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 Harley Manlius Perkins  (1883 - 1964)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Vermont      Known for: portrait, modernist landscape and still life painting

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Ad Code: 3
Harley Manlius Perkins
from Auction House Records.
"Enchanted Forest", circa 1940
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following text was submitted in September of 2006 by art historian and collector Michael Perez:

HARLEY MANLIUS PERKINS (1883-1964), American (painter, writer, administrator, lecturer, radio commentator)
Harley Manlius Perkins was a member of 'The Boston Five' - a group of modernist painters who created expressive landscapes with an emphasis on a fauvist palette.Other members of this group were: Charles Sidney Hopkinson, Charles Hovey Pepper, Marion Monks Chase, and Carl Gordon Cutler. Beginning in 1920 and over the next 25 years, the group exhibited their works together at the Boston Art Club, Vose Galleries and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard.

Harley Perkins was born on April 23, 1883 in Bakersfield, Vermont and lived his adult life in the Brookline, Magnolia, and Boston, Massachusetts studying at the Brigham Academy and the Boston Museum School.  He was known to have traveled in Europe in 1928 and 1929 for 9 months and spent much of the time particularly in Norway.

Perkins exhibited at the Society for Independent Artists in 1918, the Whitney Museum of American Art 1926-50, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, Vose Galleries ("Five Boston Artists" 1930), Doll & Richards Gallery, Margaret Brown Gallery, Boston, among others.  He occupied a studio at the Fenway Gallery at 30 Ipswich Street in Boston, and later moved into his own gallery, The Harley Perkins Gallery, at 104 Revere Street in Boston in the mid-1930s.
Harley Perkins held positions as Arts Editor of the Boston Transcript (1922-1928), a art critic who wrote articles for the Boston Evening Traveler, and as Director of Exhibitions at the Boston Art Club (1923-28).  A kindhearted individual, he cared deeply about opportunities for fledgling artists, at one time, in 1923 he petitioned the Director of the Brooklyn Museum to hold a exhibition of negro art at the Boston Art Club.  He was the Massachusetts State Director of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (1936-39), the president of the Boston Society of Independent Artists from 1940 to 1954, and a technical advisor to the National Art Program, Washington D.C. 1940-1941.  And among other contributions, Harley Perkins was a Radio Art Commentator and a contributor to The Arts: Pictures on Exhibit.

Works by Perkins can be found in permanent collections including the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as a WPA mural in the Alabama State Building in Montgomery, Alabama.

Harley Manlius Perkins died on September 29, 1964 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Featured in the article titled The Birth of Regionalism, Time Magazine, December 24, 1934

Biography from Alpen Gallery:
Harley Perkins was born in Bakersfield, Vermont, but lived much of his life in Massachusetts in Brookline, Magnolia, and Boston. He studied at both the Brigham Academy and the Boston Museum School. He was the founder and leader of “The Boston Five”, a group of modernist painters who used a fauvist palette to create landscapes. The group contained artist like Charles Sidney Hopkinson, Charles Hovey Pepper, Marion Monks Chase, and Carl Gordon Cutler. The group began exhibiting their work together in 1920 and continued to do so for 25 years throughout the Boston area. Perkins was known to have traveled in Europe, particularly Norway. Harley Perkins held a variety of positions from Arts Editor of the Boston Transcript (1922-1928), to his work as a critic, and as Director of Exhibitions at the Boston Art Club (1923-28). He was also a Radio Art Commentator and a contributor to The Arts: Pictures on Exhibit.

A magazine reference from Time Magazine Dec. 24, 1934. Perkins is mentioned in the Boston section, as a leading force for modernism.

Early book reference for Harley Perkins, for a watercolor exhibition from 1926. The following link contains the relevant info:

Another book reference from the Fogg Art Museum. Exhibition from 1928. Heres the link:

Another update for his bio/news page regarding 2 works recently sold at Skinner(Boston), in which the CEO of the company opines that these oils/interiors were the best pieces in the show, and the jewels of their offerings:

Two mid-20th-century abstract paintings by Harley Manlius Perkins, one of the Modernist "Boston Five," might have gone into a Discovery sale, but Starr decided to take a chance with them in this the first of her three major auctions of the year. Consigned by a print dealer, the oils on board-one horizontal, the other vertical-were composed of geometric squares, neither was signed, and each carried an estimate of $400/600. Skinner CEO Karen Keane, auctioneering at the time they came up, said the horizontal Interior was her favorite item in the sale.

"Given the artist's record and what the artist is known for—more representational work—that was the appropriate level," said Starr. But nobody bidding got the memo. Related Intervals, II, 1955, went at $1126, and Interior made $3081, which is a new auction record for the artist, according to Skinner's research.

"They weren't in the print dealer's area [of expertise], but he just couldn't stop himself [from buying them]," said Starr. "They have a great look. It seems to happen fairly regularly that people gravitate to certain works and just find something about them. This seems to be one of those instances. I put them into a major sale, gave them a shot." The rest is history.

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