Overview

Washington Irving's Sketch Book, published serially in London and New York journals in 1820, captivated readers worldwide. Quidor's Return of Rip Van Winkle accurately sets the scene in the Catskills and shows brick houses with step-gabled, Dutch roofs. The mountains and buildings are the only familiar elements to poor Rip, who'd been drugged by Henry Hudson's enchanted crew twenty years earlier. Having slept through the Revolutionary War, Rip finds a flag bearing "a singular assemblage of stars and stripes," while the face of King George on the tavern's sign has been repainted to that of an unknown George named Washington.

Quidor's painting is a perfect pantomime to the climax of Irving's story, as Rip discovers -- to his bewilderment -- that he has a son and grandson, both namesakes. The scene is animated by thick strokes of pure white paint, phantom highlights within the golden, dreamlike haze. Quidor's obsession with depicting Rip Van Winkle has been interpreted as indicative of the artist's own search for acceptance. Although Quidor spent four years training under a society portraitist and occasionally exhibited pictures of literary themes at the National Academy of Design, he had to earn his living by painting signs and decorating fire engines.

Inscription

lower center on rock: J. Quidor, / N.Y. / 18[4?]9

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

(Augustus W. Oberwalder [Augustus De Forest], New York);[1] purchased 13 December 1920 by Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York; his estate; sold as part of the Clarke collection 29 January 1936, through (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1850
Twenty-Seventh Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1850, no. 31.
1921
Exhibition of Paintings by Early American Portrait Painters, The Union League Club, New York, December 1921, no. 1.
1928
Portraits by Early American Artists of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Collected by Thomas B. Clarke, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1928-1931, unnumbered and unpaginated catalogue.
1939
Life in America [A Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings Held During the Period of the New York World's Fair], The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1939, no. 113,repro.
1940
A Souvenir of Romanticism in America, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1940, unnumbered.
1942
John Quidor 1801-1881, Brooklyn Museum, 1942, no. 3, repro.
1943
American Paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1943.
1951
American Paintings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1951.
1952
300th Anniversary, Senate House State Historic Site, Kingston, New York, 1952, no cat.
1952
[Opening exhibition of new art gallery], Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Lynchburg, Virginia, 1952-1953, no cat.
1953
American Paintings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1953.
1955
American Paintings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1955.
1955
Recent Rediscoveries in American Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, 1955, no. 81, repro.
1964
Man: Glory, Jest, and Riddle, A Survey of the Human Form Through the Ages, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, 1964-1965, no. 212.
1965
John Quidor, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica; The Rochester Memorial Art Gallery; Albany Institute of History and Art, 1965-1966, no. 4.
1968
Arts in the Young Republic, Ackland Memorial Art Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1968.
1968
[Opening exhibition of American art], National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., 1968, no cat.
1970
19th-Century America: Paintings and Sculptures, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970, no. 40.
1973
John Quidor, Wichita Art Museum, 1973, no cat.
1974
The Painter's America: Rural and Urban Life, 1810-1910, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Oakland Museum, 1974-1975, no. 16.
1976
America As Art, National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., 1976, no. 98.
1987
New Horizons: American Painting 1840-1910 (organized by Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service), State Russian Museum, Leningrad; State Art Museum of Belorussia, Minsk; State Museum of Russian Art, Kiev, 1987-1988, no. 28.
1995
Loan for display with permanent collection, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 1995-1996.
2009
Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture, The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, 2009-2010, unnumbered catalogue, repro.

Bibliography

1928
_Portraits by Early American Artists of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Collected by Thomas B. Clarke. Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1928, unnumbered.
1939
_Life in America: A Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings Held during the Period of the New York World's Fair. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1939: 83, fig. 113.
1942
Baur, John I.H. John Quidor 1801-1881. Exh. cat. Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1942: 8-9, 48, pl. 3.
1967
Callow, James T. Kindred Spirits: Knickerbocker Writers and American Artists, 1807-1855. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1967: 188.
1970
_American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 92, repro.
1976
Wilmerding, John. American Art. Hammondsworth, England, and New York, 1976: 114, pl. 132.
1980
_American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 214, repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 68, no. 15, color repro.
1981
Williams 1981, 82-3, color repro. 100.
1982
Wolf, Bryan Jay. Romantic Re-Vision: Culture and Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century American Painting and Literature. Chicago, 1982: 152-173, pl. 41.
1983
Brown, Milton W. One Hundred Masterpieces of American Painting from Public Collections in Washington, D.C.. Washington, D.C., 1982: 62, pl. 63.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 547, no. 828, color repro.
1987
Wilson, Christopher Kent. "John Quidor's The Return of Rip Van Winkle at the National Gallery of Art: The Interpretation of an American Myth." American Art Journal 19 (1987): 23-45.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 78, no. 16, color repro.
1992
_American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 269, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 227, repro.
1998
Torchia, Robert Wilson, with Deborah Chotner and Ellen G. Miles. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part II. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1998: 81-86, color repro.

Technical Summary

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