DescriptionGUY PÈNE DU BOIS (American, 1884-1958)
The Artist's Wife, 1928
Oil on canvas
36 x 29 inches (91.4 x 73.7 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Guy Pène Du Bois / 28
Estate of the above;
James Graham & Sons, New York (label verso);
Private collection, Beverly Hills, California.
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 from Vanity 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.
Pène du Bois painted The Artist's Wife in 1928 when he and Floy, née Florence Sherman, where still living in Paris. The couple had married in 1911 were raising five children, three from Floy's previous marriage. The economic strains of a large family had forced Floy to abandon her career as a pianist in order to make money as a children's clothing designer. In The Artist's Wife, Pène du Bois accentuates the complexity of her personality: on the one hand, Floy is a stylish, sophisticated flapper with her bobbed hair, colorful jewelry, shirt-dress, and helmet-style hat; she is ready to go out on the town. On the other hand, she appears trapped in her domestic world, literally encircled by the armchair in which she sits. By conjoining her body with the chair and turning her face away from him, Pène du Bois hints at Floy's state of mind, perhaps yearning for a life beyond the confines of her family responsibilities. With its graphic patterning, expressive color and brushwork, and theme of introspection, The Artist's Wife is a prime example of modernist figure painting and one of Pène du Bois's most sensitive portraits.
Unlined canvas; several faint surface scratches near center bottom edge; under UV exam, approx. 2-inch spot of in-painting along extreme top edge in upper right corner, multiple scattered small, vertical lines of in-painting in background at far right, several small dots of inpainting in lower right corner, and a dime-size spot of inpainting near center bottom edge; Framed Dimensions 44 X 36.75 Inches
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