OFFERED BY
The Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, 9th Floor New York City, NY 10022 United States 212.535.8810
Email Dealer
$ 250,000

Mrs. John Frederick Lewis and Son, John Frederick Lewis, Jr.

Documentation Signed
Period 1900-1919
Materials Oil on canvas
Dimensions
W. 48.75 in; H. 83.75 in;
W. 123.83 cm; H. 212.73 cm;
Creation Date 1908
Description One of the finest portraitists working in America at the turn of the twentieth century, Cecilia Beaux attracted a clientele of upper-class sitters in her native Philadelphia, as well as from Boston and New York. Characterized by fluent brushwork and harmonious color schemes, her portraits of prominent men, women, and children reveal her ability to capture a truthful likeness of her subjects, as well as aspects of their personality. The eminent painter William Merritt Chase once called Beaux the “greatest living woman painter;” however, having rose to prominence in a field that was dominated by men, Beaux took issue with matters of gender identification, feeling strongly that “success is sexless” (“Greatest Woman Painter,” Philadelphia Ledger, November 3, 1899; “Cecilia Beaux Dies: Portrait Artist,” New York Times, September 18, 1942).

The daughter of an American mother and a French father, Beaux was raised in Philadelphia by her maternal grandmother and aunts. A self-proclaimed “perfectionist who came of a family of perfectionists,” she received her earliest art lessons from her aunt, Eliza Leavitt, and later, as a teenager, she studied drawing with her cousin, Catherine Ann Drinker, a history painter whose brother later married Beaux’s sister. From 1872 to 1874, she attended classes at the art school of the painter Francis Adolf Van Der Wielen, where she copied lithographs and drew from antique casts. Although Beaux later denied having studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, she was enrolled there during 1876–78, receiving instruction in portraiture and drawing. When Drinker became the director of Van Der Wielen’s school, Beaux replaced her as a drawing teacher at Miss Sanford’s School (also in Philadelphia), supplementing her income by drawing fossils for the U.S. Geological Survey. In 1879, Beaux studied china painting with Camille Piton at the National Art Training School, executing portraits of children on porcelain which she sold to Philadelphia collectors. She also painted child portraits in graphite, watercolor, and charcoal.

In 1881, Beaux established a studio at 1334 Chestnut Street, which she shared with fellow artists Stephen Parrish and Joseph Pennell. During the next three years, she received regular critiques from the painter William Sartain, going on to develop an approach influenced by the soft brushwork and subdued palette of James McNeill Whistler, as well as the pictorial concerns of the Aesthetic Movement. After her first notable portrait, The Last Days of Infancy (1883–84; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia), won the Pennsylvania Academy’s Mary Smith Prize in 1885, Beaux began receiving commissions from influential Philadelphians, attracting such noted sitters as George Burnham (1887; Philadelphia Museum of Art), an engineer and chief financial officer of the Baldwin Locomotive Works.

During 1888–89, Beaux honed her skills as a figure painter through further study at the Académies Julian and Colarossi in Paris, where her efforts were praised by such prominent artists as William-Adolphe Bougeureau and Tony Robert-Fleury. While spending the summer painting en plein air in Concarneau, Brittany, she loosened her brushwork and turned to brighter colors in response to her growing familiarity with Impressionism. Upon returning to Philadelphia, Beaux turned down a marriage proposal in order to pursue a career as a professional painter. She subsequently painted spirited portraits of her family and friends while undertaking private commissions from affluent local patrons, as well as wealthy clients in New York, where she fraternized with a circle of artists, writers, and intellectuals that included the poet and editor Richard Watson Gilder, his wife, the painter Helena de Kay, and the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. By 1895, Beaux’s renown in the art world was such that she was invited to teach at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, taking the job formerly held by the American impressionist painter, Robert Vonnoh. The Academy’s first full-time female faculty member, Beaux remained in that position until 1915, during which time––in addition to teaching drawing and portrait techniques––she often served as a juror for its annual exhibitions.

In 1896, Beaux exhibited six of her recent portraits at the annual exhibition of the Champ de Mars in Paris, an event that contributed to her growing recognition at home and abroad. Three years later, she established her studio at 64 Washington Square in New York, where, along with Chase and John Singer Sargent, she was considered one of the foremost exponents of the “international” style of portraiture, which synthesized the fluent handling of Old Masters such as Diego Velázquez with the chromatic strategies of Impressionism. Beaux’s election to academician of the National Academy of Design in 1902 enhanced her status in the art world even further, while the steady income from her portrait work provided her with the means to build a summer home and studio, “Green Alley,” in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1905.

By about 1900, Beaux’s reputation had extended beyond the northeast, leading to such important commissions as Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and Daughter Ethel (1902; private collection), which was painted in The White House. She continued to create portraits of distinguished Philadelphians too, among them likenesses of John Frederick Lewis (circa 1906; location unknown) and his wife, Anne (1906; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia). A high-ranking attorney, Lewis (1882–1932) was an avid bibliophile, numismatist, and print collector. He also enjoyed a lengthy affiliation with the Pennsylvania Academy, serving as its president from 1907 to 1932. He married Anne Henrietta Rush Fales Baker (1868–1937), a scion of the affluent Baker family of Philadelphia, in 1895.

In 1908––the year Beaux received an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania––Lewis and his spouse commissioned Beaux to paint a pair of full-length double portraits, one featuring Mr. Lewis with his son Alfred Baker Lewis (b. 1897) (1908–1910; private collection) and the present work, which shows Mrs. Lewis accompanied by her younger son, John Frederick Lewis, Jr. (1899–1965). The portrait was taken in the former studio of Beaux’s friend, the painter and critic John Lambert (1861–1907), at 324 South Seventh Street in Philadelphia. (See The Paintings and Drawings of Cecilia Beaux [Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1955], p. 76. Upon his death in late December of 1907, Lambert bequeathed his studio to Beaux. She used the space periodically for about a year. See Sylvia Yount et al., Cecilia Beaux: American Figure Painter, exhib. cat. [Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 2007], p. 180.)

Certainly, the figures exude that aura of privilege, casual elegance, and good breeding associated with grand-manner portraiture. Indeed, Mrs. Lewis wears a low-cut evening dress and is seated on an oak chair with a maroon seat, resting her head against one hand as she looks out at the viewer, her relaxed attitude suggesting that she was quite used to having her likeness painted. John Frederick Jr. stands at her side, leaning against her shoulder. A blue-eyed youngster dressed in sailor suit, his arms are folded across his chest as he, too, engages the spectator rather than his companion, his deadpan gaze and defensive body language suggesting that he would be more comfortable playing than posing. John Frederick Jr. may seem awkward and diffident here but he came into his own as an adult: following in his father’s footsteps, he, too, became a successful lawyer and arts patron, serving as president of the Pennsylvania Academy from 1948 to 1958 and president of the Philadelphia Art Alliance from 1935 to 1949. (Along with his brother, Alfred, John Frederick Jr. worked at his father’s law firm, Lewis, Adler & Laws, during the 1920s.) He was also affiliated with the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Zoological Society, and the Moore Institute of Art, Science and Industry, among other civic organizations. Described as “one of Philadelphia’s major cultural assets,” John Frederick Lewis Jr. owned a number of paintings by nineteenth-century artists and is said to have amassed an “unusual collection of animal sculpture” (“John Frederick Lewis Jr. Dies; Philadelphia Patron of the Arts,” New York Times, September 6, 1965).

As a family friend, Beaux was on intimate terms with both this stylish matron and her offspring; to be sure, she preferred, above all else, to paint people from her own privileged background that she knew personally. In keeping with her aesthetic approach, she focused on a high degree of accuracy, her fluent yet carefully applied brushstrokes effectively capturing Mrs. Lewis’s distinctive facial features, such as her high forehead and pointed chin, and her son’s deep-set eyes. Each figure is endowed with a strong sense of individuality, the mother coming across as slightly bored, the child, tentative yet willful. The placement of the figures against an unadorned background, flanked on either side by a drapery and a gilded cabinet, reflects Beaux’s penchant for balanced compositions. Her tasteful palette is compatible with her genteel subject matter, the lush reds, whites, and buff tones used to depict the figures acting as a foil to the muted tonalities appearing in the background.

Beaux was paid for her services on April 24, 1908, when Mrs. Lewis presented her with a check for $3,500.00. (Both the cancelled check and the original receipt of payment form part of the documentation of the painting.) The family subsequently loaned the portrait to the annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy in 1909, and in 1910 it was among Beaux’s contributions to the Fifth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists, held at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, at which time it was described by one commentator as “the most important work Cecilia Beaux has yet done” (“The Fifth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists,” Academy Notes 5 [July 1910], p. 8). The significance of this impressive double portrait was also noted, many years later, by the curator Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., who designated it as one of a group of seven portraits, painted by Beaux between 1898 and 1908, that brought her critical acclaim and “firmly fixed her into the social, literary, artistic and political elite of the country, where her presence was in constant demand” (Frank, H. Goodyear, Jr., “Introduction,” in Cecilia Beaux: Portrait of An Artist, exhib. cat. [Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1974], p.30. The other portraits are: Mr. and Mrs. Anson Phelps Stokes [1898; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]; Mother and Daughter [1898; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts]; The Dancing Lesson [1899–1900; The Art Institute of Chicago]; Mrs. Alexander Sedgwick and Christina [1900–01; private collection]; Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and Daughter Ethel; and John Frederick Lewis and Son, Alfred.)

Beaux’s later portrait projects included images of such notables as Admiral Sir David Beatty and Georges Clemenceau, executed during 1919–20 for the U.S. War Portraits Commission. She also painted a self-portrait (1925) for the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. However, failing eyesight, arthritis, and a hip injury suffered in 1924, eventually curtailed her activity as a high-style portraitist. She subsequently spent three years working on her autobiography, Background with Figures (1930), in which she recalled her sojourn in Lambert’s studio, where her “friend, Mrs. John F. Lewis, posed for me . . . with her son John” (Cecilia Beaux, Background with Figures [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930, p. 226). Following her death in Gloucester, Beaux was hailed not only as a major artist, but as one of the “nation’s greatest women” (“Cecilia Beaux Dies”). In keeping with her artistic temperament, she was also remembered as a discerning portraitist who “refused to let fabulous offers sway her” if she found her subjects, and their attributes, uninteresting (“Cecilia Beaux Dies”).
Styles / Movements Realism
Dealer Reference Number APG 8933
Incollect Reference Number 326951
Sign In To View Price close

You must Sign In to your account to view the price. If you don’t have an account, please Create an Account below.

Loading...
Loading... Loading...
  • This website uses cookies to track how visitors use our website to provide a better user experience. By continuing to browse this website, you are agreeing to our cookie policy
    Ok
Join InCollect close

Join to view prices, save favorites, share collections and connect with others.

Forgot Password?
  • Be the first to see new listings and weekly events
    Invalid Email. Please try again.
    Enter