Douglass Crockwell was a founding trustee of The Hyde Collection, acted as its first director, and was famous for his illustrative paintings for such national publications as the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, and Esquire. His commercial illustrations were commissioned by such manufacturing and industry giants as General Electric, General Motors, Coca Cola, and Standard Oil. Crockwell lived and worked in Glens Falls from 1932 until his death in 1968.
“Although Crockwell is more widely known as a commercial illustrator, this painting is a remarkable example of his endeavor as a fine artist —- long before he became the famous illustrator of the 1940s and 50s,” stated Hyde Chief Curator Erin B. Coe. The painting depicts two anonymous Finch Pruyn workers smoothing a massive roll of newsprint on a towering paper machine while in the lower left corner a manager supervises their work. Crockwell painted two nearly identical versions of this image of labor during the Great Depression, when many American workers were unemployed. “Crockwell is boldly presenting the primary industry of Glens Falls at the height of the Depression,” added Coe. The first version belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. and was created by Crockwell in 1934 for the Works Progress Administration. This second version, donated to The Hyde, was made by the artist for Finch Pruyn & Co. later that same year.
According to The Hyde’s Executive Director David F. Setford, the gift is a major acquisition for a number of reasons. “Sam Hoopes saw the opportunity to share with the Museum a piece of Glens Falls history. The image of Paper Workers, Finch Pruyn & Co. connects us with the industrial roots that allowed The Hyde Collection to begin.”
The painting joins two other works in the Museum’s collection by Crockwell. The first, acquired in 1971, is a painted illustration for the Saturday Evening Post and was gifted to The Hyde by Crockwell’s wife and son. The second is an unfinished portrait of Louis Fiske Hyde, which was donated to the Museum by Mrs. Crockwell and her family in 1979.
“Paper Workers, Finch Pruyn & Co.” was presented by The Hyde’s Collections Committee to the Board of Trustees for approval at their meeting on September 21, 2009. The work will be sent to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for conservation treatment, and when the painting returns it will be placed on public view.
Photo: Douglass Crockwell, American, 1904-1968 “Paper Workers, Finch Pruyn & Co.,” Glens Falls, New York, 1934, Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 in.