While Les Derniers Jours D'enfance was enjoying its tour of France, Cecilia Beaux became a portrait artist of choice in Philadelphia society. She received numerous commissions for paintings of women and children (which is what she had been doing), but was now also hired to paint male civic and religious pillars. Her portraits of children, though, have always seemed imbued with particular sensitivity.
The sitter here is 10 year old Fanny Travis Cochran (1876-1977), youngest child of Philadelphia wine merchant Travis Cochran and his well-connected wife, Mary Pepper Norris. From this comfortable childhood Fanny went on to graduate Bryn Mawr, then spend the rest of her life committed to social activism. The intelligent, soulful brown eyes in this portrait hint at the forming woman who would, eventually, infiltrate factories, get arrested for organizing sit-down strikes, and use her considerable inheritance to found a women's settlement house and contribute to the first million-dollar endowment fund at Fisk University in 1924.
As for Beaux, she's made it crystal clear with A Little Girl that she had no fear whatsoever of white on her palette. Indeed, she would continue to use it liberally and always to good compositional effect.
About the Show:
With nearly 100 oil paintings, works on paper and decorative objects drawn from a variety of public and private collections, Cecilia Beaux, American Figure Painter seeks to place noted Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts alumna, professor, and Philadelphia native Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) in a new position in American art history.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta: May 12-September 9, 2007
Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington: September 29, 2007-January 6, 2008
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia: February 2-April 13, 2008