Karnak by Eleanor Parke Custis

  • Painted by the talented Eleanor Parke Custis, this composition captures an ancient Egyptian ruin
  • Custis' style exudes a photojournalistic, immersive quality
  • A descendant of Martha Washington, Custis lived in D.C. for much of her life
  • The well-traveled artist is remembered for her powerful gouaches and watercolors
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-6306

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Eleanor Parke Custis
1897-1983 | American


Signed 'Eleanor Parke Custis -' (lower right)
Gouache and charcoal on paper

American painter Eleanor Parke Custis demonstrates her mastery of the gouache medium in Karnak. A celebration of color and a relic of the artist’s travels abroad, the composition is well-balanced, exuding photojournalistic and documentarian qualities. 

In Karnak, Custis paints a compelling and dynamic image of a great ancient Egyptian ruin. Seven distant men, likely Bedouins dressed in their traditional long gowns and headscarves, walk toward the viewer at the center of the frame. The imposing stone architecture of the archaeological ruins at Karnak stretches into the solid blue sky, making the men appear diminutive next to the pillars’ monumental size. Fields of warm orange, red and yellow hues dominate the painting. Deep shadows cloak the interior of the structures, and the viewer can imagine the heat of the afternoon sun, which appears to be almost directly overhead. 

Eleanor Parke Custis began her artistic studies at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C. under famed American Impressionist Edmund C. Tarbell, also studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She hailed from a prominent family in Washington D.C. and resided in the nation’s capital for the majority of her life. Custis moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1960. Custis was incredibly well-traveled, finding inspirations for her watercolors and gouaches throughout Europe and South America. She took a Mediterranean cruise in 1934 that brought her new interest in the markets of Morocco, the archaeological sites of Cairo and the streets of Jerusalem. The compelling Karnak composition was certainly a product of this trip, infused with the photojournalistic realism that defines her gouaches of this period. 

Custis’ works reside in the permanent collections of many prestigious American museums, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. 

Circa 1935

Paper: 25“ high x 19” wide
Frame: 25 1/8“ high x 29 1/8” wide x 1 5/8“ deep

Sale, James R. Bakker Antiques, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 22, 1987, lot 10.
Private Collection, New York
Karnak by Eleanor Parke Custis
Period: 1919-Present
Origin: America
Type: Paintings
Depth: 1.63 Inches
Width: 29.13 Inches
Height: 35.13 Inches
Style: Realism
Canvas Width: 19 Inches
Canvas Height: 25 Inches
Karnak by Eleanor Parke Custis
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