Outskirts of Spartanburg

Henry Martin Gasser
SMA 2005.01

casein on paper

ca. 1940

22.5 x 30 inches

57 x 76 centimeters

acquired through the generosity of the Audrey Love Charitable Foundation, Mr. Gary T. Erbe, and the George Ernest Burwell, Jr. Foundation

about the work

Though Henry Martin Gasser spent most of his life in New Jersey, passing away in Orange, NJ in 1981, he spent several years in Spartanburg SC while stationed at Camp Croft during the early years of World War II. Little is known about this period in Gasser’s life; his paintings of this time provide a snapshot of not only the artist’s experience, but of everyday life in Spartanburg during this tumultuous period of history. The precise location where Outskirts of Spartanburg was painted is unknown—it is possibly a composite of various Spartanburg landscapes as interpreted by Gasser.


An electrical pole in the foreground bisects the painting into two distinct halves: on the right, a prominent pair of railroad tracks arc from the lower right corner to disappear under a distant bridge. A squat building with a green door and red tin roof sits next to the railroad tracks, windows dark during the overcast day. In contrast, a handful of residential homes on the left are occupied, evident from the warm glow in the windows. Two humanlike figures traverse a dirt road worn alongside the railroad: are they following where the railroad may take them, or are they returning to one of the railside homes?

about the artist

Henry Martin Gasser (b. 1909, Newark NJ) studied at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art, the Grand Central School of Art, and the Art Students League of New York, as well as under mentorship with Ashcan School artist John R. Grabach. Gasser was a master of watercolor and oil, and he said of his subject matter, “[I paint] everyday subjects that are available to most of us—street scenes, back yards, trees, old houses, etc.; I looked for the in front of houses, in backyards, public parks, and elsewhere.”


Gasser’s work is included in the permanent collections of over thirty museums and colleges, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, the Philadelphia Museum of Art in PA, the Newark Museum in NJ, the Farnsworth Art Museum in ME, and the New Jersey Watercolor Society in NJ, to name a few.