American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:       Lilla Cabot Perry      
Artist Dates:       
1848 - 1933    
Painting Title:     
Lady in a Kimono
Painting Date:     ca. 1902
Medium:            Oil on Canvas        
Signature:           
Unsigned            
Provenance:       
Private Collection        
Condition:          
Good         
Size Unframed:  
32 x 26
Frame Condition: Antique Very Good
Artist Best Price:   $115,000
Offered At:            CALL      
Next Catalogue Page
Prior Catalogue Page
To the left is Perry's 27 x 21 unsigned
Portrait of a Girl in a Red Bonnet ,
from the Woolworth Collection,
which sold  in 2004  for $115,000.
Our research is conclusive that this is
a portrait of the child model
Hildegard, whom Perry painted in
1911-14  At right is a pastel of Alice
as
The Lady in Black done in
1903--note that Perry used this title
for other works as well.
Curator's Comments Continued: The portrait of Alice as Mrs. JC Grew is seen in a
photograph of the hanging for Perry's major show in 1911 at the Copley Gallery in Boston, and
importantly it hangs next to another pastel portrait of Alice as a the pre-pubescent
Young Girl in a
Kimono,
done when she was 14 in 1898 in Japan. Here Alice looks down as she holds her hands behind
her head knotting her hair, a stick-figure child in a kimono. We think our own portrait of Alice could
have hung right between these finished works, and that it dates to about 1902, with Alice at 18. It
could even have been conceived as an engagement present, especially one that symbolizes the union
of East and West, which appears as a sub-theme in Perry's works that reflect back on her experience
in Japan. The Perry's loved Joseph Clark Grew--and Perry did his portrait at this time as well.

But we think Perry supressed our partially incomplete work because the image of Alice as Geisha
proved too sensuous for her. (Similarly she left
Playing by Heart [1897], which has Alice at the piano,
unfinished and unsigned. And Perry is known to have suppressed earlier works focused on her
daughter Edith, who was tragically institutionalized for a nervous breakdown in 1924 (with signs of
her condition manifest earlier.) Martindale sees the sensuous element finally entering Perry's women
in 1907, with the
Le Paravent Jaune (the Yellow Screen), where she links the French model to
Madame Bovary. But we think our Lady in the Kimono is an even more brilliant and sensual work,
conceptually posing the young Boston Brahmin girl in the garb of a Japanese geisha, to make a daring
and powerful statement about gender, with a reminder that the Japanese geisha's white mask
protects her identity from the subservience of her performance. We think Aliceâ's sexuality creates a
confrontation with the viewer that Perry was forced to repress.  And note that Alice's kimono is
obviously the imported real thing, with a regal gold blazon on the shoulder rendered in impasto, and
so different from those seen in Hassam's
White Kimono or Robert Reid's Violet Kimono. And it is very
notable, we believe, that aside from the
Young Girl in a Kimono, we only see one other full-length
woman in a kimono in Perry's work, in
A Japanese Print (1917) from the later period of her society
figure studies, where the model in another luxurious kimono is turned away from the viewer, leaving
her face hidden and without the sexual challenge that emanates from our work.

By 1909, Alice had given birth, and the Grews visited the Perrys in their last days in Giverny, where
the daughter Lilla Cabot Grew will be painted. Grew was later American ambassador to Turkey. His
final posting, from 1932-42, was as ambassador to Japan. Alice Perry Grew went back to Japan for
some ten years, and she looked up the Perry's personal servants, including the maid Tsune whose
daughter was posed for Perry's
Child with an Orange and who was her playmate from her first
childhood visit. Mr. Grew was stationed in Japan at the time of Pearl Harbor, and was then repatriated
as a diplomat to Washington to work with a group on an alternative peace plan that rejected the
atomic bomb as a solution. Given the high tension of World War II, and the rampant American
anti-Japanese sentiment that led to internment under FDR, we have to think that our painting
underwent even greater suppression in the hands of the Perry family, perhaps even loosing its
signature. Certainly 1942 was no time for a painting of the American ambassador's wife as a young
beauty wearing a Japanese kimono! An earlier unsigned painting, which we show below, and which
recently sold with the division of the Woolworth estate has now come to light, and we think this work
makes a very important comment on our own offering.
The Girl in a Red Bonnet is described as:
Unsigned. Canvas has been cut and restretched with one original side showing. On the right hand
quarter quadrant margin it appears there has been an overpainted area. Our own piece is similarly
heavily overpainted on the left side in the drapery, where there may have been an attempt to narrow
the canvas, and we also find an overpainted rectangular area in the lower left quadrant.  We suspect
that both works were suppressed by Perry and ended up in the hands of her family after her death,
and we strongly believe that the condition of both paintings indicates an attempt to remove or obscure
the original signature. But finally it is Alice in the painting! And we think this painting could only
have been done by Perry herself and that its very survival sends a message of authenticity. That our
subject is Alice has been acknowledged by her grandaughter--and we offer the painting as a genuine
Perry.
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