Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Story Behind the Collection: Ladies in White

Ladies in White...

Painted by Men with Mustachios...

from top left: Whistler: Lowell, MA; Sargent, old Gloucester, MA family; Hassam, Dorchester, MA; Tarbell, West Groton, MA; Hale, Boston, MA; Reid, Stockbridge, MA; Benson, Salem, MA; Chadwick, Holyoke, MA.

...from Massachusetts??????

What a wonderfully peculiar collection this is! The idea for Ladies in White comes from MC Waldrep, the Editor-in-Chief of Dover Publications. As she was making the selection my only interest was in the visuals–I didn't realize that there might be a curious back-story...

It was when I started thinking about this post that I began snooping around–checking out the artists. Doing so, I noticed a real peculiarity—the vast majority of painters of these white-clad women:
  • were men (no surprise, it was around the turn of the 19th century, after all)
  • had mustaches (again, no surprise given the era)
  • were from Massachusetts –huh?
I've been a student of art history,  I like to think that I know a little bit about painting, and I'm from Massachusetts, myself. But if there were some sort of tangible movement that was being memorialized in this collection–I'd never heard of it.

So I called up MC Waldrep and asked her. She was as surprised as I was, and guaranteed me that it wasn't part of her editorial plan to focus on men of Massachusetts with a proclivity for facial hair and painting women clad in white—it had just happened. So what's the deal? Do guys from my home state just have an inclination for this kind of thing? Thus ensued a period of self-scrutiny; had I ever painted a lady in white? No. Had I ever wanted to? Perhaps, but nothing I'd divulge here. Had I ever had a mustache? Yes, but all photos were carefully collected and destroyed.
   I called my brother Robert, he denied ever having done so (though there was a slight hesitation), had Karl? I asked of our other sibling. Not that he knew.

Well, it's a mystery. Ponder it as you peruse the collection. Let me know if anything occurs to you.

In parting, let me leave you with this image. I stumbled on it while looking for pictures of the painters.

Childe Hassam, apparently on the lookout for a lady in white to paint.

No comments:

Post a Comment