Cecil Head was born near Lebanon, Indiana and graduated from the John Herron Art Institute. He later shared a studio with Floyd Hopper and William Kaiser in the Old Union Trust Building on Market Street in Indianapolis. The group became known as the Market Street Artists. Early in his career, Head was a recipient of many art awards including the J. I. Holcomb Prize from the Indianapolis Art Association and the Ross J. Beatty Prize from the Hoosier Salon. He was one of the artists selected by Wilbur Peat, director of the John Herron Art Institute, to represent Indiana in a nationwide exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D. C. After a short time constructing airplane components during World War II, Head settled into a dual career as a commercial artist and farmer.
Views of railroad tracks, factories and backs of houses were common subjects for many American painters during the first half of the twentieth-century. Some artists chose such subjects to portray the social inequities and the grim ugliness that were part of modern urban life. Although Buildings in Winter depicts an alley in a working-class Indianapolis neighborhood, the artist has stated that he was more interested in achieving a strong composition and rich color scheme than in making a social statement. Head organized the blocky, geometric shapes of the buildings into a solid triangle, implied by the convergence of the stairs on the left and the slope of the roofs on the right. Buildings in Winter was exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
The Edge of Town: Painting the Indiana Scene, 1932-1948, Indianapolis: Indianapolis Art League, 1989. A copy of this catalog can be found in the artist’s file in the IMA’s Stout Library.