Painted in 1924.
Kraushaar Galleries, New York
Private Collection, circa 1959 (acquired from the above; sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 24, 1989, lot 175, illustrated in color)
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1989
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1924 (awarded Temple Gold Medal)
Baltimore, Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Art, December 1930-February 1931
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, September-December 1931
Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, September 1932-January 1933
Montclair, New Jersey, Montclair Museum of Art, June-July 1933
Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, April-November 1934
American Federation of Arts, October 1937-May 1938
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, William Glackens Memorial Exhibition, December 1938
Saint Louis, Missouri, City Art Museum; Washington D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, William Glackens in Retrospect, November 1966-June 1967, no. 61, illustrated
Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum; Raleigh, North Carolina, North Carolina Museum of Art, American Impressionist Painting, December 1973-April 1974, no. 28
We are grateful to Matthew Baigell for preparing the following essay. Professor Baigell is professor emeritus of art history at Rutgers University. He has published and edited over twenty books and dozens of articles in American and contemporary Russian art.
In 1924 Glackens submitted this painting to the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. When it was awarded their annual Temple Gold Medal, the artist amended the work's title to reflect this accolade. It was painted years after Glackens had abandoned the gritty realism of the Ashcan painters for an Impressionist style devoted to family portraits, vacation and city scenes, studies of the nude, and still lifes. As early as 1905, Glackens had begun to use the bright colors he had observed in the work of the Impressionists he encountered during his trips abroad in 1906 and 1912. After he completed Temple Gold Medal Nude, he and his family moved to France in 1925 where they remained until 1933, occasionally making return trips to the United States.
Even a casual glance at Glackens' paintings after 1910 confirms that he never became a whole-hearted Impressionist. His figures exist easily and solidly in a three-dimensional space, their forms clearly demarcated—bodies, limbs and fingers, hairlines distinct from foreheads. Background objects are clearly identifiable, and the personalities of his sitters are invariably individual and singular. In this regard, Glackens responded to the things of this world rather than relying on a system of brushstrokes of spectral colors, however informally applied, in order to bring his paintings to life.
Glackens painted many nudes during the teens and twenties. Critics and historians have often noted the influence of Renoir on these works. While it is true that elements of Renoir's palette are present, Glackens' intentions appear to be quite different from those of the French artist. Where Renoir's subjects remained as studio models often lacking individual personalities, Glackens caught something in the poses and facial features that reflected the model's mood or personality. It is certainly possible that he chose to impose a mood, but regardless of his motivation, he ultimately gave his sitters distinctly unique rather than generically bland temperaments.
The young woman in this painting sits in a confined space surrounded by two brightly colored paintings which lean against characteristically colorful wallpaper and next to what seems to be a view out of the window behind her. We do not know what she is contemplating, but her mood is a pensive one. Her pose (she might be sitting before a full-length mirror) suggests that she might be shy and hesitant about her developing, late adolescent body which she both reveals and hesitantly tries to hide from herself. The varied colors in the room reflect the riot of emotions which run just below the surface, while her half closed eyes and slightly pursed lips suggests that the strain of containing them might be too great. On the other hand, the necklace around her neck, an ornament of beauty, implies that she is also pleased and excited by her appearance. Certainly, this painting is one of Glackens' most interesting and compelling studies; it is as much a depiction of a nude figure as it is a portrait of a state of mind, and ranks as one of the rare and truly compelling psychological "portraits" in early twentieth-century American art.
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