Sylvia Snowden - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “The human spirit is what interests me more than anything.”
    —Sylvia Snowden
    Part of her renowned M Street series, Sylvia Snowden’s Salvation, 1982 is an abstract representation of those whom she knew while living in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. in the late 20th century, as the area being increasingly gentrified. Spanning from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, the series strives to capture the essence of those in the artist’s immediate surroundings, using thick impastoed brushstrokes that are specific to each of her muses. As Alice Thorson stated of Snowden’s works, “the movement of the brush nearly engulfs her subject matter, challenging its claim to an existence apart from the eye of the painter.”i


    Focusing on the individual aspects of each of her subjects in the M Street series, Snowden evokes “a sense of identification with her subjects [which] gives [her] work a rare conviction. Few painters have peered so deeply into the human heart or proved so adept at divulging its secrets.”ii Responding to the turbulence within her subjects’ lives as well as the circumstances of her neighborhood, Salvation depicts elongated and distorted limbs to illustrate an individual’s effort to escape beyond the boundaries of the picture plane. This connection of medium and subject is central to her practice, exploring the ups and downs of the human experience with gestural brushstrokes and layering of paint.


    Snowden was born in 1942 and received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she studied under David C. Driskell. She also received a scholarship to Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Her work has lately received long overdue recognition, recently featured in the celebrated exhibition, Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960-Today, at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. in 2018 alongside artists such as Alma Thomas and Mildred Thompson. Her work has also been included in exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., among others. Salvation was included in her recent exhibition in 2021 at Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, centered on the M Street series.






    Alice Thorson, “Sylvia Snowden: Engaging Expressionism,” New Art Examiner, October 1988, p. 26, online.

    ii Ibid.

    • Provenance

      Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Franklin Parrasch Gallery, Sylvia Snowden: The M Street Series, November 18–December 17, 2021

    • Literature

      Franklin Parrasch, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Galvin Delahunty and Rebecca VanDiver, Sylvia Snowden: M Street, New York, 2022, p. 23 (illustrated)



signed "Snowden" lower right; signed and titled "Sylvia Snowden "Salvation"" on the reverse
acrylic and oil pastel on Masonite
49 3/8 x 41 5/8 in. (125.4 x 105.7 cm)
Painted in 1982.

Full Cataloguing

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $127,000

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023