Campus Currents

'The Writer' Raises the Stakes
A remarkable painting by a New Hampshire native headlines the art museum's auction

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President Woodrow Wilson may not have intended to—he probably just liked the painting—but when he bought the "Portrait of Geraldine J" at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1915, he elevated the status of the artist, New Hampshire native Mary Bradish Titcomb, helping her become one of the most important members of the Boston Impressionist movement of the early 20th century.

Now a painting by Titcomb is doing some elevating of its own. This year, as the UNH Museum of Art was planning an auction, it received a donation of Titcomb's painting "The Writer," which is appraised at more than $100,000. The painting is one of several that will lift the museum's June 19 auction, "Raising the Bar," significantly above the level of the typical college art museum fundraiser.

Titcomb taught drawing in public schools for more than 25 years, but in 1888, she made the daring decision to earn her living as a working artist. She traveled to Paris, Italy, Spain and England, but always returned to Boston, where she was inducted into the Copley Society, the most prestigious art society in New England. In 1895, she started signing her paintings "M. Bradish Titcomb" to disguise her sex and avoid discrimination.

The art auction will be an extraordinary opportunity for UNH art supporters, says interim museum director Wes LaFountain. "We had known for a while that we were going to be receiving some very nice works of art for this auction, but when we realized the significance of the Titcomb painting, we were just blown away," he says. "It is truly a gem. Receiving this work inspired us to step up our game and to re-imagine the type of event we could offer here in Durham."

By way of comparison, the art museum's first auction, held in 2007, featured local artists offering works in the $500 range. This year, in addition to "The Writer," the auction will feature five paintings valued between $20,000 and $80,000 as well as noteworthy works by a number of prominent local and UNHaffiliated artists. UNH alumni James Aponovich '71, Sam Cady '65, Gary Haven Smith '73 and Jim Mullen '85 are all represented, as are more than 70 other artists. LaFountain estimates that the value of these works will range from $1,000 to $15,000.

The six highest-valued pieces of art, including the Titcomb painting, were donated by Durham resident and longtime UNH supporter Thomas Haas. "This is just one of several remarkable examples of how the Haas family has stepped forward to support UNH and the arts specifically," LaFountain says.

Museum doors will open at 5 p.m. for a preview of the more than 100 pieces of art up for auction; auctioneer Devin Moisan '93 will begin the proceedings at 7 p.m. UNH alumni and friends will find abundant opportunities to support the museum while taking home museum- quality artwork. And a painting that would have probably met with presidential approval will go home with a lucky buyer.

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