A Full-Length Portrait of a Lady Wearing Edwardian Costume

20th Century

Medium: gouache on paper

W 29.5 cm × H 37.5 cm


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This early twentieth-century portrait depicts an elegant lady, dressed for an evening possibly engaged with the opera or theatre. Her extravagant clothing implies an air of decadent opulence as she holds her hand fan and gazes beyond the picture frame. 

The pleasurable activities of modern city life became highly influential for the Impressionist artists of the late nineteenth century and a subject that began to dominate the paintings of artists such as Manet and Degas from the early 1860s. It appears that the artist of this work has derived inspiration from this movement, which can be noted for its subject matter and application of the paint. 

The figure is presented before a vibrant red-orange flat background, with loose and fluid strokes of gouache paint that offer exploitation of the abstract. Long flowing and sweeping lines, contrast with small dashes of paint suggests unconventional brushwork, whilst offers an air of excitement and urgency to the painting. The contrast brought by the red-orange with the opaque white of the figure provides a warm-cool and complementary contrast. The overall effect of brightness offers a rich harmony and unifies the composition. 

The open composition of this piece can be said to have been derived from the mass influence of Japanese woodblocks that came to France in the early 1860s. This new style of art offered an abundance of inspiration for artists and is evident here within this portrait. Where a compositional flatness compliments the application of paint. Both the open composition and use of vivid colours were new techniques adapted by artists and contributed to the modern style of painting. Whilst both elements are present here, they contribute to the vibrancy of this striking portrait.

Callen, A., Techniques of the Impressionists (Tiger Books International, London, 1988).
Clayson, H., Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era (J. Paul Getty Trust, 2003).