Julius Delbos: “Expert Water-colors”


Julius Delbos - Family at the Seashore, 1940s

Julius Delbos (1879-1970), "Family at the Seashore," 1940s, watercolor on paper, 14 x 16-1/2 inches

Carol Lowrey

Spanierman Gallery’s inventory of American works on paper includes watercolors and drawings by many talented men and women who achieved success and recognition during their own day, but whose careers have yet to be revived by contemporary scholars.  This is certainly the case with Julius Delbos (1879-1970), represented at the gallery by one of his sun-filled beach vignettes.

In the course of my research on Delbos, I discovered that he was born in London, England, the son of a Frenchman from the Basque region who fled his homeland during the reign of Napoleon III.  Little is known about his early life, other than the fact that he studied the piano as a boy and lived in London and Paris prior to his arrival in America in 1920.  He resided in Lakewood, New Jersey, until around 1927, when he settled in New York City.  Delbos taught art, music and French at schools in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Manhattan and spent most of his summers in Edgartown, Massachusetts (and elsewhere on that scenic coast), painting harbor subjects and depictions of outdoor recreation.  He is known to have worked in oil, but watercolor was his forte, as evidenced by his participation in the annual exhibitions of the American Watercolor Society and the New York Water Color Club.  During the 1930s and 1940s, his “expert water-colors” (Howard Devree, “A Round of Galleries: Current Shows,” New York Times, 9 December 1934) were also featured at Manhattan’s Gatterdam Gallery, as well as at Kleeman’s and the venerable Ferargil Galleries.  I think the art dealer Frederic Newlin Price captured the essence of Delbos’s style when he referred to his “country skies and seas of Edgartown and Rockport” as being “personal without any puzzlements” (see Delbos, New York: Ferargil Galleries, 1948): as you can see from Family at the Seashore, Delbos was drawn to the clear colors and simplified shapes of modernism, melding them beautifully with the realist inclinations that were no doubt reinforced by his many years as a teacher of art.  In viewing the piece, one gets a feeling of place, season and time of day, as well as a sense of the intimate bond between the mother and her children.

Julius Delbos lived a long life—teaching, painting, traveling and sometimes regaling his fellow members at the National Arts Club with piano performances.  He died in a New Jersey nursing home at the ripe old age of ninety-one.  A eulogy I found in the Delbos Papers at the Archives of American Art notes that, in addition to being the author of Historical Cambridge: Pencil Sketches by J. M. Delbos (1923), he “interpreted the farm lands in the West; the North East countryside, the water scenes in Etreta [sic], France, Rockport, Massachusetts, and especially Martha’s Vineyard.”  Delbos’s obituary in the New York Times (6 January 1970) identified him, more succinctly, as an “artist who specialized in water-colors”—a fitting description of a painter who obviously took great delight in the fluency, transparency and spontaneity of this challenging yet highly popular medium!

14 Responses to “Julius Delbos: “Expert Water-colors””

  1. The Challenge Of Painting Outdoors | Painting Watercolors Says:

    [...] Julius Delbos: “Expert Water-colors” « Spanierman Gallery | An … [...]

  2. Diane Onions Says:

    l found your article very interesting, as l have a few pencil sketches of colleges done by J M Delbos and l have never managed to find anything about him .The one in front of me now is one of Kings College. lm sure l have about three others in my loft. they are amazing. l must get busy and try to find them and look after them better .

    • Spanierman Gallery, LLC Says:

      Dear Ms. Onions,

      I’m glad you found my Delbos blog useful. If you’re interested in doing more research on him, you should go through his papers (which include many sketchbooks) at the Archives of American Art (the AAA is located in Washington, D.C., but they have branches in various cities, such as New York City, where the papers can be viewed on microfilm). The New York Public Library also has a bound volume entitled Representative Illustrations on the Work of Julius Delbos, which you might want to consult as well.

      Delbos was a very talented painter and draftsman whose career needs further study; certainly, he was a well known figure in New York art circles during his day, exhibiting at the finest commercial galleries. You are very lucky to possess examples of his work!

      Sincerely,

      Carol Lowrey

  3. Suzy Mitchell Davis Says:

    I have a summer house in Island Heights, NJ that was built by my grandfather in 1911. We have a few large oils done by Delbos – when he was a teacher in Lakewood at the Newman School in approximately 1926. They are heavy and not at all delineated like his later work and his water colors. Interesting to see the difference.

    • Spanierman Gallery, LLC Says:

      Dear Ms. Davis,

      You are certainly correct in denoting the difference between Delbos’ watercolors and oils. The latter (among them “French Village,” ca. 1928, in the collection of the National Arts Club, New York, and “Prannes,” which is owned by Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania) have a sense of volume and solidity that set them apart from the artist’s more fluid aquarelles.

      You might check published exhibition records of leading artist’s organizations such as the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to see if your oils appeared in any of their annual shows (see, for example, Peter Hastings Falk, ed., “The Annual Exhibition Record of the National Academy of Design, 1901-1950,” Sound View Press, 1990).

      Thank you for your response to my blog post. I’m glad to know that there are more Delbos oils out there; many of the early ones (prior to about 1928) that I’m aware of are scenes of rural France.

      Carol Lowrey

  4. donna jane Says:

    i have been given a painting witch was given to me by my grandfather and its a j delbos its a love pic of a house but the only thing is we have looked on inter net and cant find it any where it has been signed and it is a water colour painting i’d be greatful if u could help us.

  5. janice rees Says:

    Hi
    I have just purchased a watercolour signed Julius Delbos, at a sale in Hereford, UK.It caught my eye, it depicts 2 figures looking out to Sea, one standing and one seated amidst trees and sailing boats in the distance .
    I have read about Delbos and would like to acquire some more of his work. Can anyone advise regards cleaning as it is a little grubby, or should I avoid this?
    Kind regards Jan REES

    • Spanierman Gallery, LLC Says:

      Dear Ms. Rees,
      Our apologies for the delayed response! Mr. Spanierman advises that you avoid cleaning unless you take it to a professional paper restorer.
      Best of wishes in the New Year,
      The Spanierman Blog Team

  6. Ken Zipko Says:

    I was born and raised in Dover, NJ, and would like to know what brought Julius Delbos to our area. Did he have relatives there? His obit said he lived at the Mary Heart Nursing Home in Succasunna, N.J. and died at Dover General Hospital. His art work is beautiful and I was wondering if any of his paintings are of Dover, NJ landscapes!

    • Spanierman Gallery, LLC Says:

      Thank you for responding to our blog.

      Unfortunately, little is known about Delbos’s life and career, so I can’t really tell you much about his New Jersey connection, other than the fact that he lived in Lakewood until settling in Manhattan around 1927. You might want to check his papers (microfilm reels 3020-23), which are available at the New York branch of the Archives of American Art, ground floor, 1285 Avenue of the Americas. In my research on Delbos thus far, I haven’t found any views of Dover; however, you can investigate this further yourself by consulting the Art Inventories catalogue at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a very useful database at: http://siris-artinventories.si.edu/

      Good luck with your research!

  7. Arlene Slothower Says:

    I have a Julius Delbos water color painting, not sure if it’s original or a print.
    Its’s very nice and good condition of a harbor with boats and houses. It’s been in my family for years and I just thought I’d google Delbos and found this website. I’m in Portland Oregon so I’m surprised to read he was living in NYC. Arlene

  8. mary Says:

    I have found a Painting signed Julius Delbos it is a fairly large painting , it is of a Harbor with lots of boats . Maybe a Fishing port. Is there anyway or anywhere that i can find more info on him , and the painting ? I would like to maybe sell the painting but dont know where to start . Thank you for your time !

  9. John Cochran Says:

    Thanks for the blog post about Mr. Delbos. I own another of his oils, and this one is a portrait, of a woman. We found it in a Baltimore antique shop several years ago. John Cochran, Washington, DC.


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