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Study of Two Trees

Not on view

Study of Two Trees

Artist: Xanthus Russell Smith (American, 1839 - 1929)

Date: n.d.a.
Medium: Graphite and sgraffito on prepared paper
Overall: 11 1/2 x 15in. (29.2 x 38.1cm)
Markings: "#7" in graphite on verso in lower right corner
Credit Line: Museum Purchase, in part, with funds from a gift by Mrs. Wilma Westervelt
Object number: 2004.10
Label Text
Smith was the scion of a Philadelphia family of artists. He studied in that city at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in London at the Royal Academy. This delicate tree study is a rare example in the Museum's collection of a nineteenth-century American artist's use of coated paper. A partially torn paper label from a Parisian artists' supplies store that came with the drawing when it was acquired suggests that the paper might have been commercially prepared. The gray-mauve preparation that was applied to the front surface of the paper support is probably a mixture of casein combined with clay and hide glue. Artists also used either gesso or gouache for this purpose. In addition to the warm tonality that it imparts to the overall surface, the coating enabled Smith, using a technique called sgraffito, to reveal the lighter color of the paper support by cutting or scratching away the coating with a sharp tool. This created the five or so delicate highlights that enliven the trunk and branches of the larger tree.