Huntington Buys a Henrietta Shore


The Huntington’s Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, gearing up to open a new entrance and galleries next month, has acquired Henrietta Shore’s Clivia (c. 1930).

Shore must have been on the Huntington’s wish list for some time. Two years ago the Scott Galleries added a color drawing, Cypress Trees, Point Lobos, and hosted a celebrated painting, Cactus, on loan from a private collection.

Clivia was auctioned at Christies’ New York in December 2013 for $81,250. The Huntington bought it this year with funds from the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation, and it’s now on view.

Recent exhibitions have linked Shore to other “underrated” women modernists, and to Georgia O’Keeffe. Clivia represents the most admired phase of Shore’s art and demands comparison to the work of photographer Edward Weston. The two were friends, and the influence went both ways. Clivia is not a still life, nor an allegory, nor a too-obvious surrogate for genitals. It is nature made monumental and strange. As Weston wrote of Shore: “When she paints a flower she IS that flower.”

In the 1920s Shore was as famous as Georgia O’Keeffe. Late in life she was so broke she had to sell her Weston photographs to survive. Shore was utterly forgotten by the time of her 1963 death in a psychiatric hospital.

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