Due to the current COVID-19 health pandemic and in consideration of everyone’s health, the Board of Directors have decided to cancel the R. Atkinson Fox Society Convention scheduled for Bloomington, Illinois in July. We hope conditions will have sufficiently improved by then, but do not want to chance the health and safety of attendees.
“Going to the Fire” is one of the earliest Fox works. The oil on canvas was done in 1885 by Fox and J.A. Fraser, Jr. and depicts two horses pulling a steam fire engine. Fraser was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists as well as a member of the council for the Ontario School of Art in 1885 (among other years). He was also listed as taking part in the teaching of classes. Fraser is also listed along with Fox on several oil portraits (again, very early works). We know that Fox was a student at the Ontario School of Art in 1885 because of the exhibition records. However, the Ontario School of Art has no records of Fox (I visited the school in February of 2014 and also worked with their archivist).
The oil painting ended up in the “Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America (ICNA)” which was founded in 1925. Their extensive collection of fire related art works and medallions began to be auctioned off or donated in 2004. By this time the company was now Cigna and the painting was most likely in the renamed “The Cigna Museum and Art Collection”. The number for the museum no longer works and the last known curator for the collection has not responded to inquiries (using an address at what appears to be her current position in Bangor, ME). Where “Going to the Fire” resides at this time is not known. Other items from the collection can now be found in various museums.
We do know from “Firefighters in art and media” by John Walker that the original oil on canvas measured 64 X 46 inches.
Prints of “Going to the Fire” have been listed as scarce. In researching, I have found several sources for the print and details to assist with determining where a print came from.
The first is found in the 1945 publication “The Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America” by M.J. McCosker. The print on page 46 measures 7.5 X 5 inches and is in black & white. The back side of this page shows “1D-37D listings”. The image is full-width (you can see the entire back wheel on the right).
The next image is from the December 1955 American Heritage publication (Volume 7, No. 1). This print measures just under 11 X 7 inches and is in color. The back side of this page is about Major Ferguson and is page 65. This image is not quite full-width (the back right wheel is not complete). This publication is often found on ebay for under $5.
R. Atkinson Fox Volume 2 by Mortenson lists this print with the size of 13.5 X 9.5 and being from a March 1946 magazine. I have confirmed with owners of this print that it is in color and full-width. This appears to be the scarce version of “Going to the Fire”.
The Gibson reference also lists the 13.5 X 9.5, but also a 9 X 6.5.
It’s fun to be reminded of all the attics out there that might still contain some R.A. Fox treasures. Episode 1 of season 1 (aired 1/26/15) of the show “Strange Inheritance” is a story about the discovery of 800 uncirculated 1909 caramel candy baseball cards in Defiance, Ohio known as the “Black Swamp” find. In 2012 cousins were cleaning out the attic of their great grandfather’s house (after their aunt/grandmother had passed) when they made the discovery. The attic was described as “filled to the rafters” and they included photos of an old baby carriage and of this 1913 calendar featuring Fox’s Four Chums.
Thanks to a contribution by Kurt Saldin, the videos from the 1989 R. A. Fox Convention in St. Louis are now available for viewing on youtube. You can use these links or just search on youtube.com for “RAFox 1989”.
UPDATE 6/1/2015: The 2015 Convention has been canceled. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Plans are currently underway for the All-Illustrators Convention to be held in Minneapolis, MN in conjunction with two very large antique shows in Rochester, MN. These two shows are held the 3rd weekend in August. The current plans are to hold the annual convention near the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. This enables those who are flying in to have shuttle service to the nearby hotel, and then be able to rent a car to drive to the antique shows. The antique shows are about a 45 minute drive to the south in two locations, Oronoco and 15 minutes further south in Rochester, on Friday, Sat, and Sunday – the 3rd weekend in August.
More information will be posted in November or December in the Convention section of the website. For now, reserve the second week of August 2015 for this special event.
A rare fox print found on page 145 of the Gibson book depicts a gray bearded man standing in the light house surrounded by the roaring sea and soaring seagulls. This print is “On The Alert” and is based on an oil painting produced by Fox in 1904. The original image that Fox used to create this painting is found in the November 5, 1904 publication “Outlook” and seen on the second page of the article “Signals of the Sea”. The photograph was taken by the author of the article, Arthur Hewitt and is titled “On The Lookout”. The author describes his visit to the Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse. Continue reading →