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Audio Guide - Adult

Portrait of Mrs. Samuel Hamilton Brooks, 1911

Artist: Cecilia Beaux, American, 1855 - 1942

Medium: Oil on canvas

Painting: 47 3/4 x 35 in. (121.3 x 88.9 cm)
Frame: 52 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. (133 x 100 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Samuel Hamilton Brooks

Object Number: 16.1

Copyright: public domain

On View

Mrs. Samuel Hamilton Brooks, Memphis, Tennessee, 1916

Cecilia Beaux was born in Philadelphia and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1877 to 1879. She had a canvas accepted in the Paris Salon of 1887, a signal honor for a woman of her time. Upon her return from a four year trip to Europe in 1892, her reputation as a portrait painter was quickly established. Important commissions soon followed and included a portrait of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and her daughter Ethel at the White House in 1901.

Like John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase, Beaux is known for her loosely painted, lively society portraits. In her depiction of Mrs. Brooks, rather than just reproducing a likeness, Beaux attempts to convey something of the sitter's personality. Although dressed in a fur cape and hat, apparently ready to go out, Mrs. Brooks has stopped, removed a glove, and seated herself behind a desk covered with papers. Her right hand is raised to her face as if she is caught in the middle of an important thought that has prevented her departure.  Instead of painting her in evening clothes in an opulent setting, which was more typical for a lady's portrait, Beaux emphasizes Mrs. Brooks' serious, thoughtful nature.