American Art

American Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 39. GEORGE DE FOREST BRUSH | THE PORTRAIT.

Property from the Collection of Willard and Elizabeth Clark


Auction Closed

November 19, 04:22 PM GMT


100,000 - 150,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from the Collection of Willard and Elizabeth Clark


1855 - 1941


signed Geo. De. F. Brush and dated 1892 (lower left)

oil on board

19 ¾ by 23 ½ inches

(50.2 by 59.7 cm)

Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer, Chicago, Illinois, by 1896

Potter Palmer, Jr., Chicago, Illinois (by descent)

Sold: Christie's, New York, May 23, 1979, lot 100

The Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York (acquired at the above sale)

Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1981

The New York Times, March 6, 1892, n.p.

"The Society of American Artists," The Art Amateur, vol. 27, no. 1, June 1892, p. 3

Elliott Daingerfield, “George De Forest Brush,“ Art in America, vol. 18, 1930, p. 218

Nancy Bowditch, George de Forest Brush, Recollections of a Joyous Painter, Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1970, pp. 37-38, illustrated fig. 17

Joan B. Morgan, George de Forest Brush: Master of the American Renaissance, New York, 1985, p. 23, illustrated fig. 19, p. 23

Barbara Dayer Gallati, Children of the Gilded Era: Portraits by Sargent, Renoir, Cassatt, London, 2004, pp. 19-20, illustrated p. 20

Nancy K. Anderson, George de Forest Brush: The Indian Paintings, Washington, D.C., 2008, p. 207

The Portrait, painted in 1892, represents a pivotal shift in George de Forest Brush’s career away from Native American subject matter to the 'family groups' which ultimately afforded him continued success and widespread recognition. In his Parisian home on the rue Boissonade, where he lived from 1890-92, Brush created The Portrait, the first of his 'family groups,' and the only one to feature a self-portrait of the artist: "The autobiographical scene depicts the artist in the foreground sketching his wife Mittie, toddler son Gerome, baby Nancy, and, demurely observant in the background, their nursemaid...Gerome is celebrated here as the focal point of the picture. With his finely finished features, long golden locks, and elaborate collar and vest, he commands both the artist's attention and that of his fellow sitters. His coy, yet direct stare engages the viewer as well. Brush based his design on a dramatic diagonal from lower left to upper right, a Baroque arrangement he utilized throughout his career" (Andrea Dale Smith, Selections from the Libby and Bill Clark Collection, New York, 2001, p. 36).

The present work, and the larger stylistic change that it represented, was well-received by critics when it debuted at the Society of American Artists in 1892: "We count it as a most hopeful sign that even men who have conquered legitimate success in certain kinds of works, and who might be expected in consequence to go on painting the same sort of pictures, have, on the contrary, sought to vary their technique, or have attempted new genres...[For instance,] nothing could well be more distinct from [Brush's] former manner than the melting outlines and low, harmonious tones of this excellent little picture...We own that The Portrait was to us an agreeable surprise" ("The Society of American Artists," The Art Amateur, vol. 27, no. 1, June 1892, p. 3). Brush later exhibited The Portrait at the 1900 Exposition Internationale Universelle in Paris where he won the Gold Medal.

Although scholars have debated the motivations behind Brush’s withdrawal from Native American subject matter around 1890, his daughter Nancy Bowditch believed that “he now discovered in his own wife and his small children a new and rich source of inspiration. Turning in the 1890s to paintings of his own family…he found depth and maturity as an artist and produced some of his finest work” (George de Forest Brush: Recollections of a Joyous Painter, Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1970, p. 38).