Lot 10
  • 10

William McGregor Paxton 1869 - 1941

300,000 - 500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • William McGregor Paxton
  • Nonchalance
  • Signed Paxton (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 27 1/4 by 22 inches
  • (69.2 by 55.9 cm)


Emery Blum Gallery, New York
The Purnell Gallery, Baltimore, 1943
Private Collection (and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 28, 1987, lot 210, illustrated)
Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


(possibly) Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fifth Exhibition Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists, December 1914-January 1915, no. 148 (as Idleness)

Catalogue Note

Educated at the Cowles School of Art in Boston, where he studied with Dennis Miller Bunker, and in Jean-Léon Gérôme’s studio at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, William McGregor Paxton was known as a painter of exquisite interiors inhabited almost exclusively by women. As Ellen Wardwell Lee writes, “This Bostonian found his most congenial subjects in the everyday life around him as it was exemplified by young women pursuing their routine activities, in the decor of upper class New England. This motif served him admirably as a vehicle to convey the magic whereby chiaroscuro exalts beautiful forms and envelops the humblest objects in mystery, to orchestrate unusual color harmonies keyed by the bright hues of female apparel and to construct subtly balanced compositions in such a way that all these elements contributed to make his pictures paeans to feminine loveliness. In so doing he recorded what he saw in statements of an unsurpassed veracity harnessed by the impressionistic unity which raises truth to the dignity of high art” (William McGregor Paxton 1869-1941, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1979, p. 57). In Nonchalance, Paxton focuses on his beautiful subject in repose, bringing the viewer into an exotic and elegant scene. The abstract patterned backdrop against which the figure is set is a Japanese screen that appears in a number of his paintings. Captured by the artist’s brush, an ephemeral moment becomes a lasting image of serene contemplation and quiet beauty.

Affixed to the stretcher of Nonchalance is a fragment of a label from The Corcoran Gallery of Art with the partial title Idle… suggesting this painting may have been exhibited in the Fifth Exhibition Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists of 1914-15 as Idleness.