William Glackens (1870-1938). "Study for Girl in a Peasant Blouse," 1936, oil on canvas, 15 x 18. Ira Glackens Catalogue,
Smithsonian American Art Archives, #458.
We show the last and final version below.
AS HE PAINTS PROGRESSIVELY!
Girl in Peasant Blouse (FINAL)
We offer the study for William Glackens' late portrait of a "Girl in Peasant Blouse" --number 458 in Ira Glackens card catalogue of his father's works and inscribed accordingly on the stretcher (twice) with a cross reference label (verso) in the hand of Antoinette Kraushaar to number 226, the larger finished work. The name Natalie was added at random. See below for more details of the catalogue. Source: Smithsonian Archives of American Art.
At the turn of the century, three young women came to New York to study painting. They were known as the Sherwood sisters after their address in the Sherwood Studios on 57th St. near to the Art Students League. The "sisters" were May Wilson, who had married Thomas Henry Watkins in 1898, only to become a widow in 1900; Lou Seyms, a woman friend of the remaining member of the trio; Edith Dimock, a 24-year-old from Hartford, who had studied with William Merritt Chase on his once-a-week trips to Connecticut. Indeed, Chase painted a well-known portrait of the younger Dimock daughter, Irene, posed in riding clothes. The three young women hired an Italian cook named Lena to help with spaghetti suppers on Fridays that were fed to hungry art instructors and students and magazine illustrators, including the PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts) gang that had emigrated from Philadelphia. Frequent guests were Robert Henri, William Glackens, and his classmate John Sloan, the nucleus of the group later known as The Eight, also called the Ashcan School owing to their emphasis on social realism. The women also socialized with this group over dinners at Chez Mouquin, Pettipas, Shanleys, and Cafe Francis, where they all partied with attorney and art impresario James Moore. Moore, who owned the last-named bistro, often invited them back for fun and games in his townhouse, whose cellar walls had been converted into murals by Ernest Lawson, soon a close Glackens friend. They played frog--meaning pitching coins into the mouth of a huge Chinese ceramic frog--forcing ladies to lean over and show their ankles and petticoats as they threw their money away. Soon enough the girls married. Wilson became Mrs. James Preston, taking the lesser known ashcan artist, in 1903. William Glackens landed the biggest catch, Edith Dimock (1876-1955) in 1904. Don't miss son Ira Glackens' account of the Hartford wedding in his memoir of his father (see below)-- the Dimocks sent a private railroad car to New York to collect the PAFA gang who arrived in Hartford very high on free champagne. Meanwhile, Edith’s sister Irene would marry art critic Charles FitzGerald, like the Prestons, life-long friends and companions of the Glackens. Glackens had gone to school with Sloan, where he earned the nickname “Bots” after his pronunciation of “Blots”--stains he railed about in his illustrations. Ultimately, among the major painters, Glackens would be closest to Luks, Prendergast, Lawson, and Alfred Maurer—but his house on Ninth St. just off Fifth was open to the Krolls, Myers, Bellows and Guy Pène du Bois and his wife, among other painter families.
Edith Dimock Glackens as
Painted by William Glackens
Sister Irene as Painted by
William Merritt Chase
Edith Dimock Glackens as
Painted by Robert Henri
William Glackens became a professional illustrator at the Philadelphia Press, where he worked with Everett Shinn and George Luks. In 1898, he went to Cuba as an illustrator for "McClure's" magazine, covering the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. In New York, Glackens continued his career as an artist-reporter at the New York Herald, the New York World, and magazines such as Scribner's, Putnam's, and the Saturday Evening Post. But a number of factors pointed Glackens away from illustration and into fine art--until 1914--when he altogether abandoned illustrating in favor of painting. In 1908, Glackens participated in The Eight's famous exhibition at the Macbeth Galleries. The group under Henri had decided to hold a separate show after experiencing repeated exclusion from the "official" exhibitions at the powerful and conservative National Academy of Design. Their breakaway represented a protest against the NAD's and Chase's, in particular, rigid definition of art. The show was a "succès de scandale," and toured several cities from Newark to Chicago in a traveling exhibition curated by Sloan, which helped do away with much of The Genteel Tradition in American painting. Most of the Eight also participated in the "Exhibition of Independent Artists" in 1910, in a further attack on the exclusivity of the NAD. In literature the movement was paralleled by writers of realist fiction, including Dreiser, and Frank Norris.
Glackens had seen enough horror in the Spanish American war, and aspects of Ashcan realism are evident in paintings like Chez Mouquin (1905), in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. One of his most celebrated paintings, it is set in the well-known Sixth Avenue restaurant regularly visited by Glackens and friends, and portrays a robust James B. Moore, restaurateur and middle-aged bon vivant, at a table with one of the many young women he squired about town as "daughters." Though we now know the model was the restaurant owner's wife, Glackens does capture the escort woman's recognizable sense of despair seen in Degas’ cafe scenes. He had first visited Europe in the company of Henri and fellow Philadelphia painter Walter Elmer Schofield in 1895, but he was even more strongly influenced by his 1912 extensive art-buying trip in Europe for Albert Barnes, a friend from high school who had amassed a fortune from an antiseptic gargle solution and supposed tonic called Argyrol. Barnes built a huge home and museum in Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia, and the many works of Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh and Cezanne that Glackens purchased for Barnes became the center of the collection.
Degas, "At the Cafe" (1878)
Glackens, "Chez Mouquin (1905)
The Barnes holds more Renoirs than any other collection in America because Glackens fell in love with Renoir's women, and is often called the American Renoir. The early work of Glackens, following Henri's lead, maintained strong ties to Edouard Manet's darkened palette, but his palette brightened after exposure to Matisse in his Fauvist mode and to Renoir. And there was also the matter of subject. As art historian Matthew Baigell writes: "Of all the realists around Henri, Glackens was perhaps least attracted to the life of the streets, preferring scenes of middle-class activities in parks," particularly Washington Square. He loved crowds of people having fun. Another favorite crowded with people was the beach, both in America and Europe. Glackens did not have to teach or illustrate. After his death, his wife stood up to Barnes as an equal, demanding he sell her some of the more than seventy works by Glackens he had acquired, and she didn't blanch when he wanted $85,000 for one of them. She was a social and financial equal owing to her father's success in the silk industry. It is important to note that Nylon was first publicized at the 1933 World's Fair--and that prior to that silk was third along with cotton and wool--and women's fashion generated huge demand--as in the vogue for "silk stockings" and what they meant. After Edith came into her fortune, the Glackens moved to France in 1925 for a seven-year residence returning in 1932. They lived in Paris and summered in Vence, near Nice; later they resided in L'Isle-Adam on the Oise, and in 1930 at La Ciotat, between Marseille and Toulon. In 1932, they were in Le Suquet, a quarter of Cannes, where Glackens painted "Fete du Suquet" now in the Whitney. They returned to Europe in 1936--to visit sister Irene and FitzGerald who had settled in Sidmouth, England--but the cold drove them to France, where they spent two months in Paris. Ira dates our work to this period. We think it is earlier, probably dating to Cannes, and that the girl in the peasant blouse was probably a drop-in friend of the Glackens daughter, Lena. While Ira's card catalogue remains the best source of provenance for Glackens, it clearly has its faults. Ira was overwhelmed by assigned titles--there are just so many "portraits of a lady" and so many ladies. Remember that Glackens was less prone to use professional models and more attracted to relatives, friends, visitors, servants and their friends. On August 21, 1961 Ira wrote to Kraushaar: "Wish I could think of a better title for Head of a Young Woman, which is not very distinctive; there are so many. How about calling her Miriam or something like that? She looks as if her name ought to be Miriam." His identification of the subject in the study we offer as Natalie is also random and creates confusion with a more well-known Natalie--the subject of a Glackens work now in the Tacoma art museum. Note that the finished painting is catalogued only as "Girl Wearing a Peasant Blouse," and is labeled 'unfinished.' The importance of the study is its revelation of just how Glackens went about transforming the image into a masterpiece of color.
Many of Glackens' works exist in multiple stages. Here we show' "Nude with an Apple," which says farewell to Manet's "Olympia." Note the progressive changes that reveal the artist's planning and intent.