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There are few female painters that have their work outlast their lives, Cecilia Beaux’s work and her long 40 year career achieved that goal. When I was at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (Philadelphia) which is one of the last art institutions in the country to focus on figure painting in the formative years of training a painter, Cecilia Beaux was a prime influence.
Her work set apart from her contemporaries, such as John Singer Sargent, through its clear painterly style which has a real feeling for the medium of oil painting and the portrayal of grace that infused the spirit of her subjects. The way ahe composed her paintings, to me , seemed to be a hybrid of photography and painting.
Look at the image below and the subtle colors, how does it make you feel?
From Google Images
Ceclia Beaux ca. 1888
|Born||May 1, 1855
|Died||September 7, 1942 (aged 87)
Green Alley, Pennsylvania
|Training||Francis Adolf Van der Wielen, Académie Julian, Académie Colarossi|
note: From Wikipedia
Though Beaux was an individualist, comparisons to Sargent would prove inevitable, and often favorable. Her strong technique, her perceptive reading of her subjects, and her ability to flatter without falsifying, were traits similar to his. “The critics are very enthusiastic. (Bernard) Berenson, Mrs. Coates tells me, stood in front of the portraits – Miss Beaux’s three – and wagged his head. ‘Ah, yes, I see!’ Some Sargents. The ordinary ones are signed John Sargent, the best are signed Cecilia Beaux, which is, of course, nonsense in more ways than one, but it is part of the generous chorus of praise.” Though overshadowed by Mary Cassatt and relatively unknown to museum goers today, Cecilia Beaux’s craftsmanship and extraordinary output were highly regarded in her time. While presenting the Carnegie Institute’s Gold Medal to Beaux in 1899, William Merritt Chase stated “Miss Beaux is not only the greatest living woman painter, but the best that has ever lived. Miss Beaux has done away entirely with sex [gender] in art.”
During her long productive life as an artist, she maintained her personal aesthetic and high standards against all distractions and countervailing forces. She constantly struggled for perfection, “A perfect technique in anything,” she stated in an interview, “means that there has been no break in continuity between the conception and the act of performance.” She summed up her driving work ethic, “I can say this: When I attempt anything, I have a passionate determination to overcome every obstacle…And I do my own work with a refusal to accept defeat that might almost be called painful.”