This pair of watercolors of sailboats -- likely Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island Sound -- was painted by Carl Nelson in 1933 during his fellowship at Laurelton Hall, the Long Island residence of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Nelson received Tiffany Foundation awards from 1931 to 1933. When these paintings were made, he was on the verge of receiving wider recognition for his work, exhibiting in major museum group exhibitions. The works are in an open, modernist style, leaving the white of the page showing to convey sparkling light and motion. One painting shows two sailboats against a backdrop of five cylindrical storage tanks and smaller buildings. The other is a more abstracted view of a single boat with expressive, calligraphic brushwork and a dramatic, colorful sky.
The Tiffany estate where Nelson was in residence encompassed 1,500 acres of woodland and waterfront along Cold Spring Harbor, on the North Shore of Long Island. Directly across the harbor were the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club, which has a marina, and adjoining property housing a small oil depot, which is the likely subject of Nelson's painting of the tanks; they even could be viewed from the Laurelton Hall shoreline in 1933. The oil depot has recently been redeveloped and the tanks torn down, but in the meantime, they remained a landmark of sorts for over 70 years.
Carl Gustaf Simon Nelson was a prolific American painter and printmaker, as well as a respected art teacher. His subjects included landscapes, still life and religious themes. Nelson emigrated from Sweden to the United States as a boy, and though he spent his childhood in Iowa, he is associated with New England, especially Boston and Cranberry Island, Maine, where he lived and worked for most of his long life. In the 1920s, he studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art and Art Student's League in New York City. Nelson received Tiffany Foundation awards from 1931 to 1933 studying art in residence at Laurelton Hall, the magnificent Tiffany residence in Long Island. By the mid 1930s he was exhibiting in prestigious venues including the Whitney Museum Biennial, Carnegie International, Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He is well known for his pictures of New York City. Nelson had numerous exhibits during his life, and his works are in numerous museum collections, including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts. As an interesting aside, a photograph of Nelson’s expressive craggy face appears on the cover of the 1993 Newberry Award-winning novel The Giver.
Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) was the founder of the Tiffany Glass Company in 1885, which became the leading American producer of fine art glass during the Art Nouveau era. In 1918, he established a foundation to create a summer residency program for young artists and craftspeople at Laurelton hall, his estate at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Tiffany died in 1933 at the age of 85, but the Laurelton program continued until the sale of the estate in 1946. The estate buildings fell into disrepair and were eventually torn down.
"About the Foundation." The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. http://louiscomforttiffanyfoundation.org/about.html (26 March 2013).
"Deer Range Farm." Old Long Island. 25 April 2011. http://www.oldlongisland.com/2011/04/deer-range-farm.html (3 April 2013).
Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1985. p. 445.
Komusin, Bruce and Wadsworth, Charles. “Carl Gustaf Nelson.” The Cranberry Isles, Maine. http://www.cranberryisles.com/photos/carl_nelson.html (28 June 2004).
Lowry, Lois. “Books: Carl Nelson.” Lois Lowry. 2002. http://www.loislowry.com/nelson.html (28 June 2004).
Spinzia, Judith Ader. "Women of Long Island: Mary Elizabeth Jones, Rosalie Gardiner Jones." The Freeholder 11 (Spring 2007) p. 6. Online at: http://spinzialongislandestates.com/JONES.pdf (3 April 2013).