Thursday, September 8, 2011

John White Alexander, 1856-1915

I have been admiring as of late the work of American painter, John White Alexander. Alexander lived from 1856-1915. He began his artistic career as a political cartoonist and illustrator for Harper's Weekly in New York, but soon made his way to Paris for his formal art training, then Munich, and finally Italy, where he hung out with his good friend and fellow painter, Whistler.

After all that, he returned to New York and back to Harper's, but he also became a highly successful and sought-after portrait painter. By 1893 his reputation soared in both Europe and America. He became very involved in the promotion of arts in America and was commissioned for many prestigious murals.

Of the stages of his work I love his most his portraits. These were more in his later years, and often were more of a psychological study than a specific likeness (an example of this is The Ring, 1911). I love that he favoured single figures against contrasting background, and the muted-but-alive tones and colour choices (like my favourite, green). I must say the first thing that struck me with his female portraits is the full sweeping folds of their gowns... they look so crisp and cool, like ships sails.

Black and Red, 1896

A King's Daughter

The Green Dress

An Idle Moment

Young Woman Arranging her Hair

A Ray of Sunlight, 1898

The Green Bow

Portrait of Grace Goodyear Depew

Isabella and the Pot of Basil

The Ring

June, 1911

Portrait of Mrs. Herman Duryea

1 comment:

  1. Just came across your article and blog while looking for more of Alexander's work. "Sweeping" is a good choice for what i see, not just inas far as the gowns but overall composition - a kind of "bravura" - in the feeling - balance between surety and softness. I really like the "Green Bow" for colors but also the mix between the clarity of the face and more free approach to the dress. If you love masterful use of green (as i do) you might appreciate John Lavery's "The Green Sofa" - i've been basking in that one of late!
    great blog, and thanks for displaying all of those paintings!


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