|American Paintings — Tompkins Harrison Matteson (1813-1884) - Santa’s Workshop|
|Tompkins Harrison Matteson (1813-1884) - Santa’s Workshop
Tompkins Harrison Matteson (1813-1884) - Santa’s Workshop
Signed l.l: T.H. Matteson and dated 1856
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: h: 25.5 x w: 30.5 in
A Charming Mid Nineteenth-Century Painting of Santa’s Workshop
This charming work depicting a scene in Santa’s workshop was painted by celebrated artist Tompkins H. Matteson. Though Matteson was a historical and genre painter, he is remembered chiefly for his popular patriotic pictures, which were widely known through reproductions. As a native of upstate New York, Matteson successfully harnessed the energy of the growing nation in order to produce moving scenes of Revolutionary war victories, among many others.
As one of the first artists to portray the iconic images that continue to resonate with Americans, Matteson tirelessly painted and sketched a variety of subjects. This painting of Santa’s workshop is a fantastic example of Matteson’s more playful work. In the foreground, five elves with mischievous expressions entertain one another playing instruments and showing off their newest creations. In the background, several other figures are engaged in loading the precious cargo into Santa’s waiting sleigh. Matteson’s masterful use of light lends a warm glow to the painting while adding an air of drama to the scene.
His father, a Democratic politician, named him for Governor Tompkins of New York. Young Matteson copied prints, cut out silhouettes, obtained a paint-box, and experimented assiduously in the intervals of work in a pharmacy and a tailor's shop. In 1834 he found his way to Sherburne, making his first appearance there as Othello in a company of strolling players whose star performer had been prostrated by sickness in Hamilton. Soon after this he went to New York and drew from the antique in the National Academy school and opened a studio.
After a move to Geneva, N. Y., in 1841 he Matteson enjoyed success in the art world. Much of his best work was done in this period, including his "Spirit of Seventy-six" which was received with enthusiasm and was bought by the Art Union. He was made an associate of the National Academy and exhibited frequently up to 1869. In 1850 he retired to Sherburne where he remained with his family until his death in 1884.
Following his death at Sherburne in 1884, the National Academy paid a tribute to Matteson’s character and talents. The Sherburne Public Library owns his "King Lear" and "Washington Crossing the Delaware." His "Trial of George Jacobs for Witchcraft" belongs to the Essex Institute, Salem, Mass. Matteson's drawing is more spirited than accurate, though he possessed a knack for suggesting action. His most successful motives were drawn in black and white for reproduction, and were highly sought after in the format of prints.
Provenance: Sale: Henry H. Leeds & Co., May 28, 1957, Catalog of a Splendid Collection of Costly Oil Paintings, Pastels, Watercolor Drawings Being the Property of W. Shaus, Esq., May 28, 1957, lot 107, p. 9); Stevens Family, Connecticut; Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York