remembered that La Farge had worked for two years on this project “which remains one of his most important paintings.” In 1950, when the Whitney Museum determined to limit its collection to 20th century American art, they were sold by Knoedler and Company to Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney.
Apparently, the works were hung in Whitney’s palatial residence in Trujillo, Spain until 1983 when they were acquired by his legendary Madrid decorator Duarte Pinto Coehlo for his home in Trujillo, a former convent. Coehlo died last year and in July his possessions were sold in a country house sale in London. The paintings were acquired at that sale by William Vareika and have been returned to the US and conserved just in time for the Boston Show.
Born in New York City in 1835, painter, engraver, muralist, illustrator, lecturer, writer, and stained glass artist, John La Farge is one of the most important American artists and cultural figures of the 19th Century. La Farge studied in the Newport, Rhode Island studio of William Morris Hunt and became one of the first American artists to paint landscapes in the open air. During the 1860s he produced the first impressionist experiments on American soil and created some of the most beautiful floral still lifes ever painted. In 1876 La Farge worked with architect Henry Hobson Richardson on the interior decoration of Trinity Church in Copley Square, Boston, producing stained glass windows and monumental murals. With his work at Trinity, La Farge is considered to have initiated the American Renaissance movement. In 1886 and 1891, the artist traveled to Japan and the South Seas, producing paintings of his travels and publishing illustrated books of his adventures. La Farge’s artistic career earned him appointment to the French Legion of Honor. When the artist died in Providence, Rhode Island in 1910 he was eulogized by the art critic and biographer Royal Cortissoz as: “our sole ‘Old Master’, our sole type of genius that went out with the Italian Renaissance.”
William Vareika became acquainted with the art of John La Farge in 1971 while practicing transcendental meditation in Trinity Church, Boston, the day that he was searching for a term paper topic in the one art history course he studied while a pre-law major at Boston College. After college, he abandoned law school plans to volunteer to direct a legal effort to save a La Farge decorated church in Newport that had become endangered. Along with work as a part-time janitor at the Newport Art Museum, he modestly embarked upon a career as an art dealer in order to support himself during this six year preservation fight.
When he opened his Newport gallery in 1987, his specialty was the art of John La Farge and other important American artists who had been attracted to the Newport and Narragansett Bay region in the 18th 19th and early 20th centuries. To date, he has probably owned more artworks by John La Farge than any art dealer in history. Recently, Vareika