An Actress as Cleopatra

Arthur Beecher Carles

Indissolubly linked with the Pennsylvania Academy, Arthur B. Carles is one of the most important, if underrated, figures in modern American painting - and certainly in the history of Philadelphia art. His travels in France between 1907 and 1910, as well as subsequent visits in 1912, 1921, and 1929, exposed him to artistic experiments in spatial arrangement, form, and color. Friendships with Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and John Marin kept him abreast of American developments - as did his participation in the 1913 Armory Show, the exhibition that introduced modernism to America. Carles's own expressive color and abstract forms proclaimed his allegiance to progressive principles. His teaching, both at the Academy from 1917 to 1925 and in private arrangements, encouraged a generation of young artists to develop their own cutting-edge styles. When Mercedes de Cordoba met Carles in New York in 1904, she had already modeled for Steichen. They renewed their friendship in France, where de Cordoba worked as an illustrator and correspondent for "Vogue." After their marriage in 1909, she became the subject of several of her husband's paintings. This work shows de Cordoba attired in an elaborate, vaguely Egyptian costume. The title of "actress," although merely descriptive then, proved prophetic: de Cordoba had a role in a Broadway production "As You Like It" in 1923, one year after the couple's divorce.
Date of Birth
Oil on canvas
framed: 41 1/4 x 36 1/4 x 2 in. (104.775 x 92.075 x 5.08 cm.); unframed: 30 3/16 x 25 1/8 in. (76.67625 x 63.8175 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
John Lambert Fund