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Valdez, Alaska, October 23, 2019 – In early October 2019, the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive received a major new addition to its collection: a beautiful 1905 oil painting of the growing town of Valdez as seen from the water, painted by James Everett Stuart. The painting is significant not only for its age and aesthetic value, but also because it may shed new light on the draw of Valdez for early 20th-century artists.
The Valdez Museum was approached some months prior by Anchorage resident Gilliam Smythe, about including the painting, Chugach Mountains and Valdez Glacier, as a bequest. Smythe, an art collector, purchased it from a New York gallery in 1984, and after careful consideration she generously chose to donate the painting to the Museum outright.
Stuart’s painting shows an atmospheric view of Valdez at a time when the Valdez Glacier came nearly straight up to the waterline, dwarfing the small wooden buildings clustered at its base. The three baidarkas cruising the waters in the foreground are clearly of native Alutiiq design, evidenced by their telltale two-pronged bow. The baidarkas’ three-man configuration was developed after Russian colonization, when a Russian crewman was accompanied by Alutiiq hunters during the sea otter pelt trade.
The artist, James Everett Stuart, grandson of famous portraitist Gilbert Stuart, was a landscape painter active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who concentrated his attention on mountainous regions of the Pacific Northwest, California, and Alaska. Stuart first came to Alaska in 1891 and made three subsequent trips from 1893 to 1903. Stuart’s sojourn to Valdez during that period makes him a contemporary of two other celebrated artists who made Valdez their home, Sydney Laurence and Eustace Paul Ziegler. These artists and others of their generation did much to form the popular image of Alaska, their visualizations of the territory’s pristine wilderness and robust residents becoming part of the Alaskan mythos.
Andrew Goldstein, Curator of Collections & Exhibitions
Tel. 907-835-8905, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org