"Autumn" 1940 watercolor
Donald B Gooch was born in Bloomfield, Michigan October 17, 1907. He received his MS from the University of Michigan and studied under C. F. Lopez at the Detroit Art Academy. In 1937 he studied at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in France. He was listed in Who’s Who in American Art 1989-1990 and Artists in Michigan1900-1976. Gooch was on the faculty of the University of Michigan where he “helped develop the program in advertising design and conducted considerable research on the use of pictographic techniques for communicating with nonliterate populations.” His work has been exhibited in the San Francisco Watercolor Show, Terry Nat. Exhibit in Miami, the American Federation of Artists Travelling Show and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His works are in the collections of (among others), The American Federation of Arts and the Detroit Institute of Art.
This watercolor “Autumn” was shown at the annual Ann Arbor Artists Group show in Jan 1941. It was pictured in the “Detroit News” in the review of that show by Florence Davies. She described it as “conveying a feeling of depth and of the solidity of the forms” and having a “sturdy quality”. It depicts a farm scene much in line with the American Scene and Regionalists movements prevalent during the 30’s and 40’s adhered to by the well known artists, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.
The viewers eyes are carried around the work from the farmer and his dog in the lower left, up the hill by means of the rows in the hayfield to two trees that create an arbor over the dirt drive that winds to the left and follows a horse-drawn carriage back into the barn for the night. The subdued autumn colors and cold lighting add to the feeling of the end of a long day as the farmer, with weighted steps and hunched shoulders, heads home, his tiredness accentuated by the dog, still tail- wagging and sniffing as he goes. The threatening storm may allude to WWII. The visual techniques Gooch employs here reflect his knowledge and adept use of non-verbal communication technique.
Before leaving Michigan in1992 I had the privilege of speaking via phone with Mr. Gooch’s wife. I made the error (based on the one work before me) of referring to Mr. Gooch as a regionalist. She promptly noted that he was known, both nationally, and internationally. Though his early work was considered part of the “ American Scene” he later worked in a variety of styles. She graciously invited me to visit her to view the many works that she had. I offered to let her see the work that I had in my possession . Again, with much grace, she declined my offer noting that she was blind, but her invitation to me was still open. Unfortunately, the meeting never took place as I moved out of state within days of our conversation.The conversation, however, was a good lesson for me. It taught me never to judge an artist by just one work.
Artists in Michigan 1900-1976 a Biographical Dictionary. Detroit: Wayne UP, 1989. p.129.
Bowker, R R, ed. Who's Who in American Art 1989-1990. 18th ed. p. 397.
Detroit News 1941