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 Carl R. Saxild  (1893 - 1971)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/New Hampshire      Known for: modernist naive style landscape painting

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Ad Code: 4
Carl R Saxild
An example of work by Carl R. Saxild
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Carl Saxild was born on 22 September 1893, in Gloucester, MA, of Scandinavian ancestry. He trained at the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and spent several years in training in Paris and Denmark. Carl married and had twin children: Thelma (1926-1999) and Rudolph (1926-1982).

Little is known about Saxild before 1937 when he was hired, along with fellow artists Prescott Jones and Vernon Smith, by the WPA to participate in the Alaska Project of the Federal Art Project (FAP). The FAP state directors from the northern states chose twelve artists with competent artistic records to undertake this project. During the adventure, Saxild and fellow artists sketched scenes in the outdoors and then translated them onto canvas or paper in hotel rooms. The artists operated in Alaska from June through November 1937. The adventure yielded over 50 paintings, the majority of which are now in the collection of Anchorage Museum of History and Art in Anchorage, Alaska.

In 1939 Saxild exhibited at the Exhibition of Contemporary American Art at the World's Fair at New York's Flushing Meadows. Saxild worked in oil, watercolor, and lithography. His style ranges from realism to impressionism and occasionally to abstract themes.

Few articles on Saxild can be found in the media, but of the ones that can be found all testify to the stature in which Saxild was held. As an example, an article appearing in "The Christian Science Monitor" for 17 October 1939 reporting on an exhibition held at Symphony Hall, Boston, MA, shows that Saxild was in high company with fellow exhibitors: Thomas Hart Benton, Lyonel Feininger, Karl Knaths, and John Marin. He was represented by the Addison Gallery at the Phillips Academy, Andover, MA. He was a member of the Boston Arts Club and participated in the art program of the Great Neck Public Schools, Great Neck, NY.

Carl Saxild died in Hanover, NH on 5 January 1971.

Compiled and submitted August 2004 by A. Rex Rivolo, Ph.D. He credits the daughter-in-law of the artist, married to Rudolph Saxild, son of the artist.

Following is an addendum about the Alaska Art Project.

The WPA artists of the Alaska Art Project including Carl Saxild and Prescott Jones who came in 1937 must have been thrilled to find exciting new material for their paintings. The social realist stylings of the era provide a beautiful screen through which the familiar landscape becomes something out of time. Saxild, a studio painter who worked up his paintings from studies, was a keen observer to do such an original and convincing job on the northern lights in his painting of a now unknown village.

Alaska Art Project
In 1937, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes asked the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to organize a project to publicize the territories and possessions of the United States. It originally called for groups of artists to visit four American territories (Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands). WPA Federal Art Project (FAP) Director Holger Cahill decided to try the project on a six-month experimental basis sending artists to only Alaska.

FAP state directors from the northern states chose twelve artists with competent artistic records. Participants included: Chicago artists Edwin Boyd Johnson, Merlin Pollock and John Walley, Massachusetts artists Prescott "Mike" Jones, Karl Saxild and Vernon Smith, Minnesota artist Arthur Kerrick, and New York artists Karl Fortess, Ferdinand Lo Pinto, Antonio Mattei (artist supervisor), Austin Mecklem and Roland Mousseau.

The Alaska Art Project concentrated on both coastal and interior regions. Travel was limited to those areas accessible by road, ship or rail. Where possible, the government provided transportation, e.g., U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Railroad. Throughout the project weather hampered outdoor painting. Sketches had to be done in between rain showers, and then reproduced later on canvas or paper in hotel rooms. The artists operated in Alaska from June through November 1937.

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