George Edwin Lothrop

 

Lothrop created animated paintings that reflect his fascination with theater. With dramatic flair, he painted circus entertainers; a tightrope walker; a beauty pageant; a staged bacchanalian revel; Edith Roberts, a glamorous movie star of the 1920s; and (twice) the Russian ballerina Anna Matveyevna Pavlova. Against an exotic land-scape,Pavlova is depicted onstage in feathered pants, head tilted back, arms gracefully extended, her red hair streaming behind her. A figure hovers above her; other formsappear near her feet. Lothrop’s pointillist technique suggests movement and gives vibrancy to the work.Lothrop was born in Dighton, Massachusetts. By age sixteen, he had learned piano polishing and carving from his father, who worked at that trade. During WorldWar I, he was a machinist in the Charlestown Navy Yard; he then returned to piano carving and later worked as a doorman or watchman. In high school he wasinterested in drama; afterward he self-published fifteen original plays. He also wrote two books of poetry and claimed to have written forty songs. A handwrittenadvertisement, one of two pasted on the back panel of a painting, shows Lothrop as the “Poet King” in a costume suggesting the sea god Neptune, surrounded by bathing-beauty cut-outs. His literary and musical aspirations may have been realized through his paintings, which resemble stage sets filled with flamboyant nudewomen. Lothrop, by then destitute, was found dead of a heart attack on a street in Boston.Lothrop’s work was included in an exhibition at the Society of Independent Artists (New York) in 1917–1920 but was rejected for the 112th annual exhibition atthe Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1917. Lothrop’s paintings were discovered by Peter Hunt, an art dealer in Provincetown, Massachusetts, who bought themin a thrift shop. Years earlier, Lothrop had put the paintings in storage, where they languished after his death before being turned over to a charity.Lothrop, whose output is believed to be small, worked primarily in oil on canvas. Occasionally, he would glue costume jewelry to the back of a painting. He signedhis works “Geo. E.Lothrop” with “Boston” on the next line, often signing the reverse side as well and inscribing “Boston” or “Boston, Mass.” Applying his skill as a piano carver, he hand-carved several frames. In 1971, Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York auctioned twenty-one Lothrop paintings. Most of his paintingsare in private hands, but Buttercup
is at the American Folk Art Museum.