 1932 portrait.
William Stolte, Ex-Councilman is a bizarre, cloistered image, an essay in displacement more than a portrait per se. What did the former public servant from the fine state of Ohio think of the picture’s pristine airlessness and, especially, that unnervingly liquid grey suit? The picture’s lop-sided focus and disquiet are hard to put out of mind and, you would think, impossible to miss.
Whatever. All I know is that if Carter and Stolte belong to history, that crazy suit will live forever.
Postscript: You’ll find my thoughts about a previous exhibition of John Moore’s paintings here.
© 2011 Mario Naves