Newcastle, Delaware

Earl Horter, American, 1880 - 1940

Made in Newcastle, Delaware, United States, North and Central America

c. 1932

Watercolor on paper

Sheet (irregular): 13 15/16 x 21 13/16 inches (35.4 x 55.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of C. K. Williams, II, 1999

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Additional information:
  • PublicationAdventures in Modern Art: The Charles K. Williams II Collection

    In the mode of the cityscapes in which Earl Horter had specialized since the 1910s, Newcastle, Delaware is one of a small number of "Pointillist" watercolors he made in the early 1930s. Although the style has often been seen as an imitation of Georges Seurat's Pointillism, closer examination shows that Horter, unlike Seurat, was working in a distinctly unscientific way, using the dotted technique to create a variegated surface texture rather than to fuse colors optically. A number of influences seem to have come together to bring about Horter's brief experimentation with a dotted technique. In the first place, there were the Synthetic Cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso, which Horter not only knew from reproductions but also owned. The most important of these in his collection was Still Life with Cards, Glasses, and a Bottle of Rum: Vive la [France],1 a painting executed in oil and sand on canvas, in which Picasso covered the surfaces of several still-life objects with multicolored dots. Then there were Georges Braque's paintings of speckled sandy beaches, which Horter imitated in the 1930s. 2 More likely, however, the greatest influence must have come from the techniques Horter himself was using in his prints and watercolors at the time, particularly a method he learned from Charles Demuth, who achieved textural effects in his watercolors by sprinkling salt onto wet paper, which he would brush off when the paper dried, thereby producing a mottled surface texture. Similarly, in the early 1930s Horter was also working with aquatint, an etching technique in which a granular layer of resin is applied to the etching plate and bitten with acid to create broad tonal effects comparable to wash drawings. 3 Each of these influences from his own and others' work surely combined to encourage Horter about 1932 to create watercolors entirely of dots and even add his signature in the same technique. Innis Howe Shoemaker, from Adventures in Modern Art: The Charles K. Williams II Collection (2009), pp. 176-178.

    1. See Innis Howe Shoemaker with Christa Clarke and William Wierzbowski, Mad for Modernism: Earl Horter and His Collection, exh. cat. (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1999), p. 100, pl. 46. Horter had sold this painting by 1934.
    2. Ibid., p. 49.
    3. The best example of Horter's use of the salt technique is The Chrysler Building under Construction (1931), reproduced in ibid., p. 44, fig. 36. His aquatints, such as The Kitchen, New Orleans (c. 1933) and Light and Shadow (1932), show the remarkable effects for which Horter became well known in his aquatints (ibid., p. 45, figs. 37-38).