Picnic at Ogunquit, Maine. Depicts Gaylor’s good friends Robert and Mimi Laurent, among others. Original owned by Laurent’s descendants.
Wood Gaylor, collection Archives of American Art
Wood Gaylor is truly a fascinating artist and character and I’m delighted that Andrea Rosen, curator at the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum is planning a retrospective exhibition with accompanying catalogue on his distinctive life and art, for this is long overdue. Gaylor wrote his own life story in running narrative form, which is available at the Archives of American Art. I found my way to his son Wynn’s home around 1998, as I was getting toward the end of my doctoral dissertation on artist Henry Fitch Taylor and his wife Clara Davidge Taylor, promoters and key figures in the early modernist movement. (You’ll find another page on Taylor on this website.) Most of Taylor’s artwork is lost and through my research I found that Wood Gaylor had at one time owned at least one distinctive print by Taylor. Although I was not focusing exclusively on Taylor’s art in my project still it would be nice to have a better understanding of his art and, who knows, maybe even acquire an example for myself? I tracked down a W. Gaylor to the north shore of Long Island, where Wood and his wife Adelaide lived for decades, and writing to him I soon had a courteous reply indicating that I had indeed reached his son, and inviting me to visit and look through what material remained. I was super-excited to get there and spent most of a day, or perhaps even two, going through a flat file cabinet stuffed full of assorted artworks and papers relating to the Gaylors and the various artist-friends they had and the arts organizations in which they were active. I was crestfallen to discover that I had lost out on finding any of Taylor’s art as a major exhibition and sale from the Gaylor collection had been mounted many years earlier, and the Taylor art had sold there. However, I “clicked” with Wynn Gaylor, who was a real delight and other visits and more research followed. I acquired by purchase and gift a significant collection of archival material and works on paper relating to Gaylor. This resulted in a published article on The Penguin, a modernist exhibiting group in which Gaylor played an active role. In 2013, 100th anniversary of the Armory Show, I lectured by invitation at the Orsay Museum in Paris, sharing my research on Gaylor, Walt Kuhn, and The Penguin. Gaylor’s paintings for the most part are “cast of a thousand” depictions of specific events and artist parties, many occurring in Chelsea or Greenwich Village in New York City. If only one could identify the people he recorded in his distinctive outline style! In the Penguin party scene, perhaps the two Asian men depicted are Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Michio Ito, painter and dance/theatre designer, respectively. Both were active in The Penguin and there were very arts professionals in the 1910s who were Asian so it is a good guess. From many of Gaylor’s drawings, large oil paintings were created. These can be found in the Whitney Museum and the Fleming, naturally! The use of squared paper grows from Gaylor’s career as a pattern maker, his bread-and-butter money. Gaylor was very active as a leader in different exhibiting groups and art organizations including the Hamilton Easter Field Foundation, Salons of America, and Modernist Artists of America, Inc. Wynn Gaylor remembers the family being vexed at how much money Gaylor spent on buying art by his friends and associates. Of course I benefited from that habit. I am eagerly awaiting Andrea’s exhibition and publication. She has invited me to contribute an essay to her catalogue.