THE NOMINATION OF
OLIVER MAX GARDNER
JANUARY 15, 1975
EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
GREENVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Seal of East Carolina University]
EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
GREENVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA 27834
OFFICE OF THE CHANCELLOR
January 10, 1975
Dr. William C. Friday
The University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514
Dear President Friday:
It is with pride and much pleasure that I submit the nomination of Francis Speight for the O. Max Gardner Award for 1974-75.
The contribution he has made with his art work spans the years of his life as an active painter. It increases as he continues to paint and as his paintings are exhibited in national museums and galleries and are evaluated and appraised by specialists in the field. The writers on Francis Speight's art which are included as a part of this nomination attest to his contribution and to his increasing stature among American artists.
If needed, other details concerning Mr. Speight will be gladly furnished.
We recognize the high distinction of the O. Max Gardner Award and consider it a real privilege to be a participant in the competition.
Leo W. Jenkins
East Carolina University is a constituent institution of
The University of North Carolina
An Equal Opportunity Employer
THE OLIVER MAX GARDNER AWARD
East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina
January 15, 1975
|AWARDS AND HONORS||8|
|EXHIBITIONS AND ART JURY SERVICES||13|
|PAINTINGS BY FRANCIS SPEIGHT||20|
|II.||HIS CONTRIBUTION TO THE WELFARE OF THE HUMAN RACE||31|
|STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE ART OF FRANCIS SPEIGHT||35|
|APPENDIX—FRANCIS SPEIGHT: EIGHTEEN PAINTINGS||51|
I. BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS
Francis Speight was born on September 11, 1896, at Windsor, North Carolina, the county seat of Bertie County. He was the son of Reverend Thomas Trotman Speight, a gentleman farmer as well as pastor, and Margaret Otelia Sharrock. Both parents have had a lasting influence upon Mr. Speight.
When Thomas T. Speight, who was then a widower, married Margaret Sharrock, the widow of Albert V. Cobb, he moved over to Bertie County, to what had been the Sharrock home. This was where Francis Speight, the artist, was born and raised. The house was fairly large, an L shaped old frame dwelling with a dining room and kitchen of newer origin built in the rear. The house rested on brick piers about three feet high. (When he was little, Francis and the other children played under the house.) It was in a grove of about seventy-five old oaks and a few other trees. There were many farm buildings in the yard. . . .*
Mr. Speight's first schooling was in a schoolhouse erected by his[note]
father in their own yard. A teacher was hired by his father to instruct Francis and the children of a few families from adjacent farms. At an early age a discipline was instilled in Mr. Speight which has come to be a vital characteristic of the man as artist. He was able later to attend a public school and he went to high school at Lewiston, just a few miles north of Windsor. During this time he was formulating in his mind the outlines for a career in writing. Events of the next few years would change the course of his life.
Francis’ first five years of schooling were in the schoolhouse in the yard. His father employed a teacher and had a private school for his children and the children of a few other families in the neighborhood. Conversation in the household centered around religion, education, politics and the farm activities. . . . After the school in the yard was discontinued, Francis went to public school a mile down the road and then to high school in Lewiston. During this time there was much conversation among the older children in the family about writers, actors and artists.
Mr. Speight did not complete all requirements for graduation from high school. However, in 1915 he enrolled at Wake Forest College, where he studied for two years. During this period of time the rudiments of his career in art began. Possibly with the idea of learning the techniques of drawing in order to illustrate his writings, on Saturdays he took art lessons from Miss Ida Poteat, a faculty member at Meredith College
Although Francis did not finish high school, his father, anxious that he should graduate from college, sent him to Wake Forest College in 1915. . . . Francis, however, stayed in college only two years. During these two years, in addition to his studies at Wake Forest, he took art lessons on Saturdays with Miss Ida Poteat at Meredith College in Raleigh. Francis’ chief interest at this time was to be a writer, and the art lessons were his sister Tulie's idea; she thought he might like to illustrate his own writings.
It is difficult to distinguish that moment or event which prompted Mr. Speight's commitment to painting. However, in 1919 he associated himself for a few months with a commercial art studio, the Chanderly Art School, at Washington, D. C. In January of 1920 he enrolled for a term at the Corcoran School of Art at Washington, D. C. Influenced by an exhibition of paintings by Daniel Garber, a faculty member at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Mr. Speight enrolled at the Academy in the fall of 1920, where first as student and later as teacher he remained until 1961.
After the United States entered the war in 1917, Francis’ brother Jim—later a member of the State Legislature—when he volunteered, asked Francis to stay at home with their parents until he returned from the war. He said that then he would see to it that Francis went to art school. So Francis stayed at home, until he
was drafted for three months’ service. When Jim came home in 1919, Francis went to Washington, D. C., where he studied two or three months in a commercial art studio. Then, in January of 1920, he went to the Corcoran School of Art and studied for a semester. At the Corcoran he saw an exhibition of the drawings of Daniel Garber, who was a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It was this exhibition, along with the interest of his sister Tulie, that led him to go to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts School in the fall of 1920.
With his enrollment at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Mr. Speight's commitment to a career in art had been made. He excelled as a student, winning two Cresson Traveling Scholarships, each providing a summer of travel and study in Europe. As a painter he found his favorite subjects in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He was attracted to the manufacturing districts of Pennsylvania, where he painted the buildings, the rivers, the skies, and the people. This attraction has never diminished.
Though Francis had thought of going back to North Carolina to paint, the fact that he was offered a job teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy and the encouragement of Daniel Garber led him to spend his time painting in Manayunk, a hilly industrial area along the Schuylkill River on the edge of Philadelphia. Here the stone and stone-stucco houses on the hillsides, the stone
factories, the canal and the river furnished abundant material. Francis says about the area, “In Manayunk where most of my painting has been done, I have been fascinated by the height and depth of the landscape. When I was a child in eastern North Carolina where it was fairly flat, I was afraid of the least bit of a hill and recall that my father let me get out of the carriage and walk down the hill at ‘Chisky Swamp’ on the way to Windsor, but I did not mind walking up. In Manayunk, it was always stimulating to stand and look across the valley and paint the rich mosaics of houses on the distant hill, the river, and foreground sloping toward the river or turn and look up at the houses and trees, so often seen against the blue sky and white clouds.” Pennsylvania Academy students had been going out to Manayunk to make sketches for years. But Francis Speight was the first professional artist to paint there and to bring it to national attention.
On November 7, 1936, Mr. Speight married Sarah Jane Blakeslee, and there have been two children: Thomas Blakeslee Speight and Elizabeth Sharrock Speight. Mrs. Speight, an outstanding painter in her own right, has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors and has served as a continual inspiration to Francis.
The recognition of Mr. Speight's talent as a painter was immediate, and the list of his awards and honors is long and impressive. Among the most noteworthy are honors that have come from institutions of higher education. In 1961 Wake Forest College conferred upon Mr. Speight
the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, and in 1964, in a ceremony during which President Lyndon B. Johnson was also honored, Holy Cross College conferred upon Mr. Speight the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts. The State of North Carolina has also honored her son. In 1964 Mr. Speight was awarded the North Carolina Award in recognition of his outstanding achievements in art, and in 1973, as a kind of culmination to an illustrious career, he was honored as the recipient of the Morrison Award, presented annually by the Roanoke Island Association to the North Carolinian who has contributed most to the arts.
In 1961, after an affiliation with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for slightly over forty years, Mr. Speight desired to return home, to the place of his birth. In this year he joined the faculty of the School of Art at East Carolina University as Artist-in-Residence, and he currently holds the rank of Professor of Fine Arts at East Carolina University. The students in his classes are enriched by his wealth of talent and experience.
In North Carolina his painting continues, and his attraction to the symbols of strength in an area remains strong. In his artistic activities, he continues to engage himself in capturing in oils and water colors those features of the landscape which speak to man of strength and endurance—the buildings, the houses, the trees, the rivers, and the people.
Provided below as important parts of this biographical sketch are three lists: (1) a list of Mr. Speight's awards and honors; (2) a list of Mr. Speight's exhibitions and art jury services; and (3) a list of
Mr. Speight's paintings. These lists will show both a state and national recognition of his achievements in art.
FRANCIS SPEIGHT: AWARDS AND HONORS
|1923||Winner of Cresson European Traveling Scholarship (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts)|
|1925||Winner of a second Cresson European Traveling Scholarship (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts)|
|1926||Winner of Academy Fellowship (Alumni) Gold Medal Award (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts)|
|1928||Winner of the Landscape Prize (The Association of Washington Artists)|
|1930||Winner of 1st Hallgarten Prize (National Academy of Design, New York)|
|1930||Winner of Kohnstamm Prize (Art Institute of Chicago)|
|1930||Winner of Fellowship Prize in the Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts|
|1932||Winner of Landscape Prize (Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts)|
|1934, 1935||Visiting Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the summer sessions|
|1937||Winner of the 3rd Clark Prize ($1,000) and Bronze Medal (Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.)|
|1937||Elected Associate Member of the National Academy of Design|
|1938||Winner of Philadelphia Sketch Club Medal|
|1940||Winner of Academy-Fellowship Prize (Regional Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts)|
|1940||Winner of the Sesnan Gold Medal for Landscape (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts)|
|1940||Elected Member of the National Academy of Design|
|1945||Visiting Professor of Art at Shrivenham American Army University, Shrivenham, England|
|1947||Visiting Artist at Westminster College|
|1948, 1949, 1956||Visiting Instructor of Painting during evening classes at Lehigh University|
|1949||Visiting Artist at Depauw University|
|1951||Winner of 1st Altman Prize for Landscape ($1,000) (National Academy of Design, New York)|
|1953||Awarded Grant ($1,000) (National Institute of Arts and Letters)|
|1953||Winner of 2nd Altman Prize for Landscape ($600) (National Academy of Design, New York)|
|1954||Elected Member of the Century Association of the City of New York|
|1955||Winner of Obrig Prize (National Academy of Design, New York)|
|1958||Winner of 1st Altman Prize for Landscape ($2,000) (National Academy of Design, New York)|
|1960||Elected Member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters|
|1961||Winner of Owens Award (Awarded to a distinguished Pennsylvania artist by the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts)|
|1961||Awarded the Academy Gold Medal of Honor (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts)|
|1961||Had conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by Wake Forest College|
|1961||Established as Artist-in-Residence at East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina|
|1962||Winner of 2nd Prize at Legionair Valley, Pennsylvania, Annual Regional Show|
|1963||Through the National Academy of Design, recipient of a Certificate of Merit of England's Royal Academy of Arts|
|1963||Appointed by Governor Sanford to serve as a Member of the North Carolina State Arts Council; reappointed by Governors Moore, Scott, and Holshouser|
|1964||Awarded by North Carolina the North Carolina Medal for Achievement in the Fine Arts, May 25, 1964|
|1964||Had conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts by Holy Cross College|
|1973||Winner of the Morrison Award, presented by the Roanoke Island Association, November 13, 1973|
Among Francis Speight's other honors are the following:
1. His biography is included in Who's Who in America, the International Who's Who in Art and Antiques, and the publication honoring notable North Carolinians, 100 Years 100 Men.
2. He is listed and one of his works was reproduced in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1948; and again in 1954, Volume 17, Plate 24).
3. His painting, “Scene from West Manayunk,” was used on a Christmas card by the Hallmark Publishing Company in 1944. In addition, his painting, “Winter,” was published as a Christmas card by the American Artist Group, New York.
4. In 1951 he was made a member of the Advisory Board of the Corcoran School of Art, Washington, D. C.
5. In 1952 he was appointed by the U. S. State Department as a delegate to the 3rd Conference of the U. S. National Commission for UNESCO.
6. His paintings are represented in the permanent collections of the following museums, galleries, and institutions:
The Metropolitan Museum, New York
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
The Toronto Art Gallery, Toronto, Canada
The Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, Ohio
The Norton Gallery of Art, Palm Beach, Florida
The Boston Museum
The North Carolina Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Rochester, New York, Museum
The Montpelier, Vermont, Museum
The Gibbs Art Gallery, Charleston, South Carolina
The Woodmere Art Gallery, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia
The Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia
The Eberhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania
The West Chester Art Center, West Chester, Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania State University Museum of Art, University Park
The Rocky Mount Arts Center Gallery, Rocky Mount, N. C.
The Greenville Arts Center, Greenville, N. C.
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N. C.
Wingate College, Wingate, N. C.
Pembroke State University, Pembroke, N. C.
The National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York
The National Academy of Design, New York
Wisconsin State University at Oshkosh
The Gallery of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee
FRANCIS SPEIGHT: EXHIBITIONS AND ART JURY SERVICES
The exhibitions and art jury services by Francis Speight have been numerous. They have helped him to maintain contact with the modes or styles of painting and with the art criticism during his professional career. The exhibitions are listed first, chronologically. All one man exhibitions, group exhibitions, and representations by one or more paintings in international exhibitions have been by invitation. In addition, representations by one or more paintings in national exhibitions have almost always been by invitation. The exhibitions are followed by a chronological listing of his art jury services.
|1926, 1927, 1928-62, 1967||Annual Exhibition of American Paintings, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia|
|1927, 1929-53||International Exhibition of Painting, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh|
|1927-1950||Institute of Art, Chicago|
|1927, 1930-31, 1940||St. Louis Art Museum|
|1928||International Exhibition of Oil Paintings, Brooklyn Museum|
|1929,1931||Annual Exhibition of American Painting, The Institute of Art, Detroit|
|1930-1952||Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.|
|1930, 1934, 1937-74||Annual Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, National Academy of Design, New York|
|1930, 1933||Milch Galleries, New York (One man exhibition)|
|1931||Town Hall, New York (Featured artist for one week)|
|1931||Los Angeles, California, Museum|
|1931-32||Exhibition assembled by the American Federation of Art and shown as follows:|
|Worcester, Massachusetts, Museum|
|Lawrence Hall Museum, Williamstown, Mass.|
|Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester|
|Columbus, Ohio, Gallery of Fine Arts|
|Dayton, Ohio, Art Institute|
|Decatur, Illinois, Institute of Civic Arts|
|1932-34, 1940||Biennial Exhibition of American Painting, Whitney Museum of Art, New York|
|1932, 1934, 1957, 1962||Philadelphia Museum of Art|
|1932||Watkins Institute, Nashville, Tennessee (One man exhibition)|
|1932||Exhibition at Hartford, Connecticut|
|1933||Exhibition of United States Paintings rented to city or cities in South America|
|1933-1949||Exhibitions arranged by a New York dealer (Milch Galleries)|
|1934, 1935||Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition (A group of four paintings)|
|1934||Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania (One man exhibition)|
|1935||Exhibition at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hill, Michigan (Group show)|
|1935||National Gallery of Canada (Rental exhibition)|
|1935||Exhibition of paintings by artists of sixteen cities, Museum of Modern Art, New York|
|1935||Person Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (One man exhibition)|
|1936||Raleigh, North Carolina, Art Center (One man exhibition)|
|1936||Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, Ohio (One man exhibition)|
|1937||Exhibition at Toledo, Ohio, Museum|
|1937||Philadelphia Art Alliance (One man exhibition)|
|1937||Exhibition at Greensboro, North Carolina (One man exhibition)|
|1939||Plainfield, New Jersey (Group exhibition)|
|1939 (February to December)||Golden Gate International Exhibition, San Francisco|
|1939||Columbus, Georgia (One man exhibition)|
|1939||Exhibition at Worlds Fair, New York|
|1939||University of Alabama (One man exhibition)|
|1939||Clearwater, Florida, Museum|
|1939||Exhibition at Jackson, Mississippi (One man exhibition)|
|1939||Delgado Museum, New Orleans (One man exhibition)|
|1940||Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. (One man exhibition)|
|1941||International Water Color Exhibition, Brooklyn Museum|
|1942||Virginia Biennial Exhibition|
|1943||Artists for Victory Exhibition, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York|
|1945||Goodwill Exhibition of Contemporary American Art, The Central Institute of Art and Design, London, England|
|1946||Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia (One man exhibition)|
|1949||Exhibition at Woodland, North Carolina|
|1949||Lehigh University (One man exhibition)|
|1949-1950||Exhibition at the Virginia Museum, Richmond, Virginia|
|1951||Exhibition at Windsor, North Carolina|
|1952||Philadelphia Art Alliance (One man exhibition)|
|1952||Miami Beach, Florida (One man exhibition)|
|1956||Lehigh University (Group exhibition)|
|1961||Francis Speight: A Retrospective Exhibition, North Carolina Museum of Art (One man exhibition)|
|1961-1967||One man exhibitions at Kinston, N. C.; Goldsboro, N. C.; Chowan College, Murfreesboro, N. C.; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N. C.|
|1962||East Carolina University School of Art, Greenville, N. C. (One man exhibition)|
|1963||Joyner Library, East Carolina University (One man exhibition)|
|1963||Bertie County Tricentenial Celebration, Windsor, N. C. (One man exhibition)|
|1963||Opening of Hines Gallery of the Rocky Mount Art Center (One man exhibition)|
|1964||Converse College, Spartanburg, South Carolina (One man exhibition)|
|1965||Opening of the St. John's Art Gallery, Wilmington, N. C. (One man exhibition)|
|1965||Student Union of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (One man exhibition)|
|1970||Greenville Art Center, Greenville, N. C. (One man exhibition)|
|1971||Vendo Nubes Gallery, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia (One man exhibition)|
|1974||Francis Speight: Retrospective Exhibition, Pennsylvania State University Museum of Art, University Park, Pennsylvania|
|Art Jury Services|
|1928||Annual Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture (Painters Jury), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia|
|1930||Society of Fine Arts Oil Painting Exhibition, Wilmington, Delaware|
|1931||Annual Exhibition of American Painting, Art Institute of Chicago|
|1931||Annual Members Exhibition of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts|
|1933||Annual Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture (Painters Jury), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts|
|1933, 1936||Regional Exhibition, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh|
|1937||Annual Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture (Painters Jury), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts|
|1937||Annual Exhibition, Butler Museum of Art, Youngstown, Ohio|
|1938||Delaware Water Color and Print Society (Chairman of Jury of Selection and Awards)|
|1938||Exhibition at Virginia Academy of Science and Fine Arts, Richmond|
|1940||Baltimore Evening Sun Black and White Sketch Contest, Baltimore|
|1940, 1948||Corcoran School Jury of Awards, Washington, D. C. (Chairman 1940)|
|1940||North Carolina Artists Exhibition (Jury of Awards), Chapel Hill|
|1941||Annual Exhibition of Paintings, John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis|
|1941||Annual Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture (Painters Jury), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts|
|1942||Regional Exhibition of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh|
|1944||Washington, D. C., Times Herald 7th Annual Outdoor Art Fair in President's Park|
|1944||Annual Exhibition of American Painting (Painters Jury of Selection), National Academy of Design, New York|
|1947||Exhibition at Parkersburg, West Virginia (Jury of Awards)|
|1948||Annual Exhibition of the Society of Washington Artists, Washington, D. C.|
|1948||Annual Exhibition, Indiana Artists Club|
|1949||Annual Virginia Artists Exhibition (Jury of Selection and Awards), Virginia Museum of Fine Arts|
|1952||Exhibition at Indiana State Fair (One man Jury of Awards)|
|1953||Regional Exhibition, Rochester, New York, Art Club|
|1955||Hoosier Salon, Indianapolis, Indiana|
|1957||Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York|
|1957||Regional Exhibition of Painting (One man Jury), Erie, Pennsylvania|
|1959||Pennsylvania National Exhibition of Paintings (Jury of Selection and Awards), Legionair Valley, Pennsylvania|
|1960||Annual Exhibition (Jury of Awards), National Academy of Design, New York|
|1964||Annual Exhibition (Jury of Selection), National Academy of Design, New York|
|1964||Exhibition at Museum of Florence, South Carolina (Jury of Selection and Awards)|
|1965||Academy of the Fine Arts, Easton, Maryland|
|1967||Annual Exhibition (Jury of Awards), National Academy of Design, New York|
|1969||Annual Exhibition (Jury of Awards), National Academy of Design, New York|
|1972||Annual Exhibition (Jury of Selection), National Academy of Design, New York|
PAINTINGS BY FRANCIS SPEIGHT
The listing on these pages of Mr. Speight's paintings that are in public and private collections is as inclusive as it is possible to determine. Paintings are listed chronologically, and the dates given are either exact or approximate to within two or three years. Other details supplied are titles of paintings, size of canvas (in inches), and present location. Unless otherwise noted, all paintings are in oil. Paintings presently owned by Mr. Speight are not included here.
|1922-23||“House and Tree”||24 × 28||Museum of Art Chattanooga, Tennessee|
|1923-26||“View from West Manayunk”||30 × 36||Mr. & Mrs. James Cheatham Greenville, N. C.|
|1925||“Manayunk House”||24 × 28||The Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts|
|1926||“Maizies House”||32 × 40||Dr. & Mrs. Alfred Yongue Greenville, N. C.|
|1926||“The Little Brick Stable”||10 × 13||George & Anthony Stuempfig Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1926-28||“Canal Scene”||40 × 50||Mrs. George Stronach Wilson, N. C.|
|1927||“Shawmont”||36 × 40||Mr. Banks Talley, Dean of Students, N. C. State Univ.|
|1927||“When the Wind Blows”||36 × 40||Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Massachusetts|
|1927||“Between Two Houses”||40 × 42||Estate of Mrs. Levy Raleigh, N. C.|
|1927||“The Vacant Lot”||25 × 30||Mr. Robert Harlow New Jersey|
|1927||“Portrait of Miss Betsy Overton”||25 × 30||Mr. & Mrs. Edward Overton Encino, California|
|1927||“Portrait of Miss Sherrie Overton”||18 × 24||Mr. & Mrs. Edward Overton Encino, California|
|1927||“View of Manayunk”||25 × 30||Mr. G. David Thompson Pittsburgh, Pa.|
|1927||“Spring Mill”||24 × 28||Purchased by someone in Detroit, Michigan|
|1927||“Spring Fruit Trees in Blossom”||24 × 28||Mr. Steel New York, N. Y.|
|1928||“Looking Across the Schuylkill”||24 × 28||Mr. & Mrs. Guntar Berzins Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1928||“West Manayunk Hillside”||19 × 25||Mr. Robert Harlow New Jersey|
|1929||“The Pasture Gap”||32 × 40||Miss Marion Cobb Takoma Park, Md.|
|1929||“Snow”||36 × 38||Toronto, Canada, Art Gallery|
|1929||“The Garber Cottage Yard”||18 × 24||Mrs. Donald Meekham Silver Springs, Md.|
|1929||“The Billboard”||14 × 18||Mr. & Mrs. Charles Rudy Ottsville, Pa.|
|1930||“Farm House” (Drawing)||10 × 13||Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Butler Youngstown, Ohio|
|1930||“Portrait of Miss Jean Beggs”||25 × 30||Adm. & Mrs. W. H. Ashford Raleigh, N. C.|
|1930||“Portrait of Miss Bette Beggs”||25 × 30||Adm. & Mrs. W. H. Ashford Raleigh, N. C.|
|1930||“White House in Manayunk”||24 × 28||Mr. & Mrs. M. P. Thomas Chapel Hill, N. C.|
|1930||“Portrait Study of Miss Margaret Cobb”||25 × 36||Miss Margaret Cobb Birmingham, Alabama|
|1930||“Late Afternoon”||22 × 30||Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia|
|1931||“Head of an Art Student”||14 × 20||N. C. Museum of Art Raleigh, N. C.|
|1931||“Spring in Manayunk”||32 × 40||Metropolitan Museum New York, N. Y.|
|1932||“Coaldale”||28 × 32||Museum of Pennsylvania State U. University Park, Pa.|
|1932||“Ballet Dancer”||18 × 24||Offices of the Secretary of Cultural Affairs, Raleigh|
|1932||“Schuylkill and Canal at Manayunk”||18 × 24||Mr. & Mrs. Lucius Crowell Charlestown, Pa.|
|1932||“Steps—Manayunk”||16 × 18||West Chester Art Center West Chester, Pa.|
|1933||“Rudolph's Row”||20 × 24||Friends of Mrs. C. M. West Centreville, Md.|
|1933||“House on Jefferson St.”||18 × 24||Mr. & Mrs. Mason Thomas Chapel Hill, N. C.|
|1933||“Manayunk Scene”||28 × 40||National Academy of Design New York, N. Y.|
|1933||“Old House at Chester Springs”||28 × 40||Mr. & Mrs. Roswell Weidner Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1933||“Sun—The Painter”||25 × 30||Norton Art Gallery Palm Beach, Florida|
|1933||“Winter”||40 × 50||Mr. & Mrs. Dan MacMillan Fayetteville, N. C.|
|1934||“Tamagua”||43 × 50||Col. & Mrs. Hollstein Fayetteville, N. C.|
|1934||“Umbria Street”||36 × 38||Mr. & Mrs. Dan MacMillan Fayetteville, N. C.|
|1934||“Back Yard in Sunlight”||25 × 30||Mr. Walter Rotan Baltimore, Md.|
|1936||“Weirton, W. Virginia, Street”||8 × 11||Mr. Sayshens Kutztown, Pa.|
|1937||“Boxholder”||46 × 56||Wood Art Gallery Montpelier, Vermont|
|1938||“Hayfield, Applesbachville, Pa.”||30 × 40||Mr. & Mrs. T. S. Speight Windsor, N. C.|
|1938||“Red Clay Street No. 1”||30 × 40||N. C. Museum of Art Raleigh, N. C.|
|1938||“Red Clay Street”||30 × 41||Mr. & Mrs. A. Greenburg Durham, N. C.|
|1939||“Jamestown Street”||30 × 36||Mr. & Mrs. E. Rosenthal Goldsboro, N. C.|
|1939||“End of Jones Street”||20 × 32||Dr. & Mrs. Donald Tucker Greenville, N. C.|
|1939||“Red Clay Banks Railroad Cut-Out”||25 × 30||Mr. & Mrs. G. L. Hughes Greensboro, N. C.|
|1940||“Seated Woman” (Drawing)||18 × 34||Mr. Philip Hanes Winston-Salem, N. C.|
|1940||“End of the Street”||18 × 34||Butler Art Institute Youngstown, Ohio|
|1940||“Schuylkill Valley Town”||40 × 54||Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia|
|1940||“Industrial Area”||36 × 50||Philadelphia Museum of Art Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1940||“The Landfill” (Water Color)||18 × 34||Mr. & Mrs. Guntar Berzins Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1940||“N. C. Farmyard”||25 × 30||Art Center West Chester, Pa.|
|1941||“Straw for the City's Horses”||36 × 46||Mrs. Robert Humber Greenville, N. C.|
|1941||“Summer Picnic”||32 × 40||Dr. & Mrs. J. E. Clement Greenville, N. C.|
|1941||“The Paved Street”||22 × 30||Mr. & Mrs. Harry Kuch Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1941||“Stick and Stones”||20 × 26||Dr. Claiborne T. Smith Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1942||“Sheldon Street”||40 × 50||Museum of Pennsylvania State U. University Park, Pa.|
|1942||“Tracks in Winter”||30 × 36||Encyclopaedia Britannica Chicago, Illinois|
|1942||“Industrial Area”||24 × 30||Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, N. C.|
|1942||“The Garden”||30 × 36||Dr. & Mrs. N. A. Thorne Asheville, N. C.|
|1942||“Pechin Street (Boy and Bicycle)”||20 × 24||Mr. & Mrs. Ben F. Williams Raleigh, N. C.|
|1943||“Overlooking Manayunk” (Drawing)||20 × 24||National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York|
|1943||“Winter Snow”||40 × 60||Mr. Harry Kuch Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1943||“Winter (Snow)”||40 × 42||Mr. Philip Hanes Winston-Salem, N. C.|
|1943||“Boone Street”||18 × 24||Mrs. Kravitch Savannah, Georgia|
|1944||“Field of Astors”||22 × 30||Mrs. Donald Meekham Silver Springs, Md.|
|1944||“Winter (Snow)”||24 × 30||Dr. & Mrs. Alfred Yongue Greenville, N. C.|
|1944||“Still Life”||18 × 24||Purchased by someone in Cleveland, Ohio|
|1945||“West Manayunk in Spring”||30 × 36||Craig and Tarlton Antique Dealers, Raleigh, N. C.|
|1947||“Flowering Dogwood”||16 × 20||Mr. & Mrs. Gary Singleton Raleigh, N. C.|
|1947||“Steps up to Boone Street” (Drawing)||16 × 22||Atwater Kent Museum Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1947||“Two Houses”||20 × 24||Dr. & Mrs. J. E. Clement Greenville, N. C.|
|1948||“New Britain Snow”||30 × 40||Mrs. Elizabeth Blatt Throop, Pennsylvania|
|1948||“Still Life”||18 × 22||Pembroke State University Pembroke, N. C.|
|1948||“Old Mills, Main Street”||24 × 30||Mrs. Charles Grace Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1949||“The Concrete Wall”||20 × 24||Miss Anna Ingersoll Penllyn, Pa.|
|1949||“Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pa.”||24 × 30||Dr. Thor Johnson, Conductor, Nashville, Tenn., Symphony Orch.|
|1949||“End of Main Street, Manayunk No. 2”||16 × 18||Mr. James P. MaGill Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1949||“End of Main Street, Manayunk No. 3”||14 × 18||Mr. John Garber Morrisville, Pa.|
|1949||“The Lockhouse”||24 × 34||Gibbes Art Gallery Charleston, S. C.|
|1950||“Ferry Street, New Hope”||16 × 24||Mr. T. S. Speight Windsor, N. C.|
|1950||“Boone Street No. 2”||8 × 24||Buck's County, Pa., Board of Education|
|1951||“White House—Stone Wall”||5 × 8||Mr. Ben F. Williams Raleigh, N. C.|
|1951||“Beneath the R. R. Tracks No. 3”||40 × 42||Art Center Greenville, N. C.|
|1951||“Ruins Along the Schuylkill”||30 × 40||Memorial Art Gallery Rochester, New York|
|1952||“Bennett's Mill”||34 × 42||Mr. Henry Lewis Chapel Hill, N. C.|
|1952||“Old Mills”||20 × 32||Dr. & Mrs. Donald Tucker Greenville, N. C.|
|1953||“Manayunk”||25 × 30||Dr. & Mrs. Donald Tucker Greenville, N. C.|
|1953||“Hillside Below Little White Church”||25 × 30||Mr. Ben Kamihira Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1953||“Demolition”||22 × 30||Mrs. Bart Fearing Windsor, N. C.|
|1955||“Almshouse Road, Snow”||25 × 30||Mr. & Mrs. T. Gochenour Takoma Park, Md.|
|1955||“Manayunk Hillside”||30 × 38||Mr. Henry Lewis Chapel Hill, N. C.|
|1955||“Albemarle Sound at Edenton”||22 × 30||Rev. & Mrs. F. Drane Edenton, N. C.|
|1956||“Highland Avenue, Manayunk”||20 × 26||Mr. James P. MaGill Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1956||“End of Monastery Avenue No. 2”||20 × 31||Dr. & Mrs. George Paschal Raleigh, N. C.|
|1956||“View from West Manayunk”||20 × 20||Mr. James E. Hall Lumberton, N. C.|
|1957||“Between Two Houses”||23 × 25||Mr. & Mrs. Henry S. McNeil Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1958||“Halloween No. 1”||28 × 32||Mr. C. F. W. Coker Washington, D. C.|
|1958||“Bennett's Mill Pond”||20 × 24||Mr. & Mrs. Gordon Walker Burlington, N. C.|
|1959||“The Cliff”||24 × 25||Mrs. Charles West Centreville, Md.|
|1959||“Halloween No. 2”||24 × 28||Mrs. Sam Blount Raleigh, N. C.|
|1959||“Sketch—Fragment”||14 × 18||Mr. Henry Lewis Chapel Hill, N. C.|
|1959||“Slow Sketch—Holy Family Church”||19 × 20||Mr. & Mrs. J. T. Fraser, Jr. Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1959||“Old Ice House Walls”||18 × 26||Mr. & Mrs. Allen Griffin Marshville, N. C.|
|1960||“Halloween No. 3”||24 × 28||Mrs. David Warren Chapel Hill, N. C.|
|1960||“Little Boat Club—Old Ice House Walls”||18 × 24||Mr. & Mrs. P. K. Andreson Greenville, N. C.|
|1960||“Albemarle Sound at Scotch Hall”||18 × 24||Mrs. G. W. Capehart, Sr. Windsor, N. C.|
|1960||“Sans Souci Ferry No. 1”||22 × 32||Mr. Banks Talley, Dean of Students, N. C. State Univ.|
|1960||“Cashoke Creek at Shipyard Landing”||18 × 34||Lawrence Library Windsor, N. C.|
|1960||“Skiles Landing—Sans Souci”||22 × 26||Lawrence Library Windsor, N. C.|
|1960||“Albemarle Sound—Bachelors Bay”||22 × 28||Mr. Gordon Hanes Winston-Salem, N. C.|
|1960||“Roxborough-Manayunk Cliff”||30 × 38||Mr. James E. Hall Lumberton, N. C.|
|1961||“Peanut Field”||18 × 24||Mrs. Claude Evans Dallas, Texas|
|1962||“Two White Houses”||22 × 26||Mrs. Thomas Graves Wilson, N. C.|
|1962||“Old Speight House”||36 × 38||Art Center Gallery Rocky Mount, N. C.|
|1962||“Peanut Stacks and Old Tobacco Barns”||22 × 34||Mrs. Maxwell Augusta, Georgia|
|1962||“Sans Souci—Late Spring”||25 × 30||Mrs. W. B. Peale Williamston, N. C.|
|1962||“Avoca Tree and Sound”||22 × 30||Mr. & Mrs. Gordon Walker Burlington, N. C.|
|1963||“Red Clay, Roxboro”||20 × 24||Dr. Schweizer Greensboro, N. C.|
|1963||“Snow, Roxboro, N. C.”||20 × 24||Mrs. LeRoy Barrett Greenville, N. C.|
|1963||“Sans Souci”||25 × 36||Mrs. B. B. Everett, Sr. Palmyra, N. C.|
|1964||“Shipyard Landing—Moss”||25 × 30||Wingate College Wingate, N. C.|
|1964||“Sans Souci—South Side”||24 × 30||Mrs. W. C. Heckstall Windsor, N. C.|
|1964||“Demolition—Avoca”||25 × 30||Mr. M. P. Thomas Chapel Hill, N. C.|
|1964||“Roanoke Lowgrounds”||32 × 44||Mrs. B. B. Everett, Sr. Palmyra, N. C.|
|1964||“Shipyard Landing”||25 × 36||Greenville Art Center Greenville, N. C.|
|1965||“Still Water and Cypress Trees”||30 × 36||Mrs. B. B. Everett, Sr. Palmyra, N. C.|
|1965||“Manayunk Sketch at Boone Street”||6 × 8||Mr. M. P. Thomas Chapel Hill, N. C.|
|1965||“Peanut Stacks”||26 × 38||Mrs. B. B. Everett, Sr. Palmyra, N. C.|
|1965||“Still Water—Roanoke Low Grounds”||20 × 28||Mrs. Claude Evans Dallas, Texas|
|1965||“Peanut Stacks—Halifax County”||20 × 34||Mr. Philip Hanes Winston-Salem, N. C.|
|1965||“Still Water—Winter”||22 × 28||Estate of Mrs. Daughtridge Scotland Neck, N. C.|
|1965||“Sans Souci Ferry”||32 × 38||N. C. Museum of Art Raleigh, N. C.|
|1966||“Old Salem”||20 × 30||On loan to the Department of Administration, Raleigh, N. C.|
|1966||“Old Salem Tobacco House”||20 × 31||Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, N. C.|
|1966||“Holy Family Church”||36 × 50||N. C. Museum of Art Raleigh, N. C.|
|1966||“Autumn”||28 × 34||Braswell Library Rocky Mount, N. C.|
|1966||“Old Salem, Winter”||18 × 34||On loan to the N. C. Arts Council, Raleigh, N. C.|
|1967||“Ben Gillam House”||25 × 30||Mr. Thomas Gillam, III Windsor, N. C.|
|1967||“Still Water—From Path”||20 × 30||Mr. & Mrs. L. B. Everett Palmyra, N. C.|
|1967||“Old Salem, Autumn”||24 × 32||Estate of Mr. Ralph Hanes Winston-Salem, N. C.|
|1968||“Sans Souci, Early Spring”||22 × 30||Dr. & Mrs. Percy Upchurch Williamston, N. C.|
|1968||“Spring—Trinity”||26 × 38||On loan to Special Asst. to Attorney General, Raleigh|
|1968||“Sans Souci, Spring”||32 × 40||On loan to Commissioner, Dept. of Revenue, Raleigh|
|1968||“Sans Souci, Winter”||36 × 40||On loan to Governor's Mansion, Raleigh|
|1968||“Sans Souci Ferry”||30 × 40||On loan to the Office of the Governor, Raleigh|
|1968||“Sans Souci, Autumn”||30 × 36||Mr. Roberson Washington, N. C.|
|1968||“Still Water and Cypress Trees”||22 × 26||Mrs. Swanson Graves, Jr. Washington, N. C.|
|1968||“Old House and Peanut Stacks No. 1”||22 × 30||Estate of Mrs. Daughtridge Scotland Neck, N. C.|
|1969||“Haw Field No. 2”||28 × 40||On loan to Dept. of Transportation and Highway Safety,Raleigh|
|1969||“Hope House”||26 × 40||On loan to Secretary, Dept. of Cultural Resources, Raleigh|
|1969||“Summer—Manayunk”||20 × 28||Mrs. Miller Roanoke, Virginia|
|1969||“Sans Souci—North Side”||22 × 30||Mrs. W. C. Heckstall Windsor, N. C.|
|1969||“Sans Souci”||28 × 34||Wingate College Wingate, N. C.|
|1969||“Sans Souci, Spring”||26 × 30||Mr. Roberson Washington, N. C.|
|1969||“Old House and Peanut Stacks No. 2”||20 × 24||Mrs. B. B. Everett, Sr. Palmyra, N. C.|
|1969||“Farm Buildings—Blue Puddles”||20 × 30||Mr. Robert Pittman Greenville, N. C.|
|1970||“Up Highland Avenue”||20 × 24||Adm. & Mrs. W. H. Ashford Raleigh, N. C.|
|1971||“Looking up Highland Avenue”||16 × 18||Mr. Sayshens Kutztown, Pennsylvania|
|1971||“Looking down Highland Avenue”||22 × 26||Mr. & Mrs. Harry Kuch Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1971||“Clouds, Highland Avenue”||18 × 20||Mr. & Mrs. Henry Hotz, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts|
|1971||“Smoke Houses” (Drawing)||14 × 18||Dr. Claiborne T. Smith Philadelphia, Pa.|
|1971-74||“Sans Souci High Water”||20 × 25||Dr. & Mrs. Martin A. Hatcher Greensboro, N. C.|
|1972||“View from Price Street”||26 × 28||Mrs. Fred Webb Greenville, N. C.|
|1972||“The Home Place”||26 × 40||Dr. & Mrs. Donald Tucker Greenville, N. C.|
|1972||“Old Home Place, Autumn”||32 × 40||N. C. National Bank Charlotte, N. C.|
II. HIS CONTRIBUTION TO THE WELFARE OF THE HUMAN RACE
Francis Speight, as artist, has been a man with a vision. He has looked at life head on, and all that he has seen has been worthy of representation in art. He has been a realist, at a time when man has been in need of the realistic view. He has stressed simplicity, and the world that he has seen and painted has been a simple one, for he has sought nature and viewed her straightforwardly and honestly.
He is a painter of the landscape, a landscape seldom devoid of man and his works. To him man's place is in the world, and he has been attracted to those features which provide man with work and sustenance.
Typically, he has been attracted to the strengths of the landscape. Perhaps better than any other artist of our times, he has been able to depict on canvas the durability and thereby beauty of stone structures. It may be a factory building he is painting or it may be a church or a place of residence. The stones stand out, for they are the foundation and strength of the structure. At other times he paints a bridge or a wall or a stone street. The various designs and seeming undulations are captured meaningfully. The stone structures have purpose; they are of use to man. They have a special meaning to Mr. Speight.
A large number of his paintings give emphasis to the tree, for the tree to Mr. Speight is seen as a vital symbol of life. Perhaps because he as a youth grew up midst a grove of oak trees, he has looked upon the
tree as something wise and instructive, imparting to man lessons concerning strength and patience and survival. When his painting is of a street scene in a town where there are no trees, often a utility pole warrants his attention, for it is straight and tall and strong, and a useful servant to man.
Another strength in the landscape to which he has been attracted is water, in rivers, streams, and canals. His attention in art was first directed toward the industrial landscape, where water was synonymous with power. Even when his landscape changed, the attraction of water remained constant, for water, wherever found, has always symbolized life.
There have been two other features of the landscape which have appealed to him. The first is the sun, whose light and power control life as man knows it. Sunlight is a thing of joy to him, and a signal attraction of his painting is his true-to-life depiction of the almost prismatic light varieties of the rays of the sun, rays capable of evoking an experience of beauty even when one visualizes the most commonplace of scenes. The second of these remaining features is the playground of the other; it is the sky. He takes perhaps his greatest pains with his skies, and should there be a detail that upon reflection he may think in need of change, invariably it will be the sky, often a focal point in his paintings. It is perhaps his way of saying that man should look more to the sky, for in doing so man must look upwards.
The colors of Mr. Speight's paintings are natural and often in blending varieties. The various shades of green seem special to him, for in
his paintings they evoke a sense of freshness and vitality. Red and orange are also present for they are abundantly in evidence in life. Such colors that he uses are real colors, tending often to produce the illusion of reality so prominent in his art work.
The people he includes in his paintings fit into the scene naturally, just as the clouds find their natural place in the sky. And Mr. Speight's people are always doing something—tilling the fields, going to or from work, supervising the play of a child, hanging out or gathering in the wash. We learn to become familiar with his people, for in real life they are around us everywhere.
From the beginning to the present, there has been a consistency in the art work of Francis Speight. And this has been his vision. He has seen life steady and he has seen it whole. This vision, above all, has been his great contribution to the welfare of the human race. During the years of his artistic career, the world has witnessed a very definite fragmentation of ideals and values and faith. And his own world of art has been a field of great experimentation, with much artistic labor expended in the following of fads and movements. At all times Mr. Speight has been true to his realistic vision. His great contribution has been to bring man's attention back to the elemental strengths of his surroundings. And he has done this not as a critic of life but rather as an interpreter. Man of our twentieth century is in need of strength, and Francis Speight has helped to point the way to some of its most basic forms.
The sun, the sky, the tree, the stone, the various channels of water,
and man in natural settings—these elemental strengths have been lifelong companions to the art and vision of Mr. Speight. His contribution to the welfare of the human race, one needs to emphasize again, is this art and vision and the power they have had to uplift and enlighten man.
A number of professional critics and practitioners of art have taken the time to write about the art of Francis Speight. Given below are some of these statements, each in its own way an elaboration upon the vision and contribution of Mr. Speight. Following these statements in an appendix are presented eighteen paintings by Francis Speight, covering the span of his artistic career, designed to illustrate vividly the consistency of Mr. Speight's vision and thus his important contribution to the welfare of the human race.
STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE ART OF FRANCIS SPEIGHT
Royal Cortissoz, “Paintings by Francis Speight,” New York Herald Tribune, April 2, 1933.
From time to time in the exhibitions I have been led to pause before a landscape by Francis Speight, admiring its directness, its quality as of a scene viewed freshly and painted with force. For the first time I have encountered, at the Milch gallery, an exhibition devoted entirely to his work, and it only deepens earlier impressions of his talent. He has an outlook that remains his own, despite the fact that now and then he recalls the mode of attack characteristic of the late George Bellows. What marks his work as personal and makes it interesting is its tingling vitality. Sometimes I wonder if his energy does not threaten to o'erleap itself. It slackens up the carefulness of his drawing. It sacrifices composition, as in the “Between Two Houses,” to a kind of hurried realism. How much more successful Mr. Speight is when he proceeds more deliberately may be gathered by turning from this picture to the “Manayunk.” That substantial landscape is “all of a piece” and is consequently that much more of a work of art. I can't help wishing that Mr. Speight might moderate his gait. But whether he does so or not, he seems bound to secure, invariably, one valuable thing, and that is the portrait of a place. When he paints his “Center Street,” or his “Cemetery View,” or his “Manayunk Hillside,” he makes you feel that he has got the very sentiment of a neighborhood into his picture. His work wears an aspect of truth.
* * * *
Dorothy Grafly, “Francis Speight,” Magazine of Art, May 1938.
In America today two types of painters are developing: those who view life with the objectivity of the journalist, keyed to the topical drama of the front page, and those who, with subjective sensitivity, recoil from the impact of what man is doing to find poetic relief in what he is thinking and feeling. Both types seek stimulus in the same material; yet derive therefrom vastly different emotional reactions.
Pennsylvania coal lands, for instance, have, within recent years, motivated the viewpoint of many an American artist. One man sees them from the sociological point of view as an aggregate of hideous gashes and excrescences breeding human ills. The emphasis is journalistic, aimed at what men do to the land and what the land does to them. From brush and stilus and lithographic crayon have come agonizing protests against injustice.
Another artist, however, may find emotional stimulation in great piles of slate-gray slag against sky and furtive foliage. He watches the sun edge leaves and grass with light, and conceives his picture as a study in contrasts. Such a viewpoint underlies the art of Francis Speight. . . . He did not enter the coal fields as a crusader, but wandered there as a poet when the accident of teaching threw him in the vicinity and sent him forth to seek living quarters suited both to his brush and his pocketbook. So it has been with Speight since first, at the age of twenty-four, he arrived at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to study painting, and to determine whether painting or poetry
should rule his creative energies.
Ranging the country with his fellow painters, Ross Braught and Kenneth Bates, Speight reached the open fields and rolling hills through the industrial uphill, down-dale street vagaries of factory-ridden Manayunk. Looking back, he watched smoke muting the sun colors of a town set on hills. Yet the edges of things seemed golden, and there was always a house to focus the interest, a yellow or red house with sunlit façade.
Says Speight: “I like to sit in the sunshine, to watch, at a distance.” It is a simple statement, but rich in art philosophy. From the distance you see the whole, not the parts. You see the composite of a town, not the individuals peopling it. Even when Speight draws nearer, he holds that far vision. Thus, at a time when painters dealing with industrial subject matter agonize over the fate of the individual, Speight draws his poetry from the broader pattern. Yet the little things in life take their place as part of the design. For Speight, however, they are to canvas what words are to a poem. He sees them in their context and not as text for a sermon on human behavior.
The pattern feeling for heights and depths in this smoky landscape often brings to a Speight canvas a sense of sweeping diagonals as the sun slants from the road or field of foreground across street or railroad tracks, past isolated slim block-like houses and the shadows of passers-by to misted hills across the river. Shadow and light are the ultimate burden of the design; but it is interesting to see a Speight pattern roughed in, for the initial study is more geometric than tonal, literally a
skeleton to be clothed later with light.
Speight's creed is simplicity itself. He believes that “the thing to paint is that toward which you have a real emotional response,” and that what that may turn out to be is conditioned entirely by what a man has been taught, by the direction of his instinct and the degree of his intuition.
All that he asks of life is the privilege to paint. The poetry of environments that he weaves into the fabric of his landscapes is the warp and woof of his sensitive emotional reaction to contemporary life. Always you think of him as on a hill, or at a high window looking down and across and up. There is a slant to his sunshine, his roads, streets and railroad tracks.
Such is the essence of Speight's art, with its wisps of poetic contemplation and its never militant sympathy. His is the vision of the poet, not that of a reformer, and in the maturity of his career he is expressing in terms of paint what, as a boy, he thought to say in words.
* * * *
Martha Candler Cheney, Modern Art in America. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1939.
Francis Speight has made himself an interpreter of the coal-mine regions of Pennsylvania. His feeling for his subject is emotional and intuitive. From his childhood in a minister's home in North Carolina to maturity, he was torn between the urge to be a poet and the urge to be a painter. He might have been either; perhaps is both. There is a quality
of primitive lyricism in his outdoor scenes. Speaking of his work, he says:
“I like the sunshine. I like the feel of the sun shining on my face. I like the wind. I like to hear the wind blow, starting in the distance, and coming nearer, and passing, and then another breeze approaching. I like to paint the sun and the wind, and the things I feel.” With this attitude of abandon, he overcomes technical difficulties of magnitude and brings a complex array of subject material into an orderly, coherent design. Many of his pictures are now in museum collections. One of the best known is Boxholder No. 27, which was the winner of a Corcoran Gallery of Art award in 1937 and is now in the Montpelier, Vermont, Museum. “I liked that place,” he says. “I think I managed to get into the painting something of the way I felt about the place. I strive for freedom in my work, and I think that is as free as anything I have painted.”
* * * *
Alice Graeme, “Garber, Speight Work Shown at Corcoran,” The Washington Post, Sunday, October 13, 1940.
Two members of the faculty of the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, Daniel Garber and Francis Speight, are having one-man exhibitions now at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. . . . Speight, who is some 15 years younger than Garber, originally came from North Carolina. He was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1920 and studied then under Garber, later in 1925 becoming his assistant. Since 1931 Speight has been a full instructor in drawing and painting at the Academy. For many years Speight lived in and around Manayunk, a mill district of Philadelphia, on the Schuylkill River.
There he found the country towns and the workers’ small frame houses which he has so often painted.
He has always had an affectionate interest for the uneven streets and little houses of these Pennsylvania towns. Speight's landscapes never give the sense of a posed subject, never the feeling that the artist had planted his easel down before a “view” and set out to record it. His pictures are completely natural, and his compositions, while technically sound, have the feeling of being almost accidental in their arrangement.
Speight once said, “The thing to paint is that toward which you have a real emotional response.” Perhaps this remark is the key to his work, and each picture is the result of something that he has seen and reacted strongly to. Certainly one feels drawn to his paintings for the sincerity and poetic spirit that is there.
In such a canvas as “Coaldale” he has painted a subtle commentary, with his brave little white house brightly silhouetted against the mountainous gray pile of coal. The miner walking home and the figure of the child racing to meet him are quietly suggested and in no way emphasized. It takes time to look at a canvas of Francis Speight, it takes time to absorb the finess of its details. There is a human quality here and thoughtful observation.
In “The Garden,” one of the finest of the canvases assembled in the present group, the landscape has been eloquently expressed. There is nothing obviously striking in the scene itself, there never is in Speight's compositions, and yet one's memory of the picture is of something intimate and dramatic. That is one of the marks of good painting, the subject
becomes the vehicle of the artist's feeling, and not an end in itself.
The play of light has always interested Speight. He knows how to paint the slanting sunlight as it strikes the side of a house, the brilliant illumination of light as it falls on one particular spot, leaving the rest of the scene in shadow. He paints such contrasts easily and without affectation. They are an integral part of almost every one of his pictures.
The color range of these paintings is quite wide. Speight uses a vivid green and places it often in daring juxtaposition with violet, crimson and yellow. The effect, however, is to bring a great vitality to his pictures.
* * * *
Elizabeth E. Poe, “Success Assured Art Exhibits Here Late in November,” Washington Times-Herald, Sunday, October 13, 1940.
It is interesting to compare the drawings and etchings of Daniel Garber, exhibited in another room of the gallery, to those paintings in oil and water color by Francis Speight. . . . As compared to the precise and masterly representations of Garber, we see in the work of Speight a much freer romantic realism related to the work of Henri and Bellows in technique and only very slightly influenced by modernistic tendencies. As far as Speight's work is concerned, the school of Paris might as well not have existed, but his personal taste in art is anything but narrow.
The romanticism and poetic quality of Speight is evoked from subject matter that is humble enough—ordinary small-town houses with surrounding
landscape, streets in the suburbs of Philadelphia, mining towns in Pennsylvania, or farms from his native North Carolina. The painting looks fresh in execution and color, giving the appearance of having been done in one sitting, although it is known that Speight works very carefully and at times spends a long time on a picture.
In general character these paintings could be classed as belonging to the work of a painter whose subject matter is the American scene, but who cannot be classified with the group of painters whose names are generally associated with this tendency. His work certainly belongs to the recent development of American painting, but Speight has an individual point of view.
* * * *
Henry C. Pitz, “Francis Speight: Painter of the Schuylkill Valley,” American Artist, April 1960.
How many have heard of the Schuylkill Valley painters? . . . There are few students from the Philadelphia art schools who have not carried their sketchbooks to the Schuylkill, and many painters, among them Walter Stuemfig, W. Emerton Heitland, Arthur Meltzer, Roswell Weidner and Albert Gold, have occasionally used its material for their pictures. Some, such as Antonio and Giovanni Martino, have linked their names solidly with the region, but the dean of them all—the man who has given most of his painting hours to the celebration of the valley, particularly the Manayunk-Roxborough area—is Francis Speight.
Speight knows the region as no other. He has tramped every street and
lane, found hospitable porches and back yards, perched on wall and fences, and is a familiar figure to its people. He knows it in all seasons and every change of light. From his student days at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts until the present, he has fed upon the valley's challenging form patterns and used them in almost all of his canvases. With his considerable talent and poet's eye, he has preserved some of the best moments of two unique hill towns.
At the base of Manayunk and Roxborough, the Schuylkill runs from northwest to southeast, and here the morning sun slips over the shoulder of the high ridge and silvers the roofs, the sidewalks, and the river below while the long shadows slide downhill. In the evening the level sun shines down the burnished river, mellows the hundreds of masonry rectangles, and flames in a thousand window panes. These are the hours that Speight probably loves best, for he is fascinated by the caprices of light in both its trivial and grandiloquent moods, its sudden feasts of color, the unexpected color, the unexpected magic it works on commonplace forms, its tireless inventions. Light skips and glitters in all the Speight canvases, but it seldom takes full possession. . . .
Probably every thoughtful person looks back at times and muses on paths not taken. Although it must seem that Speight was predestined to become the graphic poet of the Schuylkill hills, and though his career has been an accomplishment and a fulfillment, he can glance aside at the other Speights that might have flowered, given the miracle of multiple lifetimes. This is not a regret, but a bemused awareness of the unexplored richness of the creative nature. It is a mark of abundance.
An art like that of Francis Speight can only grow from deep roots. It cannot spring from the brush of an artist who is always anxiously tuned in to the latest aesthetic breeze. Speight watches the perplexing cross currents of mid-century art with interest, reflects upon them in his ruminative way, and then turns back to the glories of light on the Schuylkill hills.
* * * *
The following three statements are taken from the publication entitled Francis Speight: A Retrospective Exhibition, prepared by the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, and published in 1961.
1. Franklin Watkins, Distinguished American Artist
Francis Speight and I were fellow students in the school of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and today we find ourselves back where we started—this time as teachers. We are in the same age bracket. We enjoy together the comfort of being taken for granted in an environment that we would not wish much different than it is. We have observed the kaleidoscopic gyrations of the art world about us from the same viewpoint of training and locale. A long and indolent friendship between us has survived the years.
For my part, I am quite sure that my friendship for Francis could not have endured so fully had I not held his work in high esteem or rather, since our friendship goes back to a time when our paint was infirm, I should qualify by saying that his integrity and the quality of his intent from the very beginning commanded respect. Simplicity, which some painters may
acquire with much work and with much thought, was built into Francis’ character and reflected in his work. It has been thickened and enriched with time. Perhaps it is for this that he seems to abhor novel subject matter—an essential with some artists—and he has painted the same few acres of streets and hills and buildings over and over again. But—always with more confidence, always with variety and with a continuing delight that his growing strength in expression allows us all to share.
2. Joseph T. Fraser, Director of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
It has been my privilege, over the many years of association with The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, to meet and know great numbers of artists. I have yet to meet one, however, more truly dedicated to the profession of painting than is Francis Speight. The combination of sincerity, honesty, reticence, charm, and technical skill are all evident and wonderfully blended in the poetic aura which pervades his every canvas.
His quiet influence and understanding have made him one of the most valued and venerated teachers, as with simple truths gained through his own experience he has counselled and guided his students. The period of his own schooling in this Academy, with which he still continues as instructor, provided a background of sound, academic realism. Those exemplary influences, unfortunately not at present so ideally sought after, plus the several places, always rural, in which he and his family have chosen to live, have instinctively and healthily been his guiding stars and inspiration. A beautiful succession of landscapes, town and country, reflect his sensitive reaction to the intimate world about him.
The contemporary state of the arts has taught us that there are many,
many ways for artists to communicate their personal reactions and convictions to their fellows, but surely few have done so with more distinction and beauty. Francis Speight and his work are a benediction.
3. Hobson Pittman, Distinguished North Carolina Painter
There is almost an uncanny sense of communication with nature found in the work of Francis Speight; his houses are lived in, sunlight sharply defines edges and forms, shadows actually crawl over planes and become absorbed with light as they juxtapose themselves with higher pitched colors. And here one discovers his dedication to nature. Often I say to students, “nature and the museum are our greatest teachers”; and surely Francis Speight is a conspicuous exponent of such teaching.
Speight has unfailing confidence in what is familiar to him—a hill-side town, houses spotted with brilliant sun-light, streets leading to unending space, a group of children or an animal “picked up” by dazzling spots of color. But upon examination, one finds he never “copies” what is in front of him but endows the scene with an individuality that becomes his own. There is always distance between the subject and the painter, and in this space much takes place which the “artist” “sees and feels.” With the most important of all implements, “the vision,” he visualizes a statement through careful observation and investigation of the image that confronts him.
It is interesting to recall one of his most important teachers, Daniel Garber, and analyze the work of both. One is immediately conscious of the “correctness” in Garber's work; that is, the general structural design of the canvas, the treatment of a decorative pattern and atmosphere that seems
to result in flatness. This does not exist in the painting of Speight. The “proper or correct” approach of organization becomes relaxed, casual and asymmetric. In a Utrillo street in Montmartre, space and distance seem to become inhabited with life, yet empty, quiet, brooding; in Speight's, active and robust, filled with air and movement and intense light.
Speight is also interested in perspective—not like Uccello who used it to embellish his suggestion of a two-dimensional pattern which became one of the most elegant and personal in the history of painting—but to establish movement which leads the eye into a space of receding and advancing planes.
So in the work of an artist who is endowed with a true spirit derived from nature, we find a “new landscape” injected with living and personal elements found in nature itself.
* * * *
Susan Ellison Burke, “On the Town,” The Philadelphia Magazine, 1971.
In these days of the artist as social pawn, a low-profile man like painter Francis Speight, with his gentle Southern upbringing, can easily be left in the lurch. He has been at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for 50 years, as both student and teacher, and his fine realistic painting has never made a Wyeth-like splash among the public, though to other artists he's a master.
Speight is the dean of Manayunk—he has been painting that half-urban/half-suburban part of the city ever since he came here from North Carolina in the ’20s. Speight can make Manayunk poetic—he was a poet before he
was a painter. The post office on a sloping road in the late afternoon sun summons up the universal childhood. Paintings like Fragment, the ruins of a sweatshop by the Schuylkill on a cloudy summer day, turn industry itself into something shy and human. The people that he habitually puts into his landscapes, the women, for example, are a little deformed, a little depressed, perhaps with seven children, but very much alive.
Speight evokes emotion with the unexpected, yet obvious detail, details so telling that any part of his paintings can stand alone. He always paints on location, perhaps the reason that as you look at his pictures, you soon feel his sky coming over your head.
* * * *
The following statement, by William Hull, Director of the Museum of Art, appears in Manayunk and Other Places: Paintings and Drawings by Francis Speight, a retrospective exhibition organized by The Pennsylvania State University. University Park: Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, 1974.
Francis Speight is seen, first, as a realist painter, but it is a romantic realism, a poetic realism, that marks his work. No scene he paints is precisely as he sees it—some rearrangement is made, perhaps unconsciously, to direct the viewer's attention to the idea, the mood at hand. And in spite of the reordering of some elements of the scene, composition in itself seems not to be a goal so much as his intensely personal sense of conveying what a place is about and what it is about at a particular time.
Time, a particular moment, seems to be a paramount element in Francis Speight's paintings, as is so often the case in the paintings of George Bellows, whose work invites comparison with Speight's. Shadows, skies, cloud forms, startling rays of sun or night illumination attest to his need to convey a moment as he saw it. He has always worked rapidly and surely with his oils, the better to deal with the fleeting imagery of the subject of his attention. Royal Cortissoz, in writing of his work, once characterized Speight's landscapes as “a kind of hurried realism,” and this seems an appropriate description of the transient qualities of atmosphere and growing things and of the occasional people who move within his compositions. Humans are rarely more than incidental to his paintings and they are almost always in movement, further suggesting the transcience of the interval in which they appear. People are used if they help to achieve a dynamism for the composition. If the buildings and the land and the atmosphere are sufficient for the artist's purpose, they are left out.
Buildings, the settings in which they occur, and the landscapes beyond them are apt to be the elements of this artist's paintings. The buildings he paints have seen better days or they may indeed be derelict or in ruins. They are almost always homely. In the hands of many artists such material might be used as a social commentary, but Francis Speight seems to approach these elements as a poet, not preaching, nor urging, only recording response to the feeling that drew him to the subject.
* * * *
There follows now an appendix containing a total of eighteen paintings by Francis Speight, presented chronologically, depicting vividly the consistency of Mr. Speight's vision in art.*[note]
FRANCIS SPEIGHT: EIGHTEEN PAINTINGS
Each of Mr. Speight's paintings included in this appendix is described in detail below. These descriptions are followed by the presentation of the eighteen paintings.
|No. 1||“Maizies House”||(32 × 40)||Oil||Painted 1926|
|Winner of Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Fellowship Gold Medal Award|
|Owned by Dr. & Mrs. Alfred H. Yongue, Greenville, N. C.|
|No. 2||“Manayunk”||(40 × 42)||Oil||Painted 1926|
|Owned by the Artist|
|No. 3||“Canal Scene”||(40 × 50)||Oil||Painted 1926-28|
|Owned by Mrs. George Stronach, Wilson, N. C.|
|No. 4||“Late Afternoon”||(22 × 30)||Oil||Painted 1930|
|Owned by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pa.|
|No. 5||“Manayunk in the Morning”||(38 × 48)||Oil||Painted 1932|
|Owned by the Artist|
|No. 6||“Winter”||(40 × 50)||Oil||Painted 1933|
|Owned by Mr. & Mrs. Dan MacMillan, Fayetteville, N. C.|
|No. 7||“Boxholder”||(46 × 56)||Oil||Painted 1937|
|Exhibited Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1937; N. C. Museum of Art, 1961|
|Owned by Wood Art Gallery, Montpelier, Vermont|
|No. 8||“Holy Family Church”||(25 × 30)||Oil||Painted 1942|
|Owned by the Artist|
|No. 9||“Tracks in Winter”||(30 × 36)||Oil||Painted 1942|
|Owned by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, Illinois|
|No. 10||“Shur's Lane”||(21 × 29)||Water Color||Painted 1943|
|Owned by the Artist|
|No. 11||“Old Mills, Main Street”||(24 × 30)||Oil||Painted 1948|
|Owned by Mrs. Charles Grace, Philadelphia, Pa.|
|No. 12||“View from West Manayunk”||(20 × 20)||Oil||Painted 1956|
|Owned by Mr. James E. Hall, Lumberton, N. C.|
|No. 13||“Hillside in Spring”||(28 × 34)||Oil||Painted 1957|
|Owned by Rear Adm. & Mrs. A. M. Patterson, Raleigh, N. C.|
|No. 14||“Portrait of Sarah Blakeslee Speight”||(20 × 26)||Oil||Painted 1960|
|Owned by the Artist|
|No. 15||“Skiles Landing”||(23 × 25)||Oil||Painted 1963|
|Owned by the Artist|
|No. 16||“Winter, Sans Souci”||(36 × 40)||Oil||Painted 1966|
|Owned by the Artist|
|No. 17||“Leaksville—Spray”||(40 × 50)||Oil||Painted 1968|
|Owned by the Artist|
|No. 18||“Old Speight Homestead”||(19 × 25)||Charcoal Drawing||Drawn 1972|
|Owned by the Artist|
No. 1 “Maizies House” (1926)
No. 2 “Manayunk” (1926)
No. 3 “Canal Scene, Manayunk” (1926-1928)
No. 4 “Late Afternoon” (1930)
No. 5 “Manayunk in the Morning” (1932)
No. 6 “Winter” (1933)
No. 7 “Box Holder” (1937)
No. 8 “Holy Family Church” (1942)
No. 9 “Tracks in Winter” (1942)
No. 10 “Shur's Lane” (1943)
No. 11 “Old Mills, Main Street” (1948)
No. 12 “View from West Manayunk” (1956)
No. 13 “Hillside in Spring” (1957)
No. 14 “Portrait of Sarah Blakeslee Speight” (1960)
No. 15 “Skiles Landing” (1963)
No. 16 “Winter, Sans Souci” (1966)
No. 17 “Leaksville - Spray” (1968)
No. 18 “Old Speight Homestead” (1972)