FERNAND HARVEY LUNGREN (1857–1932)
Carriage in the Rain, about 1890–1901
Pastel on paper mounted on card, 22 1/2 x 20 in.
Signed (at lower right): Lungren
EX COLL.: private collection, until 2022
Carriage in the Rain reflects Lungren’s mastery of the pastel medium. While the work cannot be precisely dated, it is most likely one of a group of atmospheric London street scenes that Lungren produced in the nearly three years, from April 1899 to November 1901, when the recently married artist and his wife, Henrietta (Nettie), lived in the English capital.
The Lungrens rented quarters on Edward Square in the West Kensington section of London, which remained their home for two and a half years. They socialized in the circle around James McNeill Whistler, introduced by Lungren’s old Pennsylvania Academy friend, Joseph Pennell. In 1900, Lungren’s pastels of London scenes were included in shows at the Pastel Society of London, and Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery.
In March 1902, Lungren showed 25 London pastels, “Some Phases of London When the Lamps are Lighted,” in an exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery in New York. From April through June he exhibited 26 pastel and watercolor drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago: a mix of urban London scenes, American Western themes, and Egyptian subjects. While Carriage in the Rain may well have been included in one of these exhibitions, the scene in the picture is not specific enough to correspond to any of the descriptive titles. The Lungrens lived, for a year, in Nutley, New Jersey, a small suburb of New York City that attracted a group of illustrators. In 1903, however, the couple made a decisive move West: first to Los Angeles, and then, in 1906 to Santa Barbara. Lungren and his wife made their home a gathering place for Santa Barbara artists and patrons. In 1917, Henrietta Lungren died. Bereaved but surrounded by well-wishers and friends, Lungren threw himself into civic art activities in Santa Barbara, as he continued to travel to nearby locales to paint desert scenes and American Indian subjects. In 1920, Lungren was among the founders and the first President of The Santa Barbara School of the Arts.
Carriage in the Rain, a pastel showing an urban street scene in the rain, is entirely representative of Lungren’s career before he relocated to California and became known for oil paintings of the American desert. Brown and Dini comment on the irony that Lungren’s “early acclaim as based on mastering the illusion of wetness” in cityscapes of New York, Paris, London and even Los Angeles. By the time that Carriage in the Rain was created, the centuries-old domination of transit by horse was nearing its end. At the turn of the century, this picture, while still accurate, was also already nostalgic. The vehicle in the foreground, a commercial conveyance drawn by one horse with a driver mounted behind the passenger enclosure, is a Hansom cab. Behind that Lungren placed a two-horse carriage, while, faintly visible in the distance, is an omnibus, not horse drawn but with two upright antennae suggesting overhead electric cables. This kind of conveyance was first used in London in July 1901, shortly after the Lungrens returned to the city from their trip to Egypt. Streetlights pierce the gloom of the London rain. At the same time that artists, including Lungren, grappled with new ways of portraying light in two dimensions, across a variety of media, the artist’s older brother, the engineer Charles Marshall Lungren, made a successful career as an inventor refining technologies of artificial illumination.