DescriptionEVERETT SHINN (American, 1876-1953)
Two Girls Dressing for a Party, 1914
Pastel on board
29-5/8 x 27-3/4 inches (75.2 x 70.5 cm)
Signed and dated lower center: Everett Shinn 1914
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Sotheby's, New York, December 6, 1984, lot 182;
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
It is seemingly incongruous that Everett Shinn, noted imager of New York's high society as seen in Two Girls Dressing for a Party, had first established himself as an illustrator of gritty urban streetscapes. Born in New Jersey, Shinn trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before taking a job in the art department of the Philadelphia Press in 1893. Here, he met colleagues George Luks, William Glackens, and John Sloan, and together, after moving to New York in the late 1890s, they later formed the "Eight," an anti-academic, social realist group under the leadership of portraitist Robert Henri. Shinn's job as an artist-reporter for the New York Herald informed his early, unidealized subjects, both working-class spaces - pool halls, saloons, and tenements - and downtown spectacles -- fire engines racing to the rescue, ship workers brawling on docks, ragpickers trudging through the snow, and poor families being evicted from their homes.
Shinn's illustration background also influenced his style. In an effort to evoke newspaper drama and the quick, immediate sketch of a reporter on the beat, he utilized exaggerated, diagonal lines and plunging perspectives, and he commonly situated the viewer in the midst of the action. Too, Shinn favored pastel over oil for many of his street scenes, as it allowed him to achieve atmospheric effects, graphic contrasts, and vigorous lines. Critics and gallery audiences marveled over the unconventionally large scale of Shinn's "urban pastels," as well as their masterful technique: he would first blend colored pastels into wet paper, thereby creating a lush, gouache-like density, then detail his forms with energized lines of ink, charcoal, or white pastel.
By the 1910s, Shinn was still experimenting with pastel, but he had shifted his focus from downtown to uptown subjects, such as theater performers and fashionable society. Patrons like the architect Stanford White and the actress Elsie de Wolfe helped him secure commissions to paint set decorations for theaters and Rococo-style murals for fancy apartments. Shinn's images of beautifully costumed singers, dancers, and actresses on stage and of ladies dressing in their boudoirs borrowed directly from the Impressionist aesthetic of painter-pastelist Edgar Degas.
The present Two Girls Dressing for a Party exemplifies Shinn's Degas-inspired depictions of performers. Here, in one of his large-scale pastels, Shinn highlights not merely the charming sisters, but their gorgeous fabrics: ruffled white dresses, giant taffeta bows, and corresponding pink-and-blue silk throws (or robes) draped over chairs. Like Shinn's stage actresses, the girls prance into the spotlight, yet they do so within the intimate, protected confines of an upper-class sitting room. His trademark diagonal lines, angular forms, and tumbling perspective activate the composition and pull the viewer into this upscale urban "drama."
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000.
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