Friday, July 10, 2009

William Glackens

Back in April, I introduced you to "Natalie in a Blue Skirt" by William Glackens (see this post). I shared my interpretation of the painting, noting that this may not have been what the artist intended: "She appeared to represent everything that I didn't have but longed for: wealth, success, sophistication, happiness and an easy confidence. She looked like nothing could fluster her, there was no haughtiness or exclusivity in her demeanor. She wore her accomplishments modestly. She was comfortable in her own skin."

I've always wondered if this was a portrait of an important woman, or at least someone important in Glackens' life and if it was actually painted in the 1920's as I had guessed. I realized how little I knew about Glackens himself, so decided to see what I could find out about this painting, the artist and Natalie.

In the book "William Glackens: Life & Work" by William H. Gerdts, copyright 1996, I found my answer. While Glackens painted many works portraying family members, alone or in groups as in "Family Group" from 1910 above, he also created many figure paintings during the teens, 20's & 30's that were "strictly studio images of mostly professional models...occasionally identified by their first names...Sometimes the titles are individualized by elements of costume..." My painting exhibits both. The book goes on to say that beauty did not seem to be a requisite for posing for Glackens. According to his son, "Father was always prone to hire models who needed a job, and that is why so many of his canvases were of exceedingly plain females, though paintable."

As to how the models are portrayed in these "studio" paintings, I may have been pretty close to the mark: "Whether the models were poor or not, they do not appear to have come into the studio from poverty row; they are usually quite well dressed, suggesting their ownership of paintable costumes." Natalie may not have been affluent, or a socialite, but she apparently was a professional, and a confident one at that.

Glackens' palette changed over the years, and the colors used in the Natalie portrait on the right are consistent with those in other paintings from this time period, including "Family Group" on the left. There's even a similarity in pose between the women in these two paintings, the way they are angling to the left and almost lounging back in their respective chairs. I love finding connections like these.

1 comment:

June said...

Lovely bit of research and piecing together bits of your history as well as the painter's and his model. Thanks.