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Portrait in a Brown Dress

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Portrait in a Brown Dress

ca. 1908
20 x 15 1/2 in. (50.8 x 39.4 cm)

Thomas W. Dewing
United States (Boston, MA, 1851 - 1938, New York, NY)

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on wood panel
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Millar Lindsay III, in memory of Jesse Williams and Grace Curtice Lindsay and their daughter, Carolyn Lindsay White
Accession Number: 1957.79
Location: Currently on view
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Around the same time that Thomas Dewing painted this portrait of a young woman reading a book, American art critic Charles Caffin wrote about Dewing's work:

"Generations of repressed emotion have made [Dewing's women] incapable of passion; strenuousness survives only in supersensitive nerves; their sole religion is the worship of self…They are motionless in an atmosphere from which all human warmth has been sucked, in a vacuum drained of intellectual and emotional nourishment. These bodily shapes are not of flesh and blood; they are the essence distilled from the withering of what is womanly, the mere fragrance of dead rose-leaves."

Thomas Dewing's depictions of genteel, ethereal young women engaged in contemplative and artistic pursuits stand in contrast to the bold and vigorous "New Woman," the feminist model of woman who emerged during this same period. The "New Woman" earned a living and wanted the vote and was not content to be marginalized in gauzy environments like the ones created by Dewing.

This painting is in its original frame, which is similar to those designed by Stanford White, who created opulent and decorative environments for many of Dewing's Gilded Age patrons.

(1). Charles H. Caffin, The Story of American Painting: The Evolution of American Painting from Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1907) , 189.

[Gallery label text]

Artist's signature, lower left: T. W. Dewing

[Montross Gallery, NY?;] Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Williams Hatch Lindsay, Rochester, NY; by descent to Mr. and Mrs. Alexander M. Lindsay III, Rochester, NY; their gift to the Gallery in 1957

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Web Links See links to web pages and lesson plans
Seeing America Inservice Materials from a teacher in-service presentation Spring 2008
Seeing America Chapter on Thomas Wilmer Dewing's Portrait in a Brown Dress, written by Susan Hobbs.
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