In the Face of Change

by Jennifer Bailey Forbes



1 Henry James, "John S. Sargent," Harper's Magazine (October 1887), p. 691. Sargent and James first met in London in 1884 and became close friends. For a concise characterization of their relationship see Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond, eds., John Singer Sargent (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1999), p. 171.

2 For a discussion on the rise of American portraiture in the context of the nation's growing economic strength see Michael Quick "Achieving the Nation's Imperial Destiny: 1870-1920," American Portraiture in the Grand Manner (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1981), pp. 61-76.

3 The term "golden age" was used by Kevin Sharp in his essay "Cecilia Beaux and the Rise of American Portraiture in the 1890s," Cecilia Beaux: American Figure Painter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), pp. 59-77.

4 See Kilmurray and Richard Ormond, eds., John Singer Sargent, pp 31-38.

5 Originally from Philadelphia, Stewart moved to Paris in 1865 and entered the studio of Jean-Leon Gerôme, as did Thomas Eakins.

6 Robin Simon, The Portrait in Britain and America with a Biographical Dictionary of Portrait Painters 1680-1914 (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1987), pp. 53-55 and Shearer West, Portraiture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 191-197.

7 Marianna Griswold Van Rensselaer, "John S. Sargent," The Century (March 1892), p. 798.

8 Henry James, "John S. Sargent," pp. 686 and 688.

9 A general discussion of these developments can be found in Bernard F. Reilly, Jr., "Varieties of Evasion in a Century of Publicity," Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 2002) pp. 33-45.

10 Thorstein Verblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (New York: Macmillan, 1902), pp. 68-101.

11 Charles Caffin, "Some American Portrait Painters," Critic 44 (January 1904), quoted in Kevin Sharp's "Cecilia Beaux and the Rise of American Portraiture in the 1890s," Cecilia Beaux: American Figure Painter, p. 73.

12 Early modernists in America associated with Alfred Stieglitz, including Marius de Zayas, did experiment with moving beyond likeness in his "absolute caricatures." See Wendy Wick Reaves, Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 2002), pp. 80-83.

13 Valerie Ann Leeds, "The Portraits of Robert Henri: Context and Influences," American Art Review, Volume VII, Number 2, 1995, pp. 92-97.

14 Ironically, with the first exhibition of the Eight in 1908, one critic referred to Henri's portraits as "a collection of masks." See Bennard B. Perlman, Robert Henri: His Life and Art (New York: Dover Publications, 1991), p. 84.

15 One critic of the time referred to the group as rebels. Quoted in Bennard B. Perlman, Robert Henri: His Life and Art, p. 84.

16 Wayne Craven, American Art: History and Culture (New York: Harry Abrams, Inc., 1994), p. 459.

17 Kroll quoted in Valerie Ann Leeds, Leon Kroll: Revisited (New York: Gerald Peters Gallery, Inc., 1998) p. 15.

18 Ibid, p. 16.

19 Jordi Vigue, Great Masters of American Art (New York: Watson-Guptill, 2003), p. 415. See also Brady M. Roberts, Grant Wood: An American Master Revealed (San Francisco: Pomegranate Art Books, 1995).

20 Quoted in Grant Wood's obituary "Grant Wood, Iowa's Own World Renowned Artist, Dies After Long Illness," The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, February 13, 1942. Reprinted and on view at

21 Originally broadcast on Radio WYNC, Art in New York program, October 13, 1943. Reprinted in Mark Rothko, Writings on Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), pp 37-38.

22 Ibid, p 38.

23 Rothko even taught children's art classes from 1929-1952. Anna Chave, Mark Rothko: Subjects in Abstraction (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 99.

24 Quoted in Thomas H. Garver, George Tooker (San Francisco: Pomegranate Art Books, 1992) p. 10.

25 For in depth analysis of Neel's work see Ann Temkin, ed., Alice Neel (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2000).

26 See in Bernard F. Reilly, Jr., "Varieties of Evasion in a Century of Publicity," Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, p. 43 and Susan Rosenberg "People as Evidence" in Alice Neel, pp 49-50.


About the author:

Jennifer Bailey Forbes is Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Vero Beach Museum of Art


About the exhibition

The Vero Beach Museum of Art is presenting the exhibition Face Forward: American Portraits from Sargent to the Present which opened to the public on February 2, 2008 and continues through May 25, 2008 in the it's Holmes Gallery. The exhibition includes approximately 60 works borrowed from public and private collections, and feature artists such as John Singer Sargent, Robert Henri, Leon Kroll, Walt Kuhn, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, and Alex Katz, to name a few. The exhibition traces the evolution of the portrait from its incarnation in the early twentieth century to its relevance and rebirth in the art of today.

Over the centuries, portraits have been created and commissioned with a variety of intentions and expectations. However, after the turn of the twentieth century, portraiture began to move beyond its traditional boundaries towards new artistic and intellectual territory. Face Forward considers modern artists' steady departure from the customary definitions of portraiture and investigates how modernity has shaped, changed, and informed the concept of the portrait.

Moving away from realism and verisimilitude, Face Forward charts how artists began experimenting with the process and purpose of portraiture, and in turn, used the genre to comment on larger issues, such as the identity and psychology of the subject, politics, cultural and social issues, history, and the cult of celebrity.




(above: Max Bohm, (1868-1923), Portrait of Mrs. Bohm (Zella Newcomb Bohm), after 1898, Oil on canvas, 58 x 42 inches. Purchase, the Palm Beach Art League Construction Account, 41.15 Norton Museum of Art)


(above: Chuck Close (b. 1940), Lyle, 2003, 149 color silkscreen, edition of 80, Paper: 65 1/2 x 53 7/8 inches, Image: 58 1/4 x 47 7/8 inches, Published by Pace Editions, Inc.)


(above: Frank Vincent Dumond (1865-1951), Portrait of Crecy-En-Brie, France, Oil on canvas, 82 x 39 inches. Manoogian Collection)


(above: Till Freiwald (b. 1963), Untitled, 2004, Watercolor on paper, 90 x 60 inches. Collection of Monica and Rick Segal)


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