William McGregor Paxton (American, 1869–1941)
Interior with Two Nudes
Signed 'PAXTON' bottom right, oil on canvas
32 x 38 in. (81.3 x 96.5cm)
In a Frederick Harer frame.
James C. Howe, Boston, Massachusetts.
Shaw Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts.
Collection of Victor D. Spark, New York, New York, 1966
Joan Michelman, Ltd., New York, New York, 1978.
The Regis Corporation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1978.
Private Collection, Wyoming.
"Twelfth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Oil Paintings," The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., November 30, 1930-January 11, 1931, no. 369 (won Popular Prize).
"Three Centuries of the American Nude," The New York Cultural Center, New York, New York, May 9-July 13, 1975; and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 6-September 21; and The University of Houston Fine Art Center, Houston, Texas, October 3-November 16, 1975, no. 55, traveling exhibition (exhibited as Interior with Two Nude Models).
"William McGregor Paxton, N.A.,1869-1941," Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, August 16-October 1, 1978; and El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas, October 12-December 3, 1978; and Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, January 5-February 11, 1979; and Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts, March 24-May 6, 1979, no. 62, traveling exhibition (exhibited as Two Models).
Art and Archeology, XXXI, 1, January 1931, pp. 11, 14 and 48 (illustrated p. 13).
Arts, XLIX, 10, June 1975, p. 42 (illutrated as Interior with Two Nude Models).
Ellen W. Lee et al., William McGregor Paxton, N.A., 1869-1941, an exhibition catalogue, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, 1978, p. 144 (illustrated as Two Models).
William McGregor Paxton was a leading member of the Boston School during the first quarter of the 20th century, along with his fellow artists Frank Weston Benson and Edmund C. Tarbell. Inspired by the interiors of 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer, Paxton utilized a method which he termed "binocular vision," in which the central area of the composition was sharply defined, in contrast with the slightly blurred background. Paxton was a master at depicting idealized, refined figures in beautiful and elegant interiors, precisely rendered and with a restrained palette that revealed an acute sensitivity to the effects of light. Of his work, Paxton said: "I let the surfaces flow into one another in a supple envelope of light and paint."
The present piece is characterized by a sense of quietude and introspection. It is the most significant work of a series of nudes Paxton created in 1930. The classical and idealized nudes sit and lie in repose, one turned away from the viewer; the other leading our eye with her languid pose and her right arm extended behind her head. The placement of the two models seems carefully arranged. The artist must have had Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' L'Odalisque à l'Esclave in mind when he set the two figures against these crimson and blue harmonies. The foreground figure is a direct quotation from the painting, which was owned by Paxton's friend and fellow artist Carroll S. Tyson. However, instead of suggesting exotic eroticism like Ingres, Paxton appears more interested in the formal possibilities of the nude and the relationships of flesh tones on maroon, blue and white draperies. Here, Paxton pays meticulous attention to the effects of light as well as flesh and fabric, hence charging the two nudes with tactile and supple qualities. The result is "one of the finest of all Paxton's nudes" (Art and Archeology, 1931), an opinion with which the public concurred, voting the painting the Popular Prize at the Corcoran Biennial in 1931.
Sold for $68,750 (buyer's premium included)