A devoted student of the natural sublime, portraiture, and visual criticism, Connecticut-born artist James Britton gave his life to art. He was a prolific writer and note taker, keeping detailed journals of his observations and notes on his life. These writings have compelled curators and historians to revisit his work, having fallen into relative obscurity after his death in 1936, a victim of ailing health and poverty. Despite his meager financial resources, he used whatever tools and materials were available to him, at times using scraps of cereal boxes as canvases for his paintings. He held a deep affection for the splendor of the New England countryside, from Connecticut to New York, and focused primarily on these subjects in the later years of his life. The 10 works on view in James Britton highlight the artist’s command of paint and light. None larger than a sheet of paper, each painting reveals itself to be an exquisite object, inviting closer inspection. Through this small survey of his later works, we are given a glimpse into the artist’s celebration of the American Northeast of the 1920s and 30s.
James Britton (1878 – 1936) was born in Hartford, Connecticut. Active in New York and New England from the 1900s to the 1930s, Britton was well known as both an artist and a writer. In New York, Britton formed an exhibiting group of artists called The Eclectics, which included at times Maurice Prendergast, George Luks, Philip L. Hale and Theresa Bernstein. His work was exhibited regularly in New York City, Connecticut, Boston, and Gloucester, Massachusetts. In addition to his published writings in American ART News and other periodicals and journals, Britton maintained diaries over some 30 years. Britton’s papers are now at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. In 2005, James Britton: Connecticut Artist, was assembled at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, CT. His work is included in such collections as the Wadsworth Atheneum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Florence Griswold Museum, The Mark Twain House and Museum, The Parrish Art Museum, and The New York Public Library. This show marks the first time the work of James Britton has been exhibited in Washington, DC