Thursday, 10 December 2015

Thursday 10th December - Study in Purple

I have a particularly splendid muff for you today...

Study in Purple (1912) Theodore Wores

Isn't she wonderful?  Subtitled 'Portrait of Gertrude McFarland', Theodore Wores' painting is of a fashionable woman in a classical background, reminiscent of Joshua Reynolds or any number of Georgian English artists.  Interesting Wores was quite far removed from all those things, having the honour to be the first native-born San Franciscan artist to make it big in the American art scene.  Born in 1859, he started his study at home, then went to Europe at 17, joining forces with other American artists studying in Munich. They were nicknamed 'Duveneck's Boys' after their teacher, American artist Frank Duveneck. On a trip to Italy, Wores met and became close friends with James McNeil Whistler, who is said to have inspired in Wores an interest in the Orient, where he later travelled. Actually, the interest may have also come from closer to home, as when Wores returned in 1881, he became part of the Bohemian Club that had its home in San Francisco's Chinatown...

New Year's Day in San Francisco's Chinatown (1881)
When Oscar Wilde travelled to America, he apparently went to the Bohemian Club and drank them all under the table.  So impressed were they that the club decided to honour him with a portrait and Wores painted Wilde.  The picture hung in the club until the great earthquake and fire of 1906 which destroyed it, together with Wores' studio and a great amount of his work.  Wores continued to travel throughout his life, going to Japan, Hawaii, Canada and throughout America, recording the life and beauty of native people until his death in 1939.

Gertrude, the artist's wife (c.1915) Matteo Sandonà
Gertrude McFarland, the model for Study in Purple was actually the wife of fellow San Francisco artist Matteo Sandonà.  Sandonà had moved to America from Italy in 1894 and he and his family settled in San Francisco in 1901.  Similar to Wores, he had an interest in painting the people of Hawaii, but he is best know for his portraits of the great and the good.  His portraits of Gertude are touching and intimate rather than the glamour of Wores' study, and I particularly like the picture of Gertrude and their dog, Boots...

Gertrude and Boots (1914) Matteo Sandonà
The reason I picked Study in Purple as one of my Muffvent images is that it is easy glamour that we associate with the pre-War years.  She looks like she has confidence that possibly only money can bring, but I wish I knew if her hat and accesories really did extend beyond the canvas (this was one of the few images I could find of the painting) because that adds to the idea that she is too much to be contained.  What a marvellous way to be remembered...

There are lots of splendid books on the Edwardians and art, apparently the Edwardians are so hot right now.  I bought one secondhand earlier in the year and it was utterly gorgeous and so that is my present suggestion for you today...

It was the catalogue for an exhibition in the National Gallery of Australia in 2004, entitled 'The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires' and contains the most amazing collection of paintings from the familiar to the extraordinary, all of them delicious.  I'm sure the newer books you can buy for £40+ are very good, but as you can get a copy of this for around a tenner, I would definitely take the plunge with this one.  I have a few NGA catalogues and they are always wonderful quality and often have paintings held in Australia which are never going to risk the journey to the other side of the world and so are unfamilair.  It's big and glossy and full of gorgeousness and so I thoroughly recommend this book.

Copies are available on Amazon UK here, USA here or from any good secondhand bookshop.

See you tomorrow...

1 comment:

  1. My darling friend,
    you've got such a good, refined taste, which makes these moments so precious to me ... really !
    Thank you, wholeheartedly


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx