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Avery Galleries

Alberta Binford McCloskey

Matija Poppies

Signed and dated lower right: A.B. McCloskey / 1901

30 x 16 inches (76.2 x 40.6 cm)


Alberta McCloskey was a painter especially known for her lush fruit still lifes often with oranges wrapped in tissue paper. Born in Missouri, she was a student of William Merritt Chase in New York City. In 1883 in Denver when she was age 20, she married artist William McCloskey, and the couple, who separated in 1898, traveled extensively together and often worked on the same portraits and still lifes. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1884, they opened a portrait studio and established their reputations through open-house invitations to prominent people and other artists. Indicative of their success was that they were chosen to hang the pictures at the Art Loan Exhibition of June 1885, a show of major proportions and import for Los Angeles. 

However, shortly after that, they left California for New York, and by the spring of 1888, they were exhibiting at the National Academy of Design Annual Exhibition. The next few years proved a time of significant professional growth for the couple, and Alberta became increasingly committed to still-life subjects. Her painting, "Hydrangeas", was a large work of which she was especially proud and which she exhibited in 1887 at the National Academy of Design. It depicted a plant flowering in a ceramic pot with each petal of the flowers carefully rendered. As she and her husband traveled from city to city she kept the painting with her as an example of her abilities. This exquisite still life of poppies also demonstrates her incredible technical skill. The painting is a masterful study in color harmonies: the pink flowers contrast strikingly with the silky green fabric, while the curling green leaves almost seem to meld into the background.

Until recently, posthumous recognition has eluded her. Although Alberta deferred to her husband in many artistic ways (such as placing her initials after those of her husband in the signatures on their joint portraits), some critics have asserted that she had a more refined touch and a wider repertoire of still life objects than he. Exhibition venues include the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1885; National Academy of Design, New York City, 1886 (one or the other of the McCloskeys exhibited there in the spring and fall of 1888, 1889 and 1890, and the spring of 1891); the American Art Galleries, New York City, (her Hydrangeas exhibited), 1886; the Prize Fund exhibitions, 1888 and 1889; American Watercolor Society, New York City, 1897.