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American & European Paintings - September 2008
 
 
painting
 
Arrah Lee Gaul
(American, 1888–1980)
Soaring Imperial Cornices
Oil on canvas, 30 × 25 inches
Signed at lower right: “Arrah Lee Gaul”
Inscribed on reverse: “Soaring Imperial/Cornices”
RS 6487


Arrah Lee Gaul was born in Christiana in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of a Methodist Episcopal minister. She attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she won a scholarship to study at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now the Moore College of Art and Design) from 1907 to 1910. There she was particularly influenced by Elliott Daingerfield (1859–1932) and Henry B. Snell (1858–1943), and accompanied Snell on summer painting trips to France and Italy. She began to exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the National Academy of Design in New York. Gaul became one of the founding members of the group of women painters known as the Philadelphia Ten, but participated only in their first group show, held at the Art Club of Philadelphia in 1917. Gaul enrolled in a two-semester course on art history at the University of Pennsylvania in 1921, and that same year she returned to Moore to teach watercolor, painting, and drawing, eventually becoming head of its art education department.

Gaul, accompanied by Jane Peterson (1876–1965), traveled to Turkey, Greece, Sicily, and northern Africa in 1924. The Philadelphia Public Ledger (12 April 1925) reported that she executed around seventy-five plein-air canvases on the trip, many of which were exhibited at the Art Club of Philadelphia. She was named the official painter for the Philadelphia International Sesquicentennial Exposition in 1926 and produced sixty re-creations of historic sites and demolished buildings on High Street (now Market Street). Although Gaul was mainly a portraitist, she achieved national recognition for her impressionist landscape, seascape, and still-life subjects. Working in two different studios in New York City, the artist painted until she was ninety years old.

Gaul painted this view of Japan during her stay in that country between 1950 and 1952, after which she visited Hong Kong, Thailand, and India. She evinced a desire to paint “the old East as it still exists. I don’t believe it long will remain as it is now.” The artist had a special affinity for Japan and traveled throughout the country painting its historic Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. This was a period of great productivity for the artist, and she held five solo exhibitions in Japan. A critic noted that “since the war, though many foreign painters have come to Japan, it is hard to find among them or even among the Japanese such a person as Miss Gaul who has loved the beauty of Nature of Japan so much and has explored it.” See Ellen Achin Myers, Arrah Lee Gaul: Landscapes and Portraits [exh. cat., Illinois Wesleyan University Collection, Joyce Eichhorn Ames School of Art] (Bloomington, Ill., 1999), p. 6 (quotations).


  


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