Robert Cole Caples

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1_Robert Caples Bar Sinister_Hands at Bar.JPG
1a_Robert Caples Bar Sinister_Hands at Bar.JPG
2_Robert Caples Bar Sinister_Hands at Bar.JPG
3_Robert Caples Bar Sinister_Hands at Bar.JPG
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Robert Cole Caples

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Bar Sinister / Hands at the Bar — 1937

- Pencil on paper
- Paper: 7.5” high 5.5” wide
- Frame: 13.75” high 10.75” wide
- Signature: Lower right, inscribed “Reno” lower left 

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About the work

An original drawing by Nevada artist Robert Cole Caples (1908-1979) from an album belonging to the German-born American photographer and photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995). The drawing is accompanied by a photograph signed by Caples showing a more refined version of the same image titled “Bar Sinister.”

According to James Cummins Bookseller of New York, Caples’ drawing was taken from an album that Eisenstaedt carried in his travels, which included a 1937 visit to Reno to take photographs for Life Magazine.

At the time of Eisenstaedt’s visit to Reno, Caples had been appointed an administrator in the Federal Arts Project (FAP). In correspondence to his good friend Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Caples mentioned that his position with the FAP brought “contacts with other artists…[and] out-of-state contacts,” presumably including Eisenstaedt. 

Other correspondence from Caples mentions that “Hands at the Bar” was first exhibited under the title “Bar Sinister,” but the latter title proved “too bookish” and “too foreboding” to find acceptance.

A June 1936 article in the Reno Gazette Journal discussed the Bar Sinister artwork depicted in our photograph:  

"Bar Sinister," a drawing by Robert Coles Caples" of Reno, has been selected by the Rockefeller Center Weekly as one of ten outstanding works of art among eight hundred contributions sent for exhibition at Rockefeller Center, New York, from every state in the union. The picture is a study in hands seen at a local bar, and is reproduced in the Rockefeller Center publication this week. It is reproduced…from a photo made in Reno from the original. The drawing has attracted much favorable comment among critics in New York.” 

A document from James Cummins Bookseller of New York showing the origins of the drawing from Eisenstaedt’s album is included with the drawing and photograph. The photograph has a label from Objects d’Art, 2936 College Ave, Berkeley, California, attached to the reverse.

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