John Mowbray-Clarke plaster calendar found in resale shop
Onteora Fall Calendar, 1901 cast plaster
John Mowbray-Clarke (1856-1955) started life as an English physician but somewhere along the line he changed professions to artist, and shortly before the 1913 Armory Show, he turned up in New York City, where he became part of the inner circle organizing the iconic exhibition that launched modernist art in this country. He is mentioned in Milton Brown's seminal book on the Armory Show and has listings in various basic publications on American artists. However, little is known about him. In the 1990s when I was working on my doctoral dissertation for the University of Delaware, which had as one of its primary research topics the Armory Show, I started my hunter-gatherer habits in the art/antiques world by frequenting a shop in Wilmington, DE called The Resettlers. The Resettlers helped older folks downsize by either buying outright or taking on consignment objects from their home starting with kitchen and bedroom objects of everyday use and moving on to art and antiques. I was shopping there on my birthday--December 16, and walking along an aisle with metal shelves on either side, heaped with jumbled items. For some reason a bumpy white object caught my eye and when I leaned it to examine it closer I let out a shriek, reading the signature "Mowbray-Clarke" and a date that I thought at first must be a mistake: 1901. A mistake because I hadn't seen any reference to the artist before around 1910, when he became involved with organizing the 1913 Armory Show. I bought the piece immediately and tried to contact the owner but the shop management would not agree to forward a letter of query. I've had the piece ever since. Over the years I was able to discover that Onteora is a summer art colony in the Catskills founded by the decorator/writer/textile designer Candace Wheeler. The fox and bear refer to the colony's Fox and Bear Inn, no longer operating, but the building still extant as a library and archive for the colony. The date on my piece places Mowbray-Clarke in this country many years earlier than had been known, although still not much is known about him. Each year the colony had a fair, and this piece referenced that event. Years ago, I visited a gentleman at the colony who had the identical piece hanging in his Onteora cottage, although his was not in the same good condition as mine. I've only ever seen about 4 examples of Mowbray-Clarke's art, although he had an exhibition at Kevorkian Gallery in NYC in 1919. What happened to all of his work? Why was the piece in Wilmington, DE where I would see it and probably be the only person able to recognize its significance? This one has been a keeper, thus far, all the more so since I discovered a probable precursor: John Lockwood Kipling's Kipling 1900 Kalendar, also listed on this website. It seems likely that Mowbray-Clarke knew about Kipling's plaster relief, issued only a short time earlier, inspiring him to produce his own version.