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    Description

    GUY PÈNE DU BOIS (American, 1884-1958)
    Girl in Striped Sweater, circa 1938
    Oil on canvas
    36 x 29 inches (91.4 x 73.7 cm)
    Signed and dated lower left: Guy Pène du Bois 38

    PROVENANCE:
    Ruth Sigrid Grafstrom (fashion illustrator for Vogue), New York;
    James Graham & Sons, New York.

    EXHIBITED:
    Kraushaar Galleries Inc., New York, "Paintings by Guy Pène du Bois," November 22 - December 10, 1932, no. 9.

    LITERATURE:
    H. Read, "Du Bois Exhibit on at Kraushaar," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 4, 1932, illus.

    In 1930, following the crash of the New York stock market, the art critic and social realist painter Guy Pène du Bois reluctantly returned to America after nearly a decade in Paris. Abroad, Pène du Bois had developed his mature figurative aesthetic: stylized and impassive characters placed in fashionable settings, which recall images from Vanity Fair and the New Yorker and evoke the shallow beauty of the Roaring Twenties. Now back in New York, he continued to explore subjects that had interested him in Paris, in particular, café denizens and circus or carnival entertainers, yet the tone of these works is more mysterious and less humorous. For example, in Trapeze Performers (1931) and Carnival Interlude (1935), mannequin-like female figures exude psychological alienation amidst their audiences.

    Eager to make money during the 1930s, Pène du Bois 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.

    The present lot, Girl in Striped Sweater, exemplifies Pène du Bois' monumental portraits of pensive women from this period. Like Portrait of a Woman (1932), Meditation (1936), and Yvonne in a Purple Coat (1938), Girl in Striped Sweater angles the sitter away from the viewer, her gaze lost in reverie. Her slightly awkward features - distant expression, hefty chest, elongated arms, and blue skirt that ambiguously blends into the background and the chair arm - conjure up an enthroned Mannerist Madonna. Pène du Bois also references his own cafe and carnival paintings through the object of the red striped sweater, which he makes a focal point of the painting; indeed, this same red striped pattern appears on the shorts of the central female acrobat in Carnival Interlude and on the shirt of a model in his 1937 Girls Against the Sky. With its graphic patterning, expressive color and brushwork, and theme of introspection, Girl in Striped Sweater perfectly illustrates modernist figure painting. Inviting interpretation on the part of the viewer, it remains one of Pène du Bois's most haunting portraits.

    We are grateful to the art historian Betsy Fahlman for her gracious assistance in cataloguing this lot. According to Pène du Bois' daughter, Yvonne, the sitter's name was Barbara, and Pène du Bois painted the portrait in Norfolk, Connecticut, where he ran a summer school.


    Condition Report*: Original canvas; under UV exam, appear to be scattered spots of in-painting in white stripes of girl's sweater, minor flecks of in-painting at far right extreme top edge, and multiple pinpoints of in-painting near lower right edge as well as center bottom edge Framed Dimensions 44 X 37 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2013
    5th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,061

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