Much has been written of Wood’s apparent bisexuality, including in the recent retrospective held at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, and Wood was known to have had relationships with both sexes, including, in 1926, with Jeanne Bourgoint, the likely sitter for the present work. Bourgoint, together with her brother Jean, provided the inspiration for the siblings in Cocteau’s 1929 Les Enfants Terribles, and were an important presence within the Paris scene in the late 1920s. Wood painted both siblings between 1926 and 1929, including Boy with Cat (Jean Bourgoint) (1926, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge) and Mlle Bourgoint (1929, University of Essex), with the latter portrait displaying the same stark, sleek confidence as the present composition. The sitter’s hairstyles – cut short into a stylish bob and Modigliani-esque almond-shaped eyes – display a coolness that in the present composition is well-matched with the Parisian skyline visible beyond. Almost certainly painted at the window of Wood’s Paris studio it bears striking similarity to one of Wood’s most celebrated compositions, his Self-Portrait of 1927 (Fig. 1, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge). There is a bold confidence in both sitters, with the paintbrush held in Wood’s right hand mirrored by the cigarette held in the right hand of the woman. As with Self-Portrait, which was the highlight of Wood’s 1927 Beaux Arts Gallery exhibition in London, Girl With Cigarette draws us into the Paris of the 1920s, displaying the cool confidence and technical prowess of a young artist at the height of his career.
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