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Merton Clivette
Merton Clivette Flower Still Life

Early 20th Century

About the Item

Merton Clivette (1868-1931) No. 183, Flowers!, c. late 19th-early 20th century Oil on canvas 35 x 32 in. Framed: 41 1/2 x 39 in. Inscribed verso: No. 183, Flowers! by Clivette Clivette was born in Portage, Wisconsin, in 1868 as Merton Clive Cook, to a retired British sea captain and his wife. After his father died, when he was five, his mother, a writer and poet, took the family to the Wyoming Territory where she ran a newspaper. Merton never attended a formal school, but learned to read and write while working in the newspaper office. He left home when he was twelve to join a traveling circus, performing as an acrobat and magician. He moved to San Francisco and briefly lived in Seattle. He worked for newspapers, including the San Francisco Call, as a quick sketch artist. 1891 he altered his act to conform to the vaudeville stage, billing himself as "Clivette, The Man in Black". With his wife, the former Catherine Parker Chamberlin, he toured throughout the United States and Europe on the Orpheum Circuit. Around 1907, the year his daughter, Juanyta, was born in New York City, Clivette gave up his stage career and began to paint full-time. He was about 40 years old and was to continue to paint vigorously and prolifically for the remaining 22 years of his life: he produced a body of work numbering more than a thousand works - paintings in oil and tempera and pencil drawings. In all his art there is a recognizably individual stylistic continuity evident in his characteristic brushstroke, paint-handling, use of line, color, composition and subject matter. Clivette, with his wife and daughter were a part of the colorful Bohemian life of Greenwich Village in the 1910s and 20's. He was an active participant in the art world of New York, and his work was exhibited extensively during this period at a number of galleries, among them the Ainslee Art Gallery, the New Gallery and the Anderson Galleries in New York and the M.M. Bernheim-Jeune in Paris. Clivette was included in the exhibition, "Painting and Sculpture by Living Americans" at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1930. Also exhibited in this show were Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, William Glackens, Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam, George Luks and Charles Sheeler. A description and critical analysis of Clivette's work in included in Modern Art, Why, What & How by Henry Rankin Poore. Clivette died of cancer in 1931 at the age of 62 at the peak of his talents and career. There were some posthumous exhibitions, notably at the Los Angeles Museum in 1931 and 1934 and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1934. There may have been other exhibitions both during his lifetime and posthumously as research is still on-going. Unaccountably the family withdrew the work from public view until his grandson inherited the collection in 1981. Since then there have been exhibitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Los Gatos, California. Solo Exhibition: 1926 New Gallery, 600 Madison Ave, New York, N.Y. 1927 New Gallery, 600 Madison Ave, New York, N.Y. (reviews) 1927 M.M. Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, France (catalogue, review) 1928 Milwaukee Journal Gallery of Wisconsin Art, Milwaukee, WI 1928 Speed Memorial Gallery, Louisville, KE 1929 Art Center, "Gustave Nassauer's Collection of Paintings by Clivette", 65 East 56th St, New York, N.Y. 1930 100 Central Park South, "Collection of Gustave Nassauer" (catalogue, review) New York, N.Y. 1933 Art Center, 65 East 56th St, New York, N.Y. 1993 Denenberg Fine Arts Gallery, 257 Grant Ave., San Francisco, CA 1993 Couturier Gallery, 166 North La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 2004 CaliforniaView Fine Arts, 142 Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos, CA Group Exhibtions: 1923 Ainslee's Art Galleries, 677 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 1925 Spanish Society, 239 West 14th St, New York, N.Y. 1927 Society of Independent Artists, "11th Annual Exhibition" (catalogue, review) The Waldorf-Astoria, New York, N.Y. 1927 The Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA 1928 Ainslee Gallery, Fisher Building, Detroit, MI (catalogue, review) 1929 The Brooklyn Museum, "Exhibition of Watercolor Paintings, Pastels & Drawings By American & European Artists" (catalogue) Brooklyn, N.Y. 1929 The Anderson Galleries, "Spring Salon" (catalogue) 1929 Corona Mundi International Art Center of the Roerich Museum "Exhibition of Modern Art from the Collection of George Hellman" New York, N.Y. 1929 Oakland Art Gallery (later the Oakland Museum), Oakland, CA (reviews) 1930 Museum of Modern Art, "Paintings and Sculpture by Living Americans" (catalogue) New York, N.Y. 1931 The Los Angeles Museum, Los Angeles, CA (review) 1932 The Anderson Galleries, "Notable Paintings & Drawings Chiefly of the Modern School" New York, N.Y. 1934 Philadelphia Museum of Art "The Horse in 20th Century Art "(review) Philadelphia, PA 1934 The Los Angeles Museum of Art, Group exhibition with John Wardman and Rex Slinkar Los Angeles, CA 1935 Contemporary Arts, "Collection of Burton Emmett" New York, N.Y. Bibliography: Churchill, Allen Improper Bohemians Dalton 1959, New York Hellman, George S. Lanes of Memory Reproduction of Clivette painting of Rodin Alfred A. Knopf, 1927, New York Parry, Albert Garretts & Pretenders Covici-Friede, Inc. 1933, New York Poore, Henry Rankin Modern Art, Why, What & How G.P. Putname Sons, 1931, New York & London Public Collections: Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, N.Y. Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, NC Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC Bio sourced from Archives of AskArt.
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