In the NYTimes, Kirk Johnson reports that Amherst art history professor Carol C. Clark learned of Charles Deas when she stumbled upon one of his paintings in a Nova Scotia cabin. Smitten with his work, Clark has assembled an exhibition of thirty-nine Deas which are on display at the Denver Art Museum through November 28. Deas, a successful painter in the 1800s, specialized in portraits and scenes of the American frontier in the 1800s, but died virtually unknown in a mental hospital at 48.
“He painted brilliantly and prolifically for a decade in the 1800s, and became, briefly, a sensation on the New York art scene. Then, at age 29, he went insane. He lived out the rest of his life in mental institutions, and by the time he died, at age 48, right after the Civil War, he and his paintings had fallen into obscurity. But dozens of them, it turns out, were only in hiding, and now they are considered national treasures, painted by a doomed artist with a back story made for Hollywood and an eye that captured a fast-fading West.
“And thereby hangs the tale of new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, the first-ever retrospective of Deas’s work, assembled by an art history professor, Carol C. Clark, who found herself compelled by the art, and the story of Deas’s life, and finally by the hunt for his lost works. The show features 39 Deas pieces. Perhaps 50 more, according to descriptions in the 1800s, were completed and are now missing. Professor Clark, who teaches art history and American studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts, hopes the show will flush some of them out. ” Read more.
“Charles Deas & 1840s America,” Denver Art Museum, Denver CO. Through Nov. 28, 2010.