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Guy Pène Du Bois (American, 1884-1958)


Also known as:  Du Bois, Guy; Du Bois, Guy Pene; Du Bois, Guylene; Dubois, Guylene; Guy Pene Du Bois; DuBois, Guy Pène

In 1924, after nearly two decades of writing art criticism and illustrating for New York magazines, Guy Pène du Bois moved to Paris with his wife, Floy, and their children. Here, he immersed himself in an expatriate community, relishing the plethora of urbane subjects for articles and paintings in the cafes, galleries, and theaters around him. Pène du Bois's mature social realist painting style emerged in Paris: sculptural, stylized, and impassive figures in fashionable settings, which recall images fromVanity Fair and the New Yorker and evoke the shallow beauty of the Roaring Twenties. Indeed, his elegant but psychologically distant figures, almost mannequins, mirror the iconic Jazz-Age characters in novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald, another American expat in Paris and Pène du Bois's former neighbor in Westport, Connecticut. Like the French illustrator Jean-Louis Forain, Pène du Bois utilized in his work both gentle humor and an air of mystery to comment on the relationships of modern society.

Eager to make money during the 1930s, Pène du Bois returned to America and taught at the Art Students League, accepted WPA mural commissions, and began painting more portraits, many of women posed in chairs. Unlike his earlier caricature-like portraits, these works exhibit more sculptural forms, brighter colors, and loose brushwork, while maintaining an air of dramatic tension.

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