Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955) – Woman with a Cat, 1921 (Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art) – Motionless and frontal, this colossal nude might be made of stone or metal, evoking at once a classical sculpture and a futuristic robot. While Léger’s subject is rooted in European, particularly French, artistic traditions, his streamlined style reflects contemporary design aesthetics that the painter’s friend, the architect Le Corbusier, advocated and popularized.
Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967) – Hotel by a Railroad, 1952 (Oil on canvas) – Hopper belongs to a particular category of artist whose work appears sad but does not make us sad. His figures look as though they are far from home. In a simple hotel room, the woman reads a book and the man gazes out of the window at the train tracks. Their faces are vulnerable and introspective. They are adrift in a transient place.
Sir William Orpen (Irish, 1878-1931) – Nude Girl Reading, c.1921 (Oil on canvas) – Model Yvonne Aubicq reads intently. Orpen shows the disarray of the model’s clothes, her wrinkled white stocking and the open handbag. Orpen observes the tension of limbs, the luminous touches on her body, and the blush of fingers and face. The head, tilted towards the viewer is skillfully captured with economy. The pose, for all its complexity, is natural and Orpen looks down at her in a warm caress.
Etienne-Adrien Drian (French, 1885-1961) – Young Ladies Dancing (Oil and gouache, fixed under glass) – Drian was known for his depictions of women, especially elegant Parisiennes. He often painted and designed extravagant costumes for his close friend, the great comic actress Cécile Sorel. He designed both the sets and costumes for her show at the Casino de Paris in 1933.
William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916) – Studio Interior, c.1882 (Oil on canvas. Brooklyn Museum) – Chase’s paintings of the studio suggest his belief in a complete and passionate engagement with art. Characterized by rich colors and lively brushwork, the paintings appealed to an American audience increasingly under the sway of the British Aesthetic Movement, which above all championed the artistic appointment of interiors with a rich ensemble of decorated surfaces.
Jules Chéret (French, 1836-1932) – Pierrot and Columbine, c.1890 (Pastel on canvas) – – In 1892, rich banker baron Jonas Vitta commissions Jean-Camille Forgé to build his residence. Baron Joseph Vitta takes over the project and oversees the décor of the spectacular villa. Many artists work on the residence: Rodin, Albert Besnard, Félix Bracquemond, and Jules Chéret, dear friend of the baron’s, paints murals with such colors and lyrism that they will be moved to the Hôtel de Ville, Paris.
François Flameng (French, 1856-1923) – La Lettre (Oil on panel) – – Beautiful places, beautiful people, beautiful clothes—Francois Flameng loved to paint them all. Born in an art studio in Paris in 1856, Flameng may have known from an early age that he was destined to be an artist. Paris was the center of the art world and his father was a celebrated engraver who had once wished to be a painter.