What is it?
Gerrit V. Sinclair (Grand Haven, Michigan 1890–1955 Milwaukee)
Bradford Beach, Milwaukee
Oil on canvas
23 7/8 x 29 13/16 in.
Gifted 2016, James and Karen Hyde Foundation
About the Work
Like other Regionalist painters of the mid-twentieth century, Gerrit V. Sinclair sought to capture American values as exemplified in everyday life: hard work, wholesomeness, and simple pastimes and pleasures. For more than three decades, Sinclair chronicled Wisconsin life, both the urban activity in downtown Milwaukee and the surrounding environs such as Bradford Beach, a popular destination on the shores of Lake Michigan just north of the city.
Bradford Beach, Milwaukee embodies all of these characteristics. The harmonious composition focuses on a young woman and a young man, both on the cusp of adulthood, possibly about to form a bond that will last much longer than a beach ball frolic. Between them, riding proudly on the distant horizon, a white sailboat seems to focus the energy of their intense mutual gaze. Despite the presence of other beachgoers—or even the scrutiny of viewers—the couple appear to be in a world of their own. In this quiet, private world, there is no hint of the Great Depression or the horrors of war about to unfold, only the timelessness of young love.
Sinclair was a true Midwesterner: he trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and after serving in Northern Italy and Austria as an ambulance driver during World War I, he became one of the founding faculty members of Milwaukee’s Layton School of Art where he taught composition and drawing until his retirement in 1954.