Portrait of a Young Woman Holding a Book
Oil on canvas
The fine, original giltwood frame bears a label from Foster Brothers, Boston. The stretcher bears an exhibition label from the Art Club of St. Petersburg, Florida dated Feb 19th, 1924. William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941) was born in Baltimore and spent most of his career in Boston. As a student he traveled to Paris where, for four years, he studied under Jean-Leon Gerome and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Primarily a portrait painter, he is most noted for his portraits of women.
In this magnificent portrait, Paxton captures a fleeting moment of quiet contemplation. The young woman, in a sumptuous blue velvet stole with a red clasp gently holds a book to her breast. She looks thoughtfully to her left, contemplating its contents, perhaps a novel or collection of poetry. Paxton emphasizes her intellect as well as her beauty. The white lines of the stole's lining and fringe converge at her eyes, lost in thought, unaware of our presence. Within that pyramid, which provides stability and mass, Paxton offers subtle movement as the eye moves from her mouth to the red button and over to the book. Her cheeks, flush with life, reinforce the activity expressed in her eyes. Paxton's superb observation of fabrics is on full display here. The dense cape, with its thick lining rests on her shoulders in large soft folds. By contrast her modest navy dress is trimmed with crisply pleated, thin, nearly transparent collar and cuffs.
Provenance: private St. Louis collection
30 x 25 in. (76.20 x 63.50 cm.), Frame: 40 x 37 in. (101.60 x 93.98 cm.)
Oil on canvas
Not examined out of the frame. Small area of restoration above the red button approx. 1" sq; small area in the hair, approx. ¼" sq. visible in the photos; small area of her left wrist, approx. ½ "; area of her left arm, in the dark blue fabric, approx. 2" sq.