The Spectacle of Life: The Art of William Glackens


Images, page 1


(above: William Glackens, Cape Cod Pier, 1908, Oil on canvas)

Painted the same year as the opening of the groundbreaking exhibition of The Eight at the Macbeth Gallery in Manhattan, this canvas illustrates Glackens's awareness of the French avant-garde artists derisively called the Fauves, or "wild beasts," because of their use of riotous and unnatural colors. Emulating Matisse and his colleagues, Glackens achieves a bold effect by juxtaposing the hues of orange and purple.


(above: William Glackens, The Artist's Daughter in Chinese Costume, 1918, Oil on canvas)

Lenna, unlike her brother, Ira, was an ideal model ­ poised, patient, accommodating. In this picture she is portrayed as an Oriental princess standing in front of a makeshift throne. One of Lenna's favorite games was to play dress-up in the silk tunic and pants she wears here. Her father plays along by depicting her as a young empress rising from her throne, which is in reality an armchair in the family's parlor. The sparkle of Lenna's bright-blue eyes is enhanced by the warm orange and red tones of her strawberry-blonde hair. This relationship between colors determines the structure of the painting as a whole: the orange and red patterns on the blue costume vibrate next to the hot, glowing tones of pants, chair, and curtains.

Glackens carved the gold-leaf frame himself, probably with the guidance of close friend and colleague Charles Prendergast.


(above: William Glackens, Dancer in Blue, 1905, Oil on canvas)

Among the urban subjects that intrigued Glackens were the beautiful women who worked in the bars and nightclubs of New York.

Sensuousness with a dash of frivolity permeates this canvas depicting a dancer. The palette, nightlife setting, and handling of paint are reminiscent of Glackens's masterpiece Chez Mouquin, 1905, owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. The dancer's pose, a variation of the one seen in the artist's painting In the Luxembourg, c. 1896, is straight out of Toulouse-Lautrec.


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